Moss Rock Preserve: Boulder Gorge Loop

Life is rough.

I’ve been dealing with a lot of really hard things lately, and I decided on Sunday morning to get up and go hiking, just because I could. I wanted to prove to myself that I’m stronger than I think I am, and I think I ended up doing that.

I have a hiking book that details the trails around Birmingham, and decided on Saturday night that, should I wake up before 7 a.m. on Sunday, I would get up and go hiking. I haven’t been in almost a year, and I really miss it. My hiking boots are just sitting in my closet, unworn and sad. I picked out the Moss Rock Preserve Boulder Gorge Loop, and went to bed.

I woke up at 6:20 on Sunday morning. I tried to go back to sleep, but knew there was no way I could. I got up and got dressed, backed a bag with some water, my hiking book, my new journal, and one of my colored Muji pens, and set off to the Preserve. I’ve passed by it countless times in the past few months whenever I went to a friend’s house, but I’ve never stopped.

I arrived at 7:45. The day was cloudy and overcast. I decided to put on sunscreen anyway, because I burn so easily. I should have put on bug spray instead, because the land was a little marshy and the bugs were out in full-force. I ended up with several bug bites on my legs and one in the middle of my shoulder blades by the end of it.

There are two main attractions on the Boulder Gorge Loop trail: High Falls and the Top of the World Boulders. They’re about a mile or so into the trail. I got lost a few times, mostly because I misinterpreted how the guidebook told me to follow the trails, but I didn’t mind. I enjoyed being out so early, before anyone else was on the trail, just to clear my mind and get a better understanding of myself.

There was someone exercising in the middle of High Falls when I finally reached it, so I went ahead and forged on to the Top of the World boulders, knowing I could hit the falls on my way back. To get to them, you have to exit the woods, cross a busy highway, and then go back into the woods on the other side. I managed this without getting flattened by cars, which was great to me.

20170723_090502The boulders had been graffitied by teenagers in the area, which was a sad sight to see. I took an entire class on National Parks & Public Lands last year, and I’ve always been taught to leave nothing behind but footprints. To see such a great landmark disrespected made me angry. I did climb to the top of the boulders and sit and write for a while, looking out over the valley. The featured image of this post is a panorama I took while up there. I sat there for about twenty minutes, thinking and reflecting on the events of the past week, praying, and making promises to myself that I was going to end up stronger no matter which way life took me.

I climbed back down and headed back across the road to descend back to the waterfall.

20170723_092423I decided to climb all the way to the top of the falls, and I did manage it. I unfortunately got stuck for about ten minutes once I did. (There are three levels of falls, and I got stuck on the top level.) It took me a few minutes to figure out how to get down, but I wasn’t overly worried. By this time, it was about 9:15, and I knew someone would come along eventually and they could probably help. Or I could call 911, since Moss Rock is in the middle of Vestavia and it’s got very good cell reception. I ended up not needing anybody else’s help, which made me feel great about myself. The water level was not as high as it could be, but better than it would have been last year. Alabama finally got out of the drought that it’s been in for the past few years, thanks to all the rain we’ve gotten this summer.

I got back to my car at exactly 10:00. I’d seen a few other people on my return from the Top of the World, but I was proud that I managed to get out and go out and prove to myself that I could do something like this.

I enjoyed hiking by myself, just me and the woods and God as we walked along. I want to continue hiking like this, sometimes by myself, maybe sometimes with others. (Heather’s already volunteered to go on hikes if she can get up.) It’s a good way to get your head in order, since you’re alone and have plenty of time to think. I recommend taking a journal along with you, so you can find a place to sit and just enjoy life. It’s also a great way to get your creative juices flowing again. I know I’ve had writer’s block for a long time. Getting out and being a flâneur might be what I need to finally get myself back on track.

Life is hard, but you have to show it that you can be harder. What better way than taking out a strenuous hike in your neighborhood? You’ll get some exercise and some fresh air, and hopefully connect a little more with yourself. I’m not saying it’s going to be a cure-all, but it might be a nudge in the right direction. My world has been turned upside down in the past week, and I’ve cried more and slept less than I ever have in my life. I want to grow more, both spiritually and emotionally, and one of the ways I can think of doing that is to go out and force myself to be greater.


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