View Full Version : The Depth of the Mountains

06-11-2006, 21:54
The following was written for an English class of mine last semester. I got an A on it, and my teacher requested permission to publish it in the campus magazine. I haven't been able to get in touch with her since semester's end, thus she has no permission from me to publish it. Anyways, I hope this is enjoyed by all:

The Depth of the Mountains
by CocamoJoe
Last edited 19 June 2006

There is much in life that I enjoy. I enjoy deliberately sleeping in, reading a good book, chanting the Horologion, watching an Alfred Hitchcock movie, and drinking good beer, to name but a few things. Of my favorite things to do, my favorite is unequivocally going to the mountains. Ever since I was a child, I have loved visiting the mountains. My mom and dad make a lot of money now, but such wasn't always so. Poverty was never something I grew up with, but wealth certainly wasn't either. Due to the circumstances, we didn't go to places such as France for vacation, but instead found ourselves at the mountains more often than any other place I can remember. I am quite sure this has had more than a little to do with forming within the very core of me a love for the mountains. But I do think it goes much deeper than that; there is a spiritual depth to it also. History is another subject which I immensely enjoy, and the mountains have plenty of rich and interesting history to satiate that palates craving.

The mountain I recall hiking the most is Blood Mountain. It is the tallest peak on the Georgia stretch of the Appalachian Trail. Being one of the tallest peaks in Georgia, the top affords a magnificent view in all directions. Growing up, I remember there being something special about my dad and me hiking up Blood Mountain. We would always camp at Vogel State Park, at the base of the mountain, a few miles drive from the parking area for the hike. I recall the winding switchback trails to the top, the stone steps, the gargantuan boulders, the rock outcroppings here and there, and the sheer beauty of the vast mountainous area visible in all directions from the top. A cabin for thru-hikers can be found atop the mountain, and, to this day, I refuse to turn to the bottom until I at least reach the cabin.

I am a history buff, and it shouldn't surprise anyone that there is rich history in the Appalachian Mountains, Blood Mountain being no exception. I remember as a child, asking my dad why the mountain was called "blood". He told me that there was a battle, hundreds of years ago, between two Native American tribes, which was purported to be so violent that the rivers ran with blood. After doing a few minutes' worth of research on the Internet, I learned that the tribe names were Cherokee and Creek. There is a neighboring mountain called Slaughter, and the gap connecting it with Blood Mountain is known as Slaughter Gap. The battle is said to have mainly taken place here.

Sometimes I imagine myself being an explorer, and laying eyes upon these lush green mountains, alive with flora and fauna, for the first time. I recall reading about a French botanist on an expedition for King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette of France, named Andre Michaux; and how, in his journal, he referred to Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina as surely the "highest mountain in all of North America," after his having reached the peak in August of 1794. In fact, Grandfather Mountain isn't even the tallest peak in North Carolina. It is a towering 5,964-feet in elevation, but is towered still by Mount Mitchell, standing at 6,684-feet, which is the tallest point east of the Mississippi River! (The last project in completing the famous Blue Ridge Parkway was on Grandfather Mountain, completed in 1987.) It is a pity that Michaux never lived to see the Rocky and Cascade Mountains, whose foothills generally exceed the average height of an Appalachian Mountain!

This past December was an especially nostalgic time for me. I hadn't been atop my beloved Blood Mountain in at least 10-years, and figured it was time to end my hiatus. During the second week of my Christmas break from that dreadful thing known as college, I planned a trip to go see this beauty that existed as nothing other than a dusty relic in my mind which hadn't been polished off in years. It turned out to be a double-treat, as I hadn't seen snow since early 2002, and much of the mountain top was covered with a beautiful blanket of snow. While hiking, with my younger brother, best friend, and roommates friend (visiting from Pittsburgh) whom I'd met only the previous day alongside me, I kept thinking of my dad and all of our trips of old. My dad has always said that if he hadn't become a nurse, he very likely would've become a historian. He seems to know something about everything, even if only a little bit. I recall hiking Blood Mountain with him as a child (maybe 7-years old at the time), and hearing stories about the mountain, and the area, and the south, and Georgia... My dad is truly a walking-talking Encyclopedia Britannica!

