Finding the rain cure


Photo: Chloe Dean

(Originally published in The Sewanee Mountain Messenger. Reproduced by permission.)

“Frankly, I think you people are crazy.”

I said this to my niece as we climbed out of the car at Morgan’s Steep, and into the enveloping drizzle.

First, it had been raining for days. The trails we headed for were going to be soggy, slippery, and even underwater in spots.

Second, there were the kids: two girls, aged ten and eleven, not exactly dressed for the weather: one had a cotton sweatshirt on. Would they have fun? (Would they get hypothermic?…)

Nonetheless, after three days trapped inside the family holiday rental house, they were determined to hike. As the local, I was enlisted to show four adults and three youngsters a little bit of the Perimeter Trail.

Surrendering to the rain, to being wet, and knowing how to be comfortable (river shoes, quick-dry shorts, good rainjacket), I quit resisting the weather and shed the attitude that had me asking whether it was really possible to have Seasonal Affective Disorder in July.

Off we went, down the stone steps to Sun Wall, then around the corner, picking our way gingerly across roots and rocks, stepping carefully through the first of many waterfalls that usualy aren’t there, and down to the wooden bridge.

The stream was an angry torrent, muddy and scary, fuller and louder than I’d ever seen it. We crossed the bridge, forded another stream on the trail, and climbed the steep steps to the bouldering area called the Theater.

A quick regroup showed a group of soaked but happy hikers. None had ever been on this trail, and one or two had never been on the Mountain. With the periodic “Wow”s and “Look at that”s as we hiked along, I had the great experience of being able to see my home terrain with new eyes, thanks to them.

And there were new things for me to see, as well. Water streaming, pouring, running from places that have always been dry on my previous visits to the Perimeter Trail. Usually-dry vertical rock faces covered in moss, the water bouncing off the vegetation in a fine mist.

On around through Proctors’ Hall, where we played the find-the-oldest-inscription game; to the waterfall halfway to the Cross; and finally to the overlook at the Cross itself, where fog and cloud obscured the view to Cowan and beyond.

The downpour intensified as we huddled under the map kiosk just off the asphalt road.

“How do we get back?” a young one asked me.

“Same way we came,” I answered.

“Cool! We get to see all that stuff again.”

And so we did. Back through the waterfall, and on. A rock that we had hopped down became an obstacle to be climbed up on during the return. “Did we come this way?” I was asked. It was different enough from the opposite direction to seem new.

Back at the parking lot, it was obvious that I had been mistaken. This soggy group of family was as happy as if we had had perfect weather for our hike. In fact, as someone said, “The rain made it memorable.”

To which the eleven-year-old replied, “I’ll never forget it!”

And in that moment, I knew just what a success this small adventure, of no more than two miles, less than five minutes from my house, had turned out to be. And as often happens, I was totally good with being wrong.