Oh happy day!
The inactivity here has been about one month long – this I know! I apologize, but let me explain! On August 25th, my then-boyfriend, Josiah, came home from Iraq. It was incredible! I’ve always loved looking at pictures of military homecomings, and dating a deployed soldier put me smack-dab in the middle of just such a scene. Tears, ‘Welcome Home’ banners, news cameras, cheers when the buses pulled up — all of it was magical. It felt so unreal to be with him again. This person that had been 5,000 miles away for 8 months was now right in front of my face and wanted to hang out with me! Wow.
So then, we spent a great month together. I started school and he started back working his part-time job. Since I’m also still working my college job, our time together is limited. On September 19th, though, we both miraculously had a day off together. Josiah decided we should go and hike the Peaks of Otter. What a great idea! I thought. We set off for the wild — armed with a brand-new hiking backpack stuffed with picnic goods and miscellaneous items for survival – flashlights, rope, glow sticks, medical kit, etc…(thanks to Josiah, my trained killer/survivalist). The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of my favorite places on earth. Driving up there freaks Josiah out (he’s used to flat Texas land!) but for some reason on this particular day he really wanted to go to Peaks of Otter. Hmmmm…….. 🙂 Suspicion.
So hiking. I grew up on a farm, had daily animal-feeding chores, and walking anywhere on our land could debatably be considered “hiking”. I’ve spent a great amount of time in the woods, but never actually hiked per se up any mountain. Therefore, when imagining this grand journey, I was picturing a refreshing, smooth walk. I’d gather flowers by the handful, daintily skip up the rocks, marvel with Josiah at the various forms of nature we observed (I really wanted to see a baby bear), snap photos, and sing ‘The Climb’ by Miley Cyrus. After this pleasant walk to the top, I’d firmly plant my foot on the edge, thrust my arms into the air, and shout “THIS! IS! SPARTAAAAAA!!!” in a loud and scary voice. All the other hikers would laugh at my clever application of relevant movie quotes, and I’d smile humbly. We’d spread out a blanket on a rock, of course, and have our cute picnic of Subway and Pringles. The sun would set.
It would be perfect.
Once we got to the parking lot and Josiah had successfully stuffed our bag full of things and things and more things, we headed towards the trail entrance. Yes! I was thinking. Here we go! My first hike! This is gonna be great! Wow, that mountain air is amazing! I’m ever the Optimist. We saw a sign “Sharp Top – 1.5 miles”.
“Wow, 1.5 miles?” I asked Josiah. “Is that the shortest trail they have?” He assured me it was. It would take an hour and a half to get to the top, and we’d have to come back down in the dark -“But we have flashlights, so we’ll be fine.” I said.
Our journey began. Once we started walking up the stairs, several hints gave me the idea that this hike might not be exactly like I’d imagined. We’d been hiking for about 7 minutes when we passed a family with a small boy. He was around 4 or 5. “Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow,” he mournfully cried in perfect rhythm with each step. His mom tried to encourage him. “Aw come on buddy, we’re almost done! You’ve done so well!” This poor boy did not look like he was enjoying the hike. Oh well, I thought. Hiking is clearly not for young children.
A few minutes later, I began to get short of breath. A large group of obviously-Liberty students passed us on the way down. “You’re almost to the top!” one of them cackled in a sarcastic voice. Evil.
I can’t really pinpoint the exact moment in which I abandoned all hope of making it up the mountain, but I’m pretty sure it was about 20 minutes into the hike. I was feeling lightheaded. I was feeling like taking a nap on a rock. I was feeling like this was the worst hobby ever invented. We were sitting down for the third time so I could get some energy back, but this logic was flawed. No energy could be found. “Wanna go back down?” Josiah said.
“No!” I protested. “We. must. keep. going. I. want. to. do. this!” (Gasps for breath between almost every word) We started up again, and I made it several yards before agreeing with him. “Yeah, let’s just go back down. We don’t want to come down in the dark. All sorts of creatures could attack us.”
Being the amazing guy he is, he agreed with me and listed several reasons why going the rest of the way was unthinkable and preposterous. We started back down the mountain. I felt defeated and weak, but tried to keep the optimism flowing. We decided to drive along the parkway until we reached the overlook on the side of the road where we had visited last time and carved our initials on a tree. “It has just as pretty a view as Sharp Top – trust me.” he said. (I love that guy.)
As we descended the steps into the parking lot from the trail, I looked around nervously, expecting a group of seasoned hikers to start laughing hysterically as they saw us return so quickly. Thankfully, they had all gone home for the day. We got back in the truck, and started the hiking I like best. Air-conditioned, Dodge Ram style.
After 20 minutes of driving and a near-death experience with some stupid lady walking her two Huskies on the EDGE OF THE MOUNTAIN where there is NO shoulder, we got to our favorite overlook……
He parked the truck and we got out. Despite the little gnats flying in the air, it was perfectly beautiful. “Let’s go to the picnic table and have our food!” I said. We walked into the woods and I jumped back in horror upon seeing the table literally COVERED in stink bugs! :O Ugh!
We chose a rock nearby instead and sat down to eat. Josiah gobbled down his sandwich, but I took my time. Towards the last bite, I noticed a visitor. A very unwelcome Yellow Jacket. Yellow Jackets and I have a very bad history, since Mom ran over a nest with the push mower when I was 7 and I got the brunt of their frustration. I tried not to scream as Josiah slooowwly removed the paper from my lap and I bolted out of the woods and back to the truck. He came running behind me, carrying the backpack and my toy “you forgot your $800 camera, Brooke”.
The near escape from Yellow Jacket Death shook me up, but we plopped down in the grass to watch the sunset. He wrapped his arms around me, and I was reminded why I love this guy so much. He puts up with all my hysterical bug outbursts. All my optimistic-but-clearly-unrealistic expectations. He protects me. He likes me. He makes me laugh. Just as I was thinking lovey-dovey thoughts that made me teary-eyed, ……………………………..
“Brooke, can I ask you a question?”
Of course you know what came next…”I’ve been meaning to ask you this for a long time now, but will you marry me?”
He took out the lovely ring that I’d picked out from Kay a few weeks ago and put it on my hand. I said yes.
After some hugs and kisses, I jumped up and got in self-portrait mode. We had to document this grand occurrence! We started taking pictures like crazy, and I didn’t noticed the Stink Bugs as they advanced towards us in a quiet attack. They made their first hit by jumping into my hair. I screamed and jumped around, shaking my head until the unfortunate-and-probably-deaf-and-dizzy bug fell out. Another hit from another bug! This one made it into my shirt, which of course was a disaster. I screamed even louder and jumped around even harder. “Let’s go before they get into the truck!” Josiah said, as he was running around throwing things into the backseat. The stinkbugs seemed to be swarming, like they had an uncanny affinity for black Dodge Rams or newly-engaged couples or something. We jumped into the truck, slammed the doors shut, and screeched away. Several devoted fighters clung to the windshield and door. I was glad to be protected by glass.
What a day! I can’t believe I’m engaged. Here are some shots I was able to get before attack happened.
The End 🙂