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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Hiking, Part 33

Copyright © 2015
by Ralph F. Couey

Having been entranced by Shenandoah National Park last week, we decided to go back again today.  Looking at my trusty trail book, I decided we'd try the Jenkins Gap trail, heading up to Compton Peak.

We drove back out to Front Royal, and then turned south to the park entrance.  Once in, we headed south on Skyline Drive to the parking area near mile post 12.  It took a moment to locate the trail access, but find it we did and we headed out.

It was another picture-perfect fall day in Virginia.  I know that we will pay the price in January for this great weather now, so better to take every opportunity to be outside.  The trail was rolling in a very picturesque way, and was a pleasure to hike.  The trees were closer to peak color that last week, and the smell of autumn was definitely in the air.  We swung along comfortably for about a mile and a half.  At that point, I began to get curious.  We were supposed to reach the side trail to the peak by then.  But no side trail presented itself.  I should point out that there were a lot more people on the trail that I was used to seeing on hikes.  Most of these were day hikers like us, but at one point we encountered a couple of trail codgers, guys who just "had the look" of AT veterans.  We stopped to talk to them, finding out that they had put in near Roanoke and were working their way northwards.  When asked where we were bound, I replied confidently, "Compton Peak."  This remark produced some furrowed brows, and as we continued on, I could see them consulting their map.  "Excuse me."  At this salutation, I turned around.  "Did you say you were headed for Compton Peak?"  After my affirmative response, they came carefully and politely toward me, holding their map up like a talisman.  After some consultation and comparison, they pointed out with respect and care, that we were headed in the wrong direction.

Overconfidence can be a hiker's greatest handicap, because it allows you the freedom to ignore indicators that you really should be heeding.  People get lost like that.  In this case, I realized that as we exited the parking area, we had turned south instead of north.  Now, I have a compass in my backpack, and another one on my wrist, so there was no excuse.  Cheryl, as wives generally do, got a good chuckle out of it, anyway.  She suggested, since the hike had been so pleasant, to continue on the way we were going.  So, we did.

There are a lot of tougher trails in the Shenandoah, but this was not one of them.  It was a pleasant walk for the roughly 2 miles we did before turning back.  We got back to the car before Cheryl's foot got too painful (real trooper, she is).

We took the car back out onto Skyline Drive and stopped a couple of places to take pictures and ooh and aah at the amazing colors.

Beautiful colors, cool weather, and that irreplaceable feeling of autumn.  This is why I love October.
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