Most days are much the same lately. I get up with Junior, we hang out and have breakfast, then head out to work or go on a little walk around the park. Around 11am we come back to the camper for elevensies, a little indoor play, then it’s nap time. After his nap, it’s lunchtime, then more walking/outdoor play, then home for dinner, indoor play, Chris comes home, bath, and finally bedtime. The “new car smell” of Vogel has all but dissipated, and while I still love it (especially compared to the city) I have explored much of the park and am no longer surrounded by the unknown. This coupled with the monotony of the daily routine and Chris working hard, and often late, on his current job means that I’ve once again begun to thirst for adventure.
I love staying at home with my son and watching him grow, but a year and a half without any kind of break from him, except for a handful of times where family have stepped in for a few hours, has taken its toll on me. When we lived in the city it wasn’t an option to pay for childcare – we simply didn’t have the money. It was either have childcare for a day or eat for a few days, so there was no point even dreaming about it. But our new lifestyle means there’s a little wiggle room in the budget for a day care a couple days a week. My husband, being the supportive and loving old sod that he is, has been pushing for this for a few weeks now.
I really struggled with the idea of it at first. I felt like I was failing at my job, because it is my job, after all, to care for my son. So putting him in day care felt like admitting that I can’t handle motherhood. But once Junior’s molars started pushing through I realized that it was time. The lack of “me” time left me irritable, impatient, and not the most loving of people. I was tired from getting up with the kid several times a night, I wasn’t eating most days because I didn’t have time, I wasn’t getting a shower during the day – my overall self care had gone down the drain and my family had begun to pay for it.
So it was time.
I found a day care in Blairsville, about 20 minutes down the mountain, and called them. As luck would have it, though they had a long waiting list, they agreed to squeeze us in because we were flexible. After a visit to check the place out and sign some papers we were all set for Junior’s first day of day care.
This morning I dropped him off shortly after 8am. He seemed pretty happy, though a little confused and shy, but I didn’t stick around long for fear of making it harder to leave if and when he started to have a meltdown. I slipped out while he was distracted and my heart broke just a little when he didn’t notice, even though I know it’s really what is best for us both. As I walked out the door and got in the truck I took a deep breath and tried to shake it off and look at the day ahead. What shall I do with my 9 hours of freedom?
It was an easy decision. Hiking had been on my mind since the day we pulled into Vogel and I had a bucket list of local hikes that I was itching to try. There was one in particular that I had my eye on: Preachers Rock on the Appalachian Trail. It looked like a relatively short and easy hike – perfect for an out of shape Mom-bod that hasn’t seen any real trail action in years.
So I drove back home, trying very hard to not keep periodically glancing in my mirror at an empty baby seat out of habit. I wasted no time at the camper, I made some coffee, grabbed a bite to eat, threw some supplies in a backpack (eager not to repeat my last hiking disaster), grabbed my camera, and jumped back in the truck.
The trailhead begins at Woody Gap, a roughly 25 minute drive up the mountain on very narrow and winding roads. The sun was shining and, though it was a few degrees below freezing, it was a beautiful day for such a drive.
Devon had spent the ride, as always, laying on the passenger floorboard trying not to fall asleep. I watched as his heavy eyelids drooped making his grey face look even older. It reminded me of the old days when he was a pup and we lived in Athens. He was my faithful hiking buddy back then and would leap excitedly and nimbly into the truck every weekend, eager for our next adventure. But the black markings on his face had since turned to grey and lately his leaps lacked the spring of his younger years. I wondered if he would be as excited for a hike as he used to be.
I arrived at the trailhead around 9:30am. The elevation at the trailhead was 3,160ft and the view was incredible. I knew that the hike would involve a further climb from there so this little teaser was exciting.
As I put the truck in park, Devon’s little head perked up and his now wide brown eyes scanned the surroundings as his tail began to wag. He leapt out of the truck with all the vigor of his younger self and he waited for me to give the command that would let him run free.
