South Toe Sunday
When the mountains and Marley Parker call, I must go. My new 3-legged dog Gloria and I hop in the car after sunrise on a Sunday in January with coffee and car snacks west bound on 40. I jam out to Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday podcast, windows down despite the cold, dry air. The wind on my cheeks gives me that alert, alive feeling that only winter brings. Gloria sticks her head out the window as we turn onto the narrow backroads leading to Albert’s Adventure Inn, a retro motel Marley’s friends converted into a restful mountain retreat. I met Marley a year ago when she spoke at an Adventure Friday at the shop about her expedition to Antartica. We celebrate a year of supporting one another as women entrepreneurs with our first she-venture together.
So often on Sundays I fall into the trap of not enough time. Too much to do. I become the human doing. Immersing myself in the nature reminds me to be in the moment, the stand like the tree rooted in the now. As I step out of the car greeted by the Black Mountains and Marley’s smile, I am reminded of the importance of the micro-adventures, of exploration, of a change in perspective.
“Welcome to my favorite place,” Marley says. For a woman who has traveled the globe, she uses the word favorite intentionally.
We head to Woody Ridge, a trail I know through Marley’s stories. The tame trail at the beginning is no indication of what lies ahead. Soon the trail turns steep and rugged, a mix of ice, rock, roots, leaves, lichen. A true scramble. We each fall twice, laughing as we slide, using our hiking boots to brake. Gloria gracefully navigates with 3 legs, showing us mere 2-legged creatures the way.
We do not hurry. We haven't time to rush. This trail is steep and requires that we slow down and carefully choose our footing. Trails like this help heal my relationship with my body through appreciation for all that I am able to do with relative ease. It does’t matter what I look like out here. I don’t think about whether I am thin enough or how flat my stomach is. I focus on the fact that my body can carry me up a mountain.
As we crunch on the salty sweetness of nuts and chocolate and dried fruit, our conversation traverses as much terrain as our hike. We experience many mini climates on the trail as we gain elevation and visit all seasons of life. Like this land, we too have learned to weather the winters of life; the challenging times when we feel stuck, frozen, forgotten. I’m a firm believer that after the forests that provide us the oxygen we breath, it is our friendships that sustain us. Like nature, we too rely on one another to share resources just as the trees do through complex root systems. I soak up Marley’s wisdom as much as I absorb the beauty all around us: moss tenderly clinging to boulders tucked into the mountainside in a snow dusted wonderland.
Though Marley has hiked this trail countless times in all conditions, it is my first and Gloria’s first time to the North Carolina mountains. I breathe it all in. I let myself be swept off my feet my nature’s charisma. Seduced through my senses, I fall hopelessly in love with the lavish landscape enchanting my eyes and the wind every so softly leaning in for a kiss. The mountains of North Carolina have that same intoxicating combination a new love has: roots and wings, grounding and freeing all at once. The mountains have the power to gently and gracefully guide me back to self, to source.
The two lookouts before the summit take my breath away. Grey skies. Blue mountains. White snow. The expansive perspective reminds me that no matter the journey, the view is worth the climb. At the top of Woody’s Ridge we stand side by side looking out in awe as Gloria crunches circles in the snowy earth in purposeless play.
Despite the glorious view at 3,000 feet, it isn’t the destination that fulfills me. It’s the wholeness of the experience: the good conversation, the beautiful views all along the way, the trees towering all around, the salty sweetness of Marley’s homemade trail mix. As I take in the view, I let go of the need to do anything. I breathe into being, witnessing the wind whip across the open meadow.
I understand why this is Marley’s favorite place. The Black mountains are both a daring adventure and home sweet home. Sometimes the best of adventures are in our backyards with our buddies on a Sunday.
Woody Ridge is a 5 mile round trip out and back hike with a 3,100 foot elevation gain and 6,200 feet in elevation change from start to finish just 3 hours and 20 minutes from downtown Carrboro.
To read more about Woody Ridge, check out these posts by Marley.
And this is my favorite Instagram post from Woody Ridge
To learn more about the author, visit www.betsybertram.com