“These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs
With a sweet inland murmur.—Once again
Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs,
Which on a wild secluded scene impress
Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect
The landscape with the quiet of the sky.”
– Wordsworth, “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour. July 13, 1798.”
Sunday was the perfect restbite from my Halloweek of partying. With the hangover having reared its head the night before, I was alive and ready to go at 8am. We took a 3 hour drive to the Linville Gorge Wilderness in North Carolina. Never had I been so much in the wilderness, and felt the shock of my poetic senses reentering my body. If I had, had time to sit and dwell on the fall colours, and the beauty of the landscape I could’ve enjoyed it for days. You don’t quite realize on the drive up, just quite the latitude which you are reaching. There was one scenic platform which we stopped at whilst trying to find the Hawksbill Mountain trail, the mountains really did roll like Wordsworth would describe, as the trees became small tufts, with slight changes in degrees of colour. Yet, we turned the car around just as soon as I could gasp ‘wow’.
The trail was harder than I had expected. I always thought Americans just exaggerated by using the term “hike”. Yet, after the first ten minutes of gasping, my body adjusted to the cool air. I was freezing, and realizing I had not been prepared for the dramatic weather changes but it felt like a blessing just to be out and clear my head of the stresses I had been through the past week. Reaching the peak gave that small sense of accomplishment, which as humans being we tend to need every now and then to feel whole again. The rock faces shocked me, I thought the way they came out of the land wasn’t real and only on television for dramatic effect. The peak revealed spectactular views, which not even my camera could capture the beauty of. It was a landscape that I think I’ll dream about for the rest of my life. I even embraced my fear to sit on the ledge for a photograph.
Though as a whole the 20 of us couldn’t wait to get back down to ground level. The 30mph winds meant that we had to sit down on the opposing side of the peak, and the fear of the brewing storm to my right let my fear begin to take over. I could hear the thunder and see the rain which appeared like mist in the distance. It was reminiscent of the second chapter of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus” (1818) whereby victor whitnesses a storm in the Swiss Alps.
The trail down was easier, with lots of bums hitting the floor, and the Americans calling this “eating shit”, making me laugh. I had worn running trainers which were great for the terrain and the cold seemed to encompass and entrance my body more than a British winter morning. There was nothing that could warm me up in the car on the way back… but I wouldn’t have changed the day for a second.
I hope that in the spring I can revisit Hawksbill. To sit and muse over life just as Wordsworth would, and feel like an eternal wanderer.