He sprinted ahead down the trail and I chuckled as he frantically zipped around from exciting smell to exciting smell. It almost felt like old times.
It was a calm morning and though the air was crisp and cool, the sun felt warm on my face. The lack of any breeze meant it was blissfully quiet and I relished the absence of a screaming child. As we rounded the first corner we came to a mossy rock face about 20 feet high and 50 feet across with 10 inch icicles clinging to the protrusions in the rock. I don’t know why but I love icicles – I just think they’re really cool – so I pulled out my camera for a few shots. But as I turned it on I was greeted with the message “no memory card” on the viewfinder.
Come on. Seriously??
I had remembered to charge my camera. I had remembered my lens. I had neglected to put the damn memory card in the camera. Rookie mistake. That’s two for two. Frustrated, I took a minute to express my frustrations toward the rock face, which kindly echoed my profanities back at me, making it all the more satisfying. But I didn’t want to let it ruin my day of freedom, so I resigned myself to the fact that I’d just have to snap some pictures with my phone and come back when I was better prepared.
We pressed on, Devon leading the way with his soft little ears happily flapping up and down as he bounced along. The trail was surprisingly flat and easy to start out and there were some pretty views to the left through the trees across the mountains. Then the trail wound around to the right between the two peaks and into the wind. The deceptive calm of the northwest side of the mountain had lulled me into a false sense of security and as I left the shelter of the first peak the wind arrived with an icy punch. I took a second to appreciate its force, zipped up my fleece and shoved my hands into my pockets.
This is going to get chilly.
And it did. The trail began a steep incline up the second peak. The last 1/3 mile or so had an elevation gain of 500 feet and my wobbly, unfit legs felt every step of the rocky climb. The wind roared with such force that every tree was creaking and squeaking as they swayed in the bitter breeze. The higher I climbed the more vicious the wind grew until it became impossible to keep my eyes open without them tearing up.
Eventually we made it to the top. As I rounded the crest of the mountain the view was spectacular. Mountain peaks stretched for miles, and the clear day meant that I could see all the way to Stone Mountain, near Atlanta, on the horizon. Both Devon and I stood on the rock face and soaked in the view. It’s the kind of sight that is so spectacular that you are forced to contemplate the earth as a planet and are starkly reminded of your tiny insignificant existence on it. I sat and pondered all the life beneath me at that moment and how unaware it was that I was there. A wave of awe came over me and I had to sit down.
We spend all our time so consumed in our little lives that when moments like this do come along, these big picture moments, it snaps you out of your little world for a second and makes you really look at life for the fleeting thing that it is and appreciate it all the more.
I wish Chris was here.
I knew he would love it just as much as I did and I wondered what big picture thoughts he would have upon seeing the view. So I called him for a quick FaceTime, but the view on a small screen with a lens that pales in comparison to the human eye meant that it just didn’t have the same effect.
I wonder what Junior is doing.
Funny. I’ve been dreaming of getting away from the kid for weeks now and having some time to myself. I’ve cried as Chris held me and told him how I just need a break. I’ve spent weeks thinking about all the wonderful things I would do with just one day to myself to do whatever I want on my own time without anyone else to worry about or work around.
But all I can do is wish that the two people I love most were with me. I guess that’s my big picture moment. I came for escapism, a chance at recapturing a simpler time when it was just my dog and me against the world – but wound up finding that I no longer wanted that. I remembered how many times on those hikes in the old days that I wished I had someone to share it with, and I guess that hasn’t changed much. Except now I had a husband and a son whose company enhanced every great moment – even if they annoyed the heck outta me sometimes too. So I took a second to be thankful that I now had two wonderful people in my life that I wanted to share everything with. And though I knew the hike would be better if shared with them, I was still grateful for the space to gain that perspective.
I sat for a while on that rock with Dev just thinking about life and all the incredible and beautiful things in it, including that spectacular view. I was grateful to be able to do that, and grateful for the company of my old four-legged friend. But as I set off back down the mountainside the only thought left in my head was how I can’t wait to come back with my family.