I hike most mornings with my four-legged Szoke. We wind in and around the trails in Pisgah National Forest which is just a stone’s throw from our home. Most days we explore the paths near the creek and rarely venture towards the ridge. There are plenty of treasures to discover on the familiar lower trails and I don’t often look beyond them.
This past week, I decided to take a new trail ~ one I had spied several weeks ago and expected to require some time to explore. So I picked a morning without commitments, packed my pockets full of biscuits for Szoke and headed a new direction.
It snowed lightly during the night and the ground was dusted with white as I ascended. My new trail hugged the concave side of a mountain and I felt held in a beautiful bowl of trees sugared with snow. Surprisingly, the gentle trail seemed to disappear a good way up the slope and though I could have turned back, the peak called me.
It was not an easy climb. The steepness required me to walk on the edge of my hiking boots and grab tiny saplings to pull myself higher. At some point, the snow thickened and the winds became stronger. I considered turning towards a roadbed some distance below the ridge, but the descent was equally steep; heading there would likely mean heading home. And the peak called me.
After navigating a large patch of brambles and several downed oaks, I reached the summit. The snow stuck to the sides of trees, to the vines that twirled round them and to my nose. As I clamored over a mighty oak, I spied the tiny prints of a field mouse along its long reclining trunk.
I marveled at the ridge ahead cloaked in snow and gray, curious about what I may discover there. Like the field mouse that explored the ridge of the old oak, I found myself sniffing into the unknown, curious and ready to explore.
I wondered silently what called me there. But as quickly as I wondered, I knew that I was there not for the peak itself, but for the treasures that I discovered along the way - the ones that are always found when I explore, when I’m curious, when I’m open. I blessed the field mouse and the oaks, the steep mountainside, the tiny saplings, the blowing snow and the twisting vines and brambles. And I blessed the peak for calling me.