Almost a year ago, I was working an unusual early shift and decided the skies were right for a evening hike to Roan Mountain to see the sunset. The rhododendron were in bloom and I knew the perfect spot to hike to see both them and the sunset, Jane Bald. As I crossed into the opening of the large rocks on Jane I was dismayed to see two other photographers in "my" spot. An older gentleman was higher up on the ridge and a young girl was settled slightly to his side with a tripod set up as well. At the time, I wasn't aware of proper trail etiquette and plopped down under the large boulder protruding from the bald...directly in their shot.
|Jane Bald sunset. One year ago. Site of the infamous photo bombing.|
Steve, Amber, and I laughed and told stories as we watched the sky lower from the heavens and we eventually started making small talk with the female photographer named Halley. She was from North Carolina, so I was immediately jealous of all of the prime hiking real estate that was in her backyard. Considering I was messing up what would be a dream shot for her, she was friendly and when I arrived home that night I received a friend request on social media. I poured through her photos and marveled at her travels and talents behind a lens. She also ran a photography page called Appalachian Exposures and some of the images there were the best I had ever seen. A friendship blossomed, and we kept track of each others adventures through our facebook pages.
In December of last year, I was reassigned to a store in Church Hill, Tennessee. It was reunion with one of my childhood friends, Ray Hayes and the eventual introduction to the final member of the trio. In his spare time, Ray plays in a softball league in Kingsport and the coach of his team is an avid hiker as well. I would go into work and tell of my grand adventures on the trail and it seems that each time I was met with the same response from Ray, "My buddy Forbes has been there."
|John on our first trip to White Rocks and Sand Cave.|
I finally met John Forbes on our first group hike for JDRF to the Sand Cave in Ewing, Virginia. Also joining us at the last minute for the day was Halley Burleson and her trail companion, Sallie Gator the dog. John and I walked together much of the day and his attitude and story telling ability kept my mind off of the burning legs underneath me. Before we were halfway up the mountain, he was already planning our next hiking trip, I immediately liked him. In all, 15 people hiked the 10 miles to the Sand Cave and White Rocks and our group mixed and mingled all day, with everyone seemingly having a good time. As we arrived back at the trail head, Halley asked where else she could hike that day. I'm unsure what my facial expression was but I was impressed that someone had that kind of desire after a tough day on the trail!
The next trip for JDRF was to the Devil's Bathtub, and our numbers actually grew somewhat to 17 people. Once again John and Halley were front and center for the hike and when got to the tub, they were one of the few people that had the nerve or lack of sense to take the plunge in the freezing water. By the time, we started planning another trip, excuses and responsibilities took their toll and I decided our fundraising efforts for JDRF were sufficient. Although the group hiking was fading, I had made some powerful connections and soon we were back on the trail comparing notes and making plans for trips that most people wouldn't do in a years worth of hiking.
|Sallie Gator was cold just watching Halley taking the plunge at Devil's Bathtub!|
Some of our recent trips have been my fondest memories on the trail. I've been blessed to meet people who enjoy the outdoors as much as myself and their attitudes help feed my drive to keep walking even when my legs are far past their limits. Stay tuned as we already have several epic trips booked and my first EVER camping trip! Until next time, happy trails!
|As you can see, we know how to have a good time!|