The Yellow Mountain Hike in the mountains just north of Highlands N.C. is a real “ass kicker!” It’s an out and back hike, with the halfway point being a fire tower built by the C.C.C in the 1930’s on the top of Yellow Mountain (not quite 6000 ft. above sea level.) The hike is about 10 miles in total, with more than 7000 ft. of elevation change (up and down several mountains from the trailhead to the fire tower,) and is at the edge of my physical capability. It typically takes me close to seven hours to accomplish the feat…. and for me it is truly no small feat to achieve!
The picture above is of one of the trail signs that are about ½ way out to the fire tower, at a crossing in the trail. Since it’s an out and back hike, we pass this sign early in the day and then again on our way back, about when we have done ¾ of the hike with only ¼ to go!! The problem with the sign’s specific location is that its on Goat’s Knob, one of the most challenging parts of the hike and on the return route the sign hits as you are making your way UP Goat’s Knob in a steep and difficult stretch. Every time I have done this hike, I know that while I am getting close to making it back to the trailhead, with only ¼ of the trail to endure, the path ahead will be steep, challenging and very difficult…. the end was near but challenging miles lay ahead.
It’s with that spirit that I see us today, as we are facing the end of 2020 and the “trail” ahead for vaccinations in 2021. We can see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel… with hopefully millions vaccinated by April or May, and a wide percentage of the population covered by the end of summer. The hope and excitement is palatable but still difficult “miles” lie ahead in our path. The next few weeks and months are extremely dangerous and challenging and we are not “out of the woods” by any means, we are merely about at the Yellow Mtn. sign on our way back home.
I learned on my second Yellow Mountain hike (the first was successful but pretty messy…. more on that another time) that by taking frequent breaks, having enough water and food to sustain myself, I could make it back feeling winded and tired, but healthy and successful. In that same spirit, I am looking for ways right now to apply those lessons to our current challenges with Covid. How can I slow down, use good planning, focus on health and safety protocols and most importantly remember that there are really challenging miles ahead and to ensure to prepare well for those challenges.
As much as I desperately want this to be over, and to get back to travelling and seeing family and friends like we did before March 2020, those days aren’t here yet! We all need to stay patient, vigilant and as careful as we can be… with plenty of water and food for the rest of the proverbial hike, so we can all find our way back from the Fire Tower on Yellow Mountain and back to our homes safely with our families and friends in 2021…. we are at the “sign” on the way back but not finished the hard journey yet!
Stay safe and healthy over the next few months and we all can find our way to vaccinations in 2021 and a return to more normal times with our families, friends and communities.