Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Flat Top Hike Report (Part 2 of Reflections on a Birthday)

VERY EXCITED to share with you some pictures of today's hike in commemoration of Becky's 69th birthday, which would have taken place tomorrow. I don't think I've ever had a more enjoyable hike. Honestly. It was a mountaintop experience both literally and spiritually, as well as a breathtaking experience -- again, both literally and spiritually! I like doing hard things to remember Becky by because she was such a strong woman. She enjoyed challenges every bit as much as I do. She made it to the "summit" of most of her "climbs" in life, and even when she battled cancer she didn't back down one iota. Today's hike was really hard. As I thought about that, I thought about why humans even want to do hard things. There are a lot of easier things we can do with our lives. Becky didn't have to sew her own clothes. She didn't have to grow and can her own vegetables, or beef. She didn't have to homeschool our kids or work in the ICU or organize our trips to Ethiopia. There were a lot of easier things she could have done with her life. But easier is not the point. When we do hard things we learn to rely upon God. When we do hard things we are changed as persons. When we do hard things we learn how to overcome trauma. Becky and I did a lot of hard things together, and for that I will forever be grateful to her Creator and Redeemer. 

Being out in creation again today, the Scriptures began to flood my mind:

  • The heavens are declaring the glory of God; they are a marvelous display of his craftsmanship.
  • For since the creation of the world, God's invisible qualities -- his eternal power and divine nature -- have been clearly understood from what has been made.
  • Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.
  • Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting, you are God.
  • He has made everything beautiful in its time.
  • Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

I think most of us would agree that the Bible has a lot to say about what the creation all around us can teach us about him! 

As I said, my plan for the day was to drive about 3 hours northwest of the farm to climb Flat Top. Here's the view just north of Bedford as I approached the Peaks of Otter. 

To the left is Sharp Top; on the right is Flat Top, my destination for the day. When I arrived at Abbott Lake I was surprised to find that my car was the only one in the parking lot. 

Usually this place is jumping. In fact, I saw no one on today's hike -- not at the summit, not on the trail. You begin your hike just past a lodge, where you have a great view of the lake and Sharp Top. 

Before you come to the trailhead there's this cute little building called an "ordinary." 

In the 1800s, an ordinary was the equivalent of a modern-day hotel where you could have your "ordinary" needs met -- a hot meal, a comfortable bed, a place to stable your horse. The trail I took today is called the Lake Trail. There's another trail that starts at mile 83 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It's called the Parkway Trail. I've now hiked Flat Top 5 times, but this was my first time using the Lake Trail, which is far and away the more difficult one. 

As you can see, there's nothing "flat" about Flat Top. The trail is steep and tiring, even when you take it slow. Because I needed to get in a good cardio workout today, it was just what the doctor ordered. 

The trail starts out easy enough. 

But soon you are climbing at about a 20-30 percent grade. 

The summit of Sharp Top looks down on you the whole way as if you to spur you on. 

Nearing the end of your hike you begin to encounter some large rocks that slow you down even more.

Not to worry, though. Eventually you do reach the summit. 

At this point there are no views. But a short scramble up some boulders is all it takes to open up a vast array of beauty. 

Here I am looking north. 

Looking south, the ever-watchful gaze of Sharp Top greets you. 

I must have spent half an hour at the summit enjoying the quiet and the views. I read Scripture, sang hymns, sent photos to my kids, replenished my glucose with some delicious chocolate milk -- and thought about Becky :-)  

Looks easy, right?

I can't recommend this hike enough if you're ever in the area. But plan for it to be brutal on your quads and knees. Be sure to bring hiking poles -- they relieve about 30 percent of the weight on your knees. You will need them especially on the descent. If you ever do make this hike, they have practically hidden the survey marker. I dare you to try and find it! 

Tomorrow: Some final reflections on my marriage to Becky.