by Carlos Martinez
The Angel`s Rest hike is a notorious Appalachian trail, with an elevation gain that matches 1,724 feet. Hikers must withstand a 1.5 mile hike to the summit, with a path that holds the true nature experience. As hikers travel through a spring fed ravine, before encountering the winding switch backs of the mountain. My friends and I were about to admire the beauty of the mountain on a sunrise hike. In the hours before the sun rises, a group of my friends and I prepared our bags for our pending journey. We all stepped out into the crisp cold morning air, the sky still dark with stars. As we all piled into the cars and got comfy. We soon realized that the car ride would come to have some unexpected twist and turns. Our driver not certain of where he was going, led us down empty highway and neighborhood streets. All filled with U-turns. We eventually found ourselves driving up a narrow mountain road. When all of a sudden the car brakes hard and to our surprise we had arrived. All that could be seen was a small set of stairs that led up into darkness. We all looked at each other with confused faces, “Why does that trail start here?” With no explanation found, we gathered our gear and prepared ourselves for the hike that was to come.
As the group traveled up the path, all that could be seen were lights that shined from our flashlights. In nearly complete darkness, each one of us took turns stumbling over rocks that could not be seen. Even though our feet faced most of the battle we all pushed on. With time the group separated due to one another’s pace. This did not stop us from creating a clever way of communicating with each other. At random times the silence of the mountain would be disturbed by a call. “Skee-EEEE”, would howl down that mountain, as each group responded with their own distinct call. Caleb oddly sounded like a majestic Amazonian bird and would be heard screaming, “Aaaaa-Aaaah”. Our calls echoed up and down the mountain, only to be followed by our laughter.
After traveling for about an hour and half we had arrived at the summit. The view could only be described as breath-taking. As the sun peaked over the mountain tops, the world around me became flooded with colors of the sun. With careful steps I found myself at the top of the summit boulder, looking out into the New River Valley. Mesmerized by the sheer power of the surrounding mountains and the small town of Pearisburg down in the valley below. I fell into a stage of peace and pure happiness.
In the time that we spent on the summit we discovered amazing things. A small dark cave that laid hidden amongst the rocks. With a slight detour of our current destination, we all took turns descending down into the cave. As I slowly lowered myself down, I could not help but feel as if I was travelling to a completely new world. Once on the cave floor I felt the cool air surrounding my body. Only to be guided by the cold cave walls to the sun-lit opening on the other side. When I emerged from the cave I stood on a small ledge that looked out into the valley. This view held its own beauty as I found my way back to the path. Upon arriving at the Willburn viewpoint I found myself walking up to my friends sitting along the cliff’s edge. As I joined them, I was blown away by the vast amount of farms and pasture that made this view beautiful.
As our time at the summit came to an end, we all gathered our belongings. But before we could set off down the mountain, Lewis challenged all who dared to free-run down the mountain with him. The first to make it down the mountain without dying would win the race. One may think, “Isn’t that dangerous?” That’s exactly the point. As we started to head down the mountain we hit the first leg with a sprint. Each of us toe to toe with one another. The terrain proved to be difficult as we bobbed and weaved down the switchbacks of the mountain. I have never felt something that exhilarating before, as I hurdled over rocks and dodged trees. Once the runners reached the base we waited for everyone to catch up and then traveled the last leg together down to the cars. As we headed back to campus we looked back at the great mountain and still cannot help but thank it for sharing its beauty with all of us.
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