The Journey to Stone Mountain

There wasn’t much reason for haste at this point, as we were running a full two and a half hours late. The sun was slipping down the sky without regard for our plans to arrive at Stone Mountain North Carolina by 4. It was already 4:30, but the bags were packed, the gear was strapped to the top of the car, and we were on our way.

The wind was massaging my face and the music was ringing in my ears. I could hear the straps of our bags parading across the roof of the car and the cool breeze blew through the newly mounted rack on the car we decided to use on the trip.

My friend Jason had picked up this nice safari style rack so that we could carry more gear In the small sporty vehicle he drove. It was already paying off as I had a lot of free room hanging out in the back seat, which was not the norm at all. I sprawled out and  watched as Jason sped down the interstate. Kim rode shotgun enjoying the sounds of Tool, and the soft patter of the evening through the windows. The trip was off to a late, but great start. The weather was perfect, the sun was shining, and I was feeling amped about our hike the next day.

That’s when I heard a noise I’m not sure any of us were expecting. It sounded like a giant bird slapped the roof of the card. Oddly enough, at the same time I saw the large shadow of something flying above us on the ground, as we careened down the interstate. What could possibly be that large? A pterodactyl?  “Are you serious?” I heard, as I looked back just in time to see the nice shiny new safari rack come crashing down onto the hot pavement at 65 miles per hour. The rack had somehow came loose and ripped itself from the safe, shiny roof of the car and was blown high into the air.

Panic ensued as cars dodged the exploding debris of backpacks, water bottles, and various other assortments of expensive backpacking gear. Plastic and nylon flew through the air scattering across all lanes. Bits and pieces separated and became shrapnel across the pavement. Every piece of the gear was ejected out of the rack as it smashed into the earth spiraling to grinding stop in the center of the busy road.

Shocked Jason threw his car around and circled back to the luggage we had lost. We parked the car and jousted with cars as we scurried across the road gathering what we could from the collision. As we made it back to the side of the road a large survival knife came sliding down the side and came to a stop just beside Jason’s foot.  Amazingly no one’s tire blew out as the cars slapped it around with their overinflated rubber. Jason leaned down and picked up his sleeveless blade and gazed in horror at the damage the concrete had done. There was even a tire mark across the blade.

Pristine backpacks now looked like a grizzly has gnawed them to bits. Shoulder straps were broken, tools were chipped, and bottles were busted wide open. Even our water canister had holes knocked in them. It’s a good thing we had duct tape with us, or our trip would have stopped here. Jason threw the luggage rack / high speed meat grinder into the woods; we packed up what was left of our gear, and continued on our way even later than before. The backseat was no longer a roomy suite as the gear that was on top was now near, beside, and on top of my lap, but I didn’t mind so much. We were still on our way. Despite the disaster, our hopes and spirits were surprisingly high, and we joked about the situation. “at least we shaved some weight” I chuckled as we made our way to the destination.

We were almost at our location when the sky began to remove the blue happy mask it was wearing to reveal the soggy truth. Clouds gathered, and broke unto the dry earth. It began to rain. We’re not talking about a little drop here and there, we are talking a monsoon cascading down on anything and everything. As we pulled up to our camp spot the sun said farewell and greeted us with the drops of water that were still raining through the trees. We pitched our tents in the rain, and somehow managed to make a fire with the soggy limbs and branches laying around the campsite. There was not a dry place to sit, but we made do with what we had. We laid our only towels down and absorbed the moisture so we would have a nice dry place to sit.

We gathered around the fire, and began to joke about the horrific day we have had so far. Despite the events and hundreds of dollars’ worth of damaged gear, we were still having a good time. Our tents survived, so we would have a dry place to rest our heads tonight. The rain trickled to a stop. The ground began to dry, and the skies began to break. Above, through the fragmented clouds rested but a single, glistening star, shining down and greeting us from above. Tomorrow was a new day and this glowing star signified a new beginning.

I crawled into my tent, enjoying the cool breeze as it wiped the sweat from my body. I layed on my sleeping pad and slipped into my sleeping bag. My head rested upon the small pillow I had packed, and I began to dream of tomorrow. A long hike across massive rocks atop a mountain. Cascading waterfalls several hundred foot high. Wildlife. Vistas. Life was good.

A hiss came from beneath me as my tired body began to sink to the hard, unforgiving ground. My camping pad now had a hole in it. Ha ha. That would figure. Oh well, tonight it didn’t matter. I was happy. And tomorrow would be amazing.

To be continued.

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