Winter Winds

I quickly grabbed the familiar braided cable as my feet slipped out from under me. I removed