Today I went to Crowders State Park, about 20 miles from my home in Charlotte, for a Saturday morning hike. A friend of mine told me about the mountain and how much fun she had hiking it with her boyfriend.
Last night before bed I told Bradley I was going hiking. He didn't say much... I think he was hoping it was just something I was saying, as I am apt to do, and would forget about it or change my mind in the morning. But morning came and I had not forgotten about it. I have wanted to go hiking for a really long time. It has been forever since I have been (literally... unless you count some woodlands in the back of my friend's house, it has been at least 7-10 years, probably longer), but it was always something I enjoyed doing. It's just that I have dated guys who are more at home on the sofa playing XBox. And don't get me wrong, I love my video games... probably what drove me to seek out guys like that in the first place. But I also really love nature, and today I had decided it was my day.
I got out of bed and got dressed. I could tell Bradley didn't want to go, but we have a sort of way of tagging along with the other whether we want to or not. I wasn't going to push the issue though, because a lot of the time I feel like I have to drag him out of the house and today I did not want that. I was feeling enthusiastic and didn't want anything to dampen that by the feeling of guilt I sometimes get when I know we are doing something just because of me. So I went to the kitchen to make an egg sandwich for breakfast and pack some snacks and water in my backpack, as well as a bowl that Luna could drink out of.
After a few minutes he came into the kitchen to make some toast (something he rarely does, usually he skips breakfast) and he asked how long we would be hiking. "Please stay here," I said, and I explained to him that I didn't want to feel like I was dragging him anywhere, and it was really fine. He grumbled a bit then said OK.
So I grabbed Luna and Lily and headed out! Lily had an appointment at the groomer's today so I dropped her off there, then Luna and I were on our way to the mountain. Although I definitely did not want him to come if he was not going to enjoy it, on the other hand I was just a little bit nervous. Since we have been together, I have rarely done anything without him. I usually rely on him to do things like read maps, find the best places to park, etc. Recently though I have begun thinking that if I want to do things and he doesn't want to go, I should not put myself in this place of either feeling guilty if he does go because I worry if he's enjoying himself, or in a place of resentment if we stay home. I should just go, have fun, and not hold it against him for wanting to stay home. Plenty of couples have separate some interests, and that is OK! So I decided to put on my big girl panties and make my own way of it. There was a part of that which was very thrilling! Before I met Bradley I used to be pretty independent, but when you have someone who is so willing to take care of you it can be easy to sit back and relax. Pros and cons to that, for sure, so it's nice to strike a balance sometimes.
Luna and I arrived at the park after driving through a lot of winding country roads. The views were beautiful, and we even passed a few small farms. It was really encouraging to see that at least some farm animals still get to eat grass and aren't stuck in windowless sheds all their lives.
We parked and made our way to the visitor's center, where a passing hiker was nice enough to go inside and get us a trail map since they don't allow dogs in the visitor's center. After looking over the various trail lengths and difficulty levels, I picked a 2.8 mile (one way) trail of moderate difficulty, and we were off!
As soon as we were in the woods with no one around, I breathed a deep sigh of relief. I had forgotten how much I love the woods. I have always loved fantasy movies and novels and of course a deep forest is essential to a good fantasy story. As a child I loved playing in and around the woods and daydreamed about lush green trees and rippling brooks, where fairies might be hiding under a rock or a unicorn grazing in a clearing.
Several times on the trail when we passed people, they would remark about how Luna was so small and joke about her not being able to keep up. Nothing could be further from the truth! I chose the trail because we have often walked 2 miles around my neighborhood and it didn't seem like 2.8 would be that far. I soon found out that when you are climbing rocky hills and accelerating terrain, it feels a lot longer! But Luna was right at my side the whole time, climbing rocks, going up and down the natural stairsteps, jogging across the state road that cuts through one part of the trail... and she didn't even seem to tire!
I stopped to give her water at several parts along the way but each time she took a few laps and then looked up at me, jumping up as if to say, "Let's go Mom, times a wasting!"
I took a few pictures along the way of parts I found particularly beautiful. It took us about 2 and a half hours to do a round trip of 5.6 miles. I loved every minute. I have been talking for a while about an outdoor activity that I could do so that "exercising" would be fun, not because I need to do it. I think I may have found what that is for me. I would love to go on another hike very soon, and sometime I want to take the trail that goes all the way up to the top of the mountain!
After all was said and done, I loved being there with just me and Luna. She is definitely a partner in every way, and the stillness was refreshing to my spirit. I was home before 12:30 anyway, so I had plenty of time to spend with Bradley too :) Hooray for balance.
Here are some pictures I took:
And one of my little mountain goat: