Escape Into The North West... In The Carolinas

Sometimes, when you get lost, you can experience some fantastic adventures. Hopefully, these adventures don't leave you in a warm, comfortable bed at your local hospital or becoming the star of a National Forest Missing Persons Report. Luckily, I can assure you that was not the case when my good friend Chris Bainbridge and I got a little lost heading out to Elk Banner Falls in Newland, North Carolina. We had plotted several hikes for New Years Day into my phone's GPS, but no matter how fancy your new technology, operator error still leads to some severe unintended results, especially when you type in the wrong coordinates. I am confident the discovery of the New World by explorer Christopher Columbus would have ended with the Santa Marie wrecked on a reef just off the coast of Spain if I had been the navigator. 

However, my miscalculation placed us along a winding narrow dirt road that hugged the Wilson Creek Gorge. As I carefully drove, avoiding falling off the narrow mountain pass (because no one wants to view nature from the bottom of a 100-foot deep gorge upside down in a pickup truck), Chris looked over the edge to the creek below.  

"Hey, that looks cool. Let's go down there!" He suggested excitedly.  

Just then, we came upon a small parking area where a bear hunter was sitting quietly in his truck with several dog boxes in his bed. As we exited my vehicle, I nodded at him and asked, "Any luck?"  He looked me up and down, sucked on his teeth, and replied with verbiage just this side of a grunt, "Nope."  As I followed Chris down a set of stairs into the creek bed, I chuckled to myself as that hunter reminded me so much of the avid hunters I had grown up with in my youth. They were strong independent men of few words who always stared at me with a gaze of impatience as I tried to have a conversation with them. My father, who was one of those men, once asked me, "Do you have a word quota you have to reach every day?"  No, I didn't, but looking back, that probably explains why I chose a twenty-five-year career in country radio.

Once we reached the river bottom, the gorge opened up to what Chris and I agreed looked like a scene out of the North-Western United States. The towering rock faces thick in the aroma of the pines which decorated them, the sounds of the gurgling creek, and the muted sun made you feel as if you had just stepped into the pages of a Jack London novel.  I was literally waiting to hear the echoes of Buck's howls from down the gorge to reach my ears.  Then all of it suddenly reminded me why so many hunters, like the one who I had just met in his truck to my father, loved the silence and solitude so much.  It gave you a moment to hear God's voice whispering to you on the breeze, in the smells of the forest, to the sights before you. When you are busy sharing it is hard to receive what God is trying to give you.