Blood Mountain boasts an elevation of 4,461-feet, which is quite a height for an east coast mountain! In the middle of high school, in the spring of 1998, I made a decision to take God seriously. Protestants would call this my "conversion experience" or when I was "born again"; but, as a Catholic it is viewed as another step in the "process of salvation." As one striving to be devout, I read the Bible with much regularity. A cursory reading of the Old or New Testaments tell many stories that take place atop mountains: Moses and the Burning Bush; Moses and the Ten Commandments; the Sermon on the Mount; the Transfiguration; Elijah and the voice of God... It appears as if there is much symbolism in mountains. Stories such as these are always filling my mind, especially when I find myself hiking. Mountains are God's skyscrapers, reaching up to the heavens. Perhaps it is not uncommon for these events in the Bible to have taken place atop mountains, or for Church's to be traditionally built on a hilltop, or for a monastery to be atop a mountain, because one feels as if he is closer to God the higher up in the sky he is. There is much symbolism behind this feeling that anyone who has ever ventured atop a mountain has experienced. It is primarily the symbolic meaning behind mountains that I "experience" while hiking. Here I am in the forest, which conveys the beauty of God (one call tell something about an artist by viewing his art; one can tell something about the Creator by viewing His creation), hearing the birds and rivers around, as I ascend the peak by a generally strenuous pathway. The words from St. Paul to "pray always" are something I take to heart, practicing something very dear to my Byzantine Catholic heritage, commonly referred to as "prayer of the heart", whence one prays the Jesus Prayer---Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner---along with his breathing pattern, until a point is reached where he can't breath without praying; and during my ascent, I find myself consciously praying these words. Here I am, in the wilderness, much like John the Baptist, I suppose, or the wandering Israelites in the desert. But am I wandering? Of course not, as I am following the white blazes on the trees and rocks, helping to mark the trail. I then find my thoughts on the fact that I am, in a sense, wandering. I am trying to live a good, holy life according to the strictures of the Catholic Church; but, I am a far cry from perfect. Those parts of myself that are still being "saved" are indeed wandering. I guess there's an Israelite in all of us.

I would love to traverse the Appalachian Trail in its entirety, hopefully in the not-too-distant future. The mere thought of walking through the mountains which I've grown up being so well acquainted with ever since I was a child for over 2,000-miles, from Georgia to Maine (or Maine to Georgia, depending on how I choose to do it!), is, to put it lightly, emphatically exhilarating! My dad and I have talked about trekking it together sometime, after he retires from his job, perchance. Imagine how great of a father-son bonding time that would be!

I have just recently been invited to trek up to New York state to meet two friends of mine (who happen to be brothers), and to go hiking and camping with them, their other brother, and father in the Adirondacks (originally the Greens in Vermont). I will see if my dad is invited, and do everything in my power to coerce him to come along! This trip will continue a legacy worth having, which I attribute in large part, and with much gratitude, to my mother and father. As I have grown older, and matured in my faith in God, the mountains have gained a meaning deeper than mere nostalgia or even aestheticism, but that of continuously searching for more of God, and listening for his "still small voice" in the wilderness. If marriage ends up being a journey I embark upon, then I will certainly endow this love of mine upon my children, whom I hope will instill it in their children, continuing the legacy which my father and mother began in me, when I was but a small, wide-eyed child. Perhaps this love of mine will eventually drive me to make it my life, such as the late John Muir. Perhaps I will carry that famous last name on into this new millennium and century, by building on the work he has done. After all, as Bernard of Chartres said in the 12th century, "We are like dwarfs standing upon the shoulders of giants, and so able to see more and see farther than the ancients."

06-12-2006, 08:27
I truly enjoyed reading your story.

Perhaps you should check out Mikes Writing Workshop on the Internet http://groups.yahoo.com/group/mikeswritingworkshop/

SGT Rock
06-13-2006, 01:22
You know, we don't really have a section like this in the article inventory. So if we start doing essays what do we call them and what should be the criteria?

