Call of the Mountains

Initially skeptical, a young man embraces nature firsthand and discovers unrivaled wonders.


Iwasn’t entirely sure what backpackin­g entailed, and I certainly didn’t understand why any civilized human being with air conditioni­ng and cable television would want to partake in an activity of the sort. My understand­ing of backpackin­g involved rocky trails, mosquitoes and carnivorou­s animals.

My neighbor Keith, who is one of my best friends, is an avid outdoorsma­n. He enjoys hiking, camping and other things that involve sweat and occasional discomfort. He wanted to help me experience the true beauty of nature and invited me to go backpackin­g with him. I was hesitant. I enjoy nights lying on top of my king-size mattress, and a night spent with the rocky ground poking my back was not the most tempting o er. However, Keith’s enthusiast­ic spirit won me over. We found an unoccupied weekend on the calendar and penciled in a backpackin­g trip.


The day of the trip, apprehensi­on transforme­d into excitement. Keith loaded me down with backpackin­g essentials that I did not realize I needed. He gave me breathable clothing, a hiking stick, a backpack with a warm sleeping bag in it and numerous other necessitie­s. The evening was finally upon us.

Keith, my friend Andrew and I headed toward our destinatio­n: Alabama’s Cheaha Mountain. We spent a couple of hours hiking at a steep incline, and soon my lungs were burning just as badly as my thighs. As we continued to hike, we periodical­ly stopped to take in the beauty of nature. I didn’t realize what existed right in my

backyard. I live beside the most beautiful mountain in the state.

As night fell, we found a small ledge perfect for setting up camp. We started a fire and made some co ee. It was easily the best co ee that I have ever had. I am not sure whether the co ee was really that outstandin­g or whether it was just because we were miles up a mountain on a chilly spring night.

Conversati­on flowed among the three of us—real conversati­on, uninterrup­ted by television or smartphone­s. Sitting around a crackling fire, we shared stories about family members, trips and trail names. I swear the stars shine brighter when you look at them from atop a mountain. I found that stress does not exist in the midst of God’s most beautiful creation.

When we were ready for bed, we rolled out the sleeping bags. Keith and I slept without the protection of a tent—“cowboy style,” as he explained it. I fell asleep beside the campfire’s last dying embers while gazing at the stars.


We woke up early, downed a cup of co ee and set out hiking to witness the sunrise from Bald Rock, one of the highest points in the park, at an elevation of 2,200-plus feet.

I was a tiny speck standing on top of the tallest mountain in my state, watching the sun chase away every lingering shadow. I have never felt so tiny and yet so filled with power at the same time. I had sneaked into nature with my two friends and taken a front-row seat to watch the world slowly come alive. It was not the same feeling as watching the sunrise from a kitchen window.

When you’ve climbed the rocky trails early on a chilly morning, you become a part of nature. You don’t watch the sunrise—you feel the sunrise.

My first time backpackin­g was an experience that is di cult to convey through this story. I discovered that the only way to truly experience the full romantic side of nature is to be a part of it. I learned it inspires a range of feelings and emotions that cannot be imagined, only experience­d.

I fell asleep beside the campfire’s last dying embers while gazing at the stars.

 ?? ?? Sunset at an overlook in Cheaha State Park
Sunset at an overlook in Cheaha State Park
 ?? ?? The Milky Way sparkles over Cheaha Mountain.
The Milky Way sparkles over Cheaha Mountain.

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