Sunday, November 27, 2011

St Marys At Sewanee

Today it is raining heavily and although still warm, colder temperatures are promising to move into the area for the coming week.
With one last sunny day for a short while in the forecast LC and I yesterday debated how we would spend part of our day.
It was a toss-up between heading onto the water or heading up the mountain towards Sewanee.
Although yesterday was mostly sunny and warm it was also windy.
Between the wind, my description of what I had found while exploring the day before and LC's desire to see the same things, heading back up to the mountain eventually won the debate.
As we got ourselves ready to go my intuitive dog sat on the couch watching our every move, and when I finally grabbed a light jacket and began to put on my shoes she climbed down from the couch and walked over to me, stood in front of me watching me intently and wagged her tail.
After all these years I recognize the bright eyed pleading face that my sweet puppy was giving me.
She really really REALLY wanted to go.
LC grabbed the leash from the peg on the wall in the den and my dog hysterically began to bark and jump and spin her tail in excited circles.
Unlike my drive of the day before through multiple small towns before reaching the winding road that leads up the mountain, yesterday LC headed straight through the base and took the interstate up to Sewanee.
The first stop we made was in a section of Franklin State Forest.
I have been to a number of different areas up there but still do not remember the area well.  There are trails and parks and streams that I have explored in the past but at this point still do not remember where they are all located and exactly how to access them.
LC had researched online and we both then realized that there were many lakes on the mountain.
He picked Eva Lake as a starting point for our travels yesterday and as we got close to the lake and bypassed a ranger station I realized that I had been in this area before.
In fact I had spent a good deal of time in that entire section of the forest. 
I had biked trails alone and LC had also biked with me one day.
And without realizing the name of it I had also spent time at Eva Lake because there are a number of trail intersections on the opposite side of the gravel road from the lake and I had traveled that way in years past.
As we drove down the gravel road leading to Eva I suddenly felt something very different from the usual excitement I feel when exploring.
The realization of familiarity - of the ranger station, of the grassy parking lot beside the station where I parked while I biked the trails, the gravel road, the lake - suddenly felt very comforting.
It was an unexpected feeling.
Unexpected and duly noted.
We pulled the truck over to the side of the road and I turned to look at my pup, who was excited because she knew the drill and knew that it was time for her to get out of the truck to wander.
Looking at the small group of campers on the opposite side of the small lake LC and I suddenly realized that this was a hunting weekend.
Walking on trails was not going to happen and we resolved to only stay for a short while so that we would not disturb this group.
On the mountain the weather was increasingly unsettled.............
After spending only a short while at the lake we loaded back into the truck and headed towards Hwy 56.
56 leads towards the Natural Bridge and also leads towards the small community of Sherwood and the state line that I had traveled only the day before.
Before we had even reached the turnoff for the bridge LC saw a sign for St Marys on the right, and surprisingly (and at the last minute) turned off the highway and headed down the side road.
We looked at each other and smiled wordlessly at each other.
Both of us knowing that we were taking a "let's see what's down this road" side trip.
He loves to explore as much as I do.
And as a cop on the back roads that bordered the Smoky Mountains, that love of exploring over time taught him where every side road, jeep trail, horse trail, deer trail was located in his patrol area.
Knowledge that often served him well in his career.
Let's see what's down this road.............
"In a world of noise, confusion and conflict, it is necessary that there be places of inner silence and peace."
So says the quote from Thomas Merton that is located on the website for St Marys in Sewanee.
LC and James and I (in full exploration mode yesterday) pulled into the parking area, looked briefly around us and instantly knew that we had found something special.
We climbed out of the truck having no idea what St Marys was but we were suddenly and totally and unexpectedly in the very center of beautiful.
As we headed for the cliff's edge I smiled as I saw the small rock towers.
I saw many rock towers during my time in Juneau.
As with this area Juneau has an abundance of rock, and one of the favorite past-times of the residents of Alaska's capital city when they walked on trails and along beaches was to build rock towers.
After seeing hundreds of them over the course of 8 or 9 months I one day decided that I would build one.
It turns out that I am not a very good rock tower builder but it was a cathartic and relaxing and calming experience none-the-less.
I have never seen such towers in Tennessee until yesterday..............
My Mountain Boy and Jamie standing by the edge of the cliffs looking out over a very large valley...........
I stood looking out at the valley below me, the water towers of four or five towns, endless fields and hills and sky.
Standing looking out over forever..............
Heading towards a small structure that contained multiple chairs and benches and that also looked out over the lovely scene far below...........
The first time I saw this happy face on a tree truck was in a local residents yard in downtown Cody Wyoming.
One eye missing but still a very cute and whimsical face that makes me smile............
After spending a long time standing at the edge of the cliffs we all three began to wander the grounds, curious to see what else was located in this area.
We did not see any people or any vehicles during the entire time that we were at St Marys.
What we did find were continual unexpected items that reinforced the beauty and serenity of this special place.........
There were other areas of the campus that we did not explore.
But we had been at St Marys for a long time, had seen many lovely things, were ecstatic that we had so unexpectedly happened upon such a quiet and lovely place.
It is easy in places such as this to forget that Tennessee holds six million people.
Yesterday there was only a mountain-top and a valley far below and us.
We climbed back into the truck.
Reluctant to leave this place.
But curious to see what else we would find on a beautiful Saturday in late November..............

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