06-13-2006, 09:57
a creative writing or reflections section?? not a bad idea.. There could be periodic writing contests....

SGT Rock
06-13-2006, 10:04
I agree. Think of the good story tellers on here like Hacksaw and Smokymtnsteve. They could even have some good entries that are not quiet essays. I hope we can get some more comments on here about the idea.

06-13-2006, 10:45
maybe a new thread with the idea posted in the title???

06-13-2006, 17:07
I really enjoyed reading your paper. I have 2 sons and we too have had some adventures on Blood Mountain, Mt. Rogers, Springer and others. I can put myself in you shoes because of the love and respect my father gave me for the beauty of our natural world as well as your Dadís shoes as I share so many wonderful adventures with my own sons in the hope they too some day will walk the mountains with their children.

06-13-2006, 18:10
I agree. Think of the good story tellers on here like Hacksaw and Smokymtnsteve. They could even have some good entries that are not quiet essays. I hope we can get some more comments on here about the idea.

Will rants be allowed? I really enjoy a thoughtful, well-written rant and there's been some doozies on WB. :D

Seriously, I like the word Dawntreader used: Reflections

06-13-2006, 18:45
Deerleg, Thanks for the feedback. There really is something magical about the mountains. Ya know, I haven't asked my dad, but I've more-or-less deduced that his father bestowed his love of the mountains upon him. I figure such, as I recently read a National Geographic book on the Trail (called "Mountain Adventure", I believe), from the late 80s; and, it had my grandfathers name on the inside cover. He passed away back in late '89, and we all miss him still. Again, thanks for your positive feedback!

I too think it would be neat to have a section on the bulletin boards for entries such as mine above, or ponderings/reflections/philosophical musings in regards to the mountains in general, and the Appalachian Trail in particular.
In regards to rants, I agree. When I read someone something I've written, or post it in a public place, I certainly want to get a pat on the back; but, only if my work merits that. With that being said, I always welcome and encourage rants about anything that I write.

Cocamo Joe

06-13-2006, 18:53
In regards to rants, I agree. When I read someone something I've written, or post it in a public place, I certainly want to get a pat on the back; but, only if my work merits that. With that being said, I always welcome and encourage rants about anything that I write.

Cocamo Joe

NoNoNo! CacamoJoe! I wasn't hinting that I thought your piece was worthy of a rant. Just the opposite, in fact. I enjoyed it.

My question to Sgt. Rock about rants was somewhat in jest and I only meant to call attention to the value(emotionally therapeutic, at times)of skillfully written rants, diatribes, fulminations, and other assorted temper tantrums.

I apologize for not being clear in my post. :sun

06-13-2006, 19:52
NoNoNo! Cacamo Joe! I wasn't hinting that I thought your piece was worthy of a rant. Just the opposite, in fact. I enjoyed it.Just to clarify, I didn't interpret your post as necessarily being in reference to mine!:D

06-14-2006, 11:02
Seriously, I like the word Dawntreader used: Reflections

Reflections is the old title of the reader submitted essays in the Appalachian Trailways News. Was one of my favorite sections. Now..well, we've discussed the transformation of ATN into something different.

Be nice to see "Reflections" back in electronic form!

06-14-2006, 11:23
I agree. Think of the good story tellers on here like Hacksaw and Smokymtnsteve. They could even have some good entries that are not quiet essays. I hope we can get some more comments on here about the idea.i think your onto something there rock............

SGT Rock
06-14-2006, 12:02
I like the idea of brining back Reflections as well.

So we can call the section that. Now, how about standards of what goes in there?

06-14-2006, 14:18
You may have to wait to see what you get before you figure out what the standards are.. It should be an "It is what it is" type of section.. Nothing profane, obscene..obviously.. But anything else AT related...Things that read more formal than a standard thread, are longer, and things that people generally arn't looking for "normal" forum responses to could be put there.. stories, anecdotes, essays, poems, rants, and reflections...