the Gulf

……Fog clung to the leafless landscape as a protective shawl from the mist, which seemed to hover…not fall.  Somewhere off into the canyon, the relentless roar of a river hurrying to escape the mountain, in pursuit of some unknown and peaceful reservoir, rolled like a hungry creature.

Unfurling before us…several miles of path…skirted river and gorge.  Quiet…padded footsteps… broken occasionally with the sound of teenage chatter…laughter…. from somewhere spread out along the trail behind me.

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….time to think….reflect…. gather memories…. and dream of tomorrows.  This journey began so long ago…fitting backpacks and carefully determining distance…weight….endurance of small children.  Now, as I hear their echoed voices through the hardwoods… as I grin at their almost natural familiarity with the environment… this was their childhood…. it is carved into their being… hearts….souls.  I can smile.

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I can spend my steps now… simply walking… and thinking about the next step….. Back at home, safely inside a warm home….two more little boys… unknowingly groomed for the trail… My steps may be slower…more deliberate….cautious in those years ahead..but steps, nonetheless.

In these mountains…. I’ve walked…explored….bedded down….most of my life.  At the edge of a foggy ravine….we gather for a rest… a quick snack…. idle talk…. As they depart, I quickly carve my name into tree, as I’ve done many times.  Perhaps, someday… they’ll find it… perhaps, one day, they’ll find our names etched along the Cumberland.  Perhaps, they’ll tell stories to their little brothers… and to their children…about our adventures…our miles on the trail… our starlit nights on October weekends….. perhaps, the smell of rain…of sassafras…of cowboy coffee…. will make them smile…cry….remember….

On my way home…. back to smaller awaiting boys….and unfitted packs…. unearthed adventures… These trails are immortal… and waiting…calling… life is so fantastic….

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