As a boy (who am I kidding? I still do this), I used to daydream about survival. We spent countless hours playing with toy guns or beating each other with sticks in our “sword fights.” The movie Red Dawn was iconic to me. It’s the perfect guy’s movie. Communists invade the US, and some high school kids are left to defend it by running through the woods with hunting rifles. It’s hard to beat a scenario like that.

In February, Lauren and I went to Gatlinburg with Josh and Joy (my brother and his wife). We were staying in some cabins on top of a mountain, and we ended up getting snowed in one night. The next morning, the four of us got up, put on some warm, comfortable clothes, and began our trek down the mountain.

We hadn’t gone far when we ran across 3 old couples piled into a Lincoln Towncar, or something similar. They had tried driving down and slid into a snowbank. We offered help, but they said a wrecker was coming to get them. I don’t know how many miles we hiked, but it took us quite a while to get down. Of course, the footing was pretty treacherous in places, and that slowed us down considerably.

We finally got into town, bought some supplies at a grocery store, and ate lunch. As you might imagine, hiking back was significantly more difficult that hiking down had been, but we still had a lot of fun. We came across the Lincoln again on our hike back up the mountain. Apparently, the wrecker had pulled it out onto the road, only to have the car drift into another snowbank. The wrecker pulled them out a second time, after which, the car ran into a telephone

The biggest thrill we had was when we ran across other people who had been staying on the mountain. Most had been unable to drive down, so they were pacing around their driveways like refugees. They would watch us anxiously as we approached them, and then they would come up to us with glassy eyes and ask us questions while hungrily eyeing our packs. “Y’all hike up from all the way down there?” Invariably, they were surprised when we told them we had actually hiked down early that morning, and were now coming back.

It was amazing how helpless people seemed to become when they could no longer rely on their modern conveniences. I mean, they couldn’t imagine traveling unless it was motorized. We felt like brave explorers, even though we hadn’t really done much. Sheeple need a shepherd, I guess.

I also felt that way a little bit on Saturday. We essentially had a family reunion at my grandparents’ house in Prattville. It basically consisted of my grandparents’ two kids and their families, as well as my grandmother’s two sisters and their families. There were quite a few of us there.

My grandparents own about 35 acres of woods that surround their house, which my siblings and I grew up playing in. A fairly deep gulley runs through the woods. After a while, it gets shallower, but it still has a small stream that goes on for quite a ways. The woods around the stream are extremely thick and green — almost jungle-like. It’s not uncommon to see magnolias, bamboo, and many, many briers growing all along it.

When we were kids, it seemed as though we were on some dangerous expedition any time we ventured down the length of the stream (which was rare). That part of the forest seemed to hold some deep mystery.

Saturday, a large group of us went out into the woods, and we followed the trails over to the gulley. After crawling around it for a little bit, my brothers and I couldn’t resist trying to follow that stream again. But almost half of our party didn’t want to go. As I said, the woods here were very thick. There was no trail to follow; you had to make your own.

 The only ones who ventured along the stream were me, Lauren, Madelyn (our 3 yr old), Josh, Joy, Bryan (their son), Daniel (my brother), Brittany (his girlfriend), Ryley (my sister), and David (her boyfriend).  I was proud.  The same kids who grew up there are the ones who went through the toughest parts of the woods on Saturday.  But this time, we brought others with us.

 It was tough going, but it was so much fun.  We had to duck and twist around branches, bushes, and thorns.  We had to cross and recross the stream several times over.  We had to climb up some banks and jump down others.  And the woods still held that sense of mystery, like you might uncover some ancient ruin at any minute.

We hadn’t gone very far when I found a hatchet stuck in a tree with an old hacksaw hanging on it.  Nearby, we found a 7-iron golf club.  I asked if we should take those things with us, and Josh said “we were meant to.”  He was joking, but not really, you know?  Exploring woods and caves gives you a sense of fate, a sense of purpose.

 Life is a lot like that as well.  It’s meant to be lived, not avoided.  Adventure, excitement, Jedi crave not these things.  But I do.  🙂  I can’t help it.  And deep down, I think everyone else does as well.  The difference is, some people take the risk and others don’t.

Teddy Roosevelt probably said it best:

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”The Strenuous Life


3 thoughts on “Triumph

  1. I know what you mean, Nate. I too have always enjoyed exploring and roaming around the woods. Not only does it take the effort to risk and explore, but it takes a lot of persistance as well.

    Calvin Coolidge, born on the 4th of July and the 30th President of the United States put it this way:

    “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men of talent. Genius will not… The world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

    Even though he was known as “Silent Cal” he sure said a lot!

    I think we all had a great time. Thanks for writing about it.

  2. What cracked me up was how everyone else acted like they were lost EVEN WHILE THEY WERE STILL ON THE TRAIL!!! And yes, I was immensely proud of the newbies who went exploring with us. David had a great time running around out there… I’m so glad we did that! Anyways, apparently you and Dad are just as bored at work today as I am…. Nothing like getting paid to waste time, eh? Maybe I should convert to the Lazy Side after all….

  3. We used to play in the woods all the time as kids. We had to cross some train tracks to get into the thick of it. One way to cross them was to actually go under the tracks via a short tunnel. It was dark and wet, but short enought to run through. After reading this post I want to agther up the neighborhood kids and go back out into the woods. Too bad it’s probably all houses now.

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