Today I hiked from my campsite near Laurel Creek Bridge to a campsite near Buzzard Rock, a distance of 7.8 miles. This was a hard day, climbing over two thousand miles to the peak, with a lot of rocks in the trail along the way, making my ankles, knees, and the bottom of my feet incredibly sore. Also, we’ve had intermittent rain throughout the day, with clouds stopping and starting. This gets frustrating, because I have to decide each time if I want to stop and pull out my rain gear, or keep hiking and deal with getting wet. I’d keep the gear on, but my rain coat gets incredibly hot, with sweat sometimes pooling inside the sleeves, and it’s warm enough today to make a rain coat a serious inconvenience if it’s not actually needed.
With all of this, my mood was increasingly sour as the day went on. Not so much “why am I doing this” but a general feeling of grumpiness and dissatisfaction. When I reached the top of Buzzard Rock, the view was gorgeous, but in my heart there was still a spirit of “well, it’s not really worth it. I’ve seen better with less of a climb.”
But then there was a moment. As I stood at the top, leaning on a large boulder listening to the wind and wondering how far I needed to go before I could stop for the day, a bird landed on the rock next to me, just a few bare feet away. I swear, I honestly think I could have reached out to touch her if I tried.
And then the bird began to sing.
I’m not sure what it was that made the bird decide that it could safely rest next to me to sing its song. Maybe at that altitude, it’s not used to running into predators. But as I stood there, the bird settled in and sang clear high notes that cut through the roaring wind and I have to say for a moment, I felt like it was singing to me. It actually turned and faced me at one point, and in my mind I thought I could sense the bird telling me it understood how I felt, that it knew the day had been hard, but that I was at the top now, why don’t I just drink it in and share in the pure joy of it?
I stood and listened to that bird for maybe a few minutes, maybe less. But it felt like so much more. Like a rest I desperately needed. A vacation on the mountain. When the bird finally flew away and I turned to start hiking again, suddenly the rocks didn’t seem quite so bad.