My friends would say that when it comes to common sense, I have none. I’m not trusted with sharp objects because I could drop the knife. I’m not trusted with tools because one time I dropped a hammer off a roof and almost killed someone. I’m not trusted with fire because one time i burned the carpet and almost caught the building on fire. But, it is because of my lack of this sense that caused one of the best hikes I have ever been on to occur.
Let’s start from the beginning. It was June of 2017. My church youth group and I were on a retreat in a little town called Montreat, North Carolina. Montreat was a quiet town. There’s a small general store in the middle of tons of independently owned stores. Upon entering the campus where we were staying, we would go underneath the iconic stone arches, it’s not uncommon to see people in the road taking a picture or two with it. There’s a lake in the middle, Lake Susan where youth groups can canoe and feed the ducks. Next to the lake is a small two story building, each floor its own store. The first floor is the Montreat Store, where you can buy t-shirts or anything else that you may want from the trip. The second floor is The Huckleberry Cafe, more commonly known as The Huck; here you can buy ice cream or a basket of fries and sit in a rocking chair on the porch, overlooking the lake and the waterfall. The best thing about Montreat is that no matter what way you are looking, you are surrounded by mountains that help to keep the air cool in the summer.
We were staying in a house about ten minutes from a trailhead that led to a hiking path up a mountain. It was about 10:30 at night which meant that it was quiet hours. None of us were tired and none of us could think of anything to do. I had the idea of going hiking, and I suspected my idea to be denied. It wasn't. I sat right up and my eyes widened in shock that my idea was even acknowledged, much more at the fact that Brian, my pastor, had encouraged it.
Immediately we all began to get ready, tip-toeing around the house so as not to wake the other two adults or the ten year old that was with us. Our efforts did not work and in about five minutes, the ten year old, Vincent was down the stairs wondering what we were doing. We told him of our plans and to go back to sleep. He responded that he wasn’t tired and we were stuck. Normally it would be fine, but Vincent is hyperactive, has an imagination bigger than him, and is terrified of the dark. He decided that he was brave enough to come along, and so we left.
We had no idea where exactly the trailhead was. All we knew was that we turned left leaving the house. So we did, and walked along the pitch black road, looking at the pitch black scene in front of us, underneath the pitch black sky. If you didn’t get the message, it was pretty dark.
“I don’t want to see any flashlights Campers! Our eyes will get adjusted soon enough,” My pastor called into the night.
“I don’t know if you noticed or not, but there is no moon tonight,” I responded.
“This is dumb. We’ve been walking for twenty minutes and still can’t find the path. We need a light.” Someone else, I don’t remember who, said.
As if it had been waiting for those words, in comes light. Except not from a flashlight. These lights were blue and red, flashing behind us. Cue the following dialogue:
Vincent: That’s it. We’re going to jail. I can’t do this. I’ll die in jail!
Me: Don’t worry Vince. Right now all you need to worry about is night bears. They’re nocturnal and guess what their favorite thing to eat is? Actually nevermind, you don’t want to know.
Brian: Evenin’ officer, what seems t’ be the problem?
Officer: What’re y’all doing out so late?
Brian: We were just looking for the trailhead to hike up tomorrow. (This would be the first time I
ever heard Brian lie) Could you tell us where it is?
Officer: Yeah. . . straight for ‘bout three more minutes ‘nd turn left.
For anyone wondering, my arm stung because my friend Rachel had slapped me for telling Vincent night bears existed. And then she proceeded to slap me again when I threatened to tell the officer that I was being harrassed. The officer turned off his lights and left. Caroline, a junior, spoke up, “Soooooooooo. . . are we still hiking?”
It didn’t take us long to find the trail after that, and once we did, we simply hoped over the fence and were on the mountain. It was an easy hike first, the elevation was gradual. And our eyes has adjusted so we could see about three feet in front of us.
“Hey Ans?” Vincent asked me, “Are night bears really a thing? Or were you just trying to scare me?”
“Vincent. . . My darling, cute, sweet little Vincent. . . Would I e v e r lie to you?” The answer was yes. Multiple times yes.
“No. I guess not,”
After about ten minutes of hiking, the elevation became more drastic, making it harder to want to actually be alive. It was at this point that I began talking to myself because I had to admit, being out in the woods where real bears are is pretty t e r r i f y i n g. I began to mumble to myself: “Why did I do this? This was a terrible idea. Normally y’all tell me when I’m being dumb but not this time. . . oh noooooo. This is horror movie stuff right here. Like what’s behind that tree? A murderer? You never know. It was nice knowin’ y’all.” I said this because I needed a way to cope with the fact that I thought I was gonna die.
The whole hike in total should have only been about a mile long, which meant we had about a quarter mile left. This is when it turned into hell. The trail had ended and now all we had to climb up was rocks. I kept telling myself that we were almost at the top. I kept telling myself that even though it was dark, once we got to the top it would be cool to see all the stars and the lights from the city underneath us and the stars above us.
Boy was I w r o n g.
We had finally reached the top and I couldn’t be more proud of myself and my friends. We all went up to the edge of the mountain to see the view and it was d i s a p p o i n t i n g. Turns out, that the reason the moon wasn’t visible was because it was cloudy. And the city barely had any lights on, so the view was one or two small street lamps, the occasional car, and pitch black nothingness.
Even though the view wasn’t what we were expecting, I still had a blast on the hike. The walk back was quiet. We were all exhausted from the hike and just wanted to go back home. We saw no bears and no murderers. And although this wasn’t the most conventional way of hiking. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. That night was really the first time I had ever had a real sense of adventure. I had gone on hikes before, but doing this one, and doing it with some of my closest friends made it that much more exciting and adventurous. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything, and when we went hiking the same path, the view was breathtaking and so much better during the day.