Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Hiking at Camp Sumatanga

I've lived back in my hometown now for going on four years.  It's been a wierd time, in some ways, seeing things that have changed so dramatically since I was in high school.  (But it's been good, too, being able to watch college football with my dad on lazy fall Saturdays!)  The philosopher and I have visited parks and other places I used to haunt as a child, and he patiently put up with my never-ending stream of reminisces.

Once place we hadn't been, until a couple of weeks ago, was the Methodist church camp where I spent many an afternoon and weekend attending church picnics, retreats, and 4-H summer camps.  (Yes, I was in 4-H.  Please pick your jaw up off the floor!)

In general, things hadn't changed much.  Some paved paths where they used to be stone, and upgrades to the cabin and lodge.  The camp is on top of Chandler Mountain, and sits in a little valley below the peak.  There's a steep, mile-long trail to the top, where there is a lighted cross that shines out over the valley.  As a kid, I only made that arduous trek once - I always opted for the much easier stroll to the far side of the lake - so the route through the trees was less clear in my memory.  We finally hit the upward trail (after doing a little accidental trailblazing of our own) and the steep climb began.  We met a group of weekend campers coming down, full of enthusiasm after having defeated the mountain, giving us high-fives and saying "you can do it - it's awesome!" (Sigh.  I didn't think I felt that bad, but we must've appeared weary and exhausted to the kids!)

When we arrived at the summit's cross, we looked down into the valley:

 Alabama is a beautiful state and being atop a mountain, even in the early throes of winter, keenly reminds me of that.  I have to say I was disappointed by the cross - it was probably the Coolest Thing Ever when I was 13, but after attending college at Sewanee and walking to this every weekend, a metal structure covered with neon lights doesn't do it for me.  Still, the view was incredible.

We continued our trek back down the mountain, and instead of following our original trail we turned north so we would end up by the lake.  Ahhh, the lake.  I was permanently scarred on that lake when I fell out of a canoe.  It took me decades before I would willingly paddle a boat again!  The camp has created a paved walking path with benches and swings since I was there last, and it was a welcome relief from the slippery leaf-and-needle covered trail.  We had our lunch on a swing, and the philosopher went to investigate the lakeshore.

 So it was a good day, full of memories and philosophical discussion.  It's getting too cold to go hiking these days, so we're planning our next foray for 2011, when Spring returns to these southern climes.

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