We went to the mountains a lot when I was a kid. My folks didn’t have much money, but every month or so, in decent weather, we’d head for the mountains. With some food and drinks in a big ice chest, and maybe a cooler of iced tea besides, we’d enjoy a day or two’s jaunt through West Virginia’s beautiful rugged landscape. Roadside parks were found every few miles, so lunch was taken pretty much wherever our hunger would hit us, sometimes even just at a mountain pull-over, served from the tailgate of our old station wagon. If the folks felt a little flush, they might treat my sister and me to lunch at the old Chimney Corner’s Restaurant. It was located just across the Maryland line in a crook of the road on the way to Blackwater Falls State Park. If we were headed south rather than east, they occasionally sprung for lunch at Hawk’s Nest State Park. We usually managed to see some historic site along the way as well.
When I got a little older, I sometimes headed for the mountains with one of two friends. Tim and I sometimes camped in my tent, and sometimes slept in the back of his Chevy Blazer. He learned that I snored and I learned that he passed gas in the night, but we saw some beautiful scenery over the years. His pistol was always under his pillow at night and my pistol was under mine.
Craig and I backpacked and camped in the Cranberry Back Country and in various other places over the years. He was a rough and tumble sort and wouldn’t have thought twice about fighting two or three guys at once. Two things scared him to death, though—bears and spiders. The fastest I ever saw a guy come out of a sleeping bag was one night when a deer snorted about 10 feet from the tent and he thought it was a bear. Another night, it sounded like an elephant was jogging around our tent. He thought for sure that it was a bear. I replied that it was making WAY too much noise for a bear, and said that it was probably just a chipmunk with insomnia. I got the flashlight and took him outside. The grass and weeds there stood about eight inches high, and whatever it was running laps around the tent continued to do so, but we never did see the culprit. Being the former Boy Scout that I was, though, the disassembled 12 gauge that spent days in my pack, spent it’s nights assembled, loaded and lying between me and my buddy. As for Craig’s arachnophobia, I’ll just say that it sometimes made backpacking woodland trails rather interesting.
One scene I’ll always remember is the time that Craig and I stopped at a mountaintop pull-over to look at the scenery. In the valley far below, an occasional car or truck raised a slight cloud of dust on a gravel road. I could just barely make out a farmer baling hay. The hawk riding a thermal far above him was still far below us. I guess in our own spirits, we were sailing with that hawk. An old man sat alone on the guard rail smoking his pipe and silently taking in the scene. When we left a few minutes later, he smiled and nodded and returned to his vigil. I’ve always wondered why some scenes stay with us for life.
I don’t go to the mountains anymore. The missus says there’s nothing to do there. Some folks just don’t understand that sometimes, the journey is the destination. © 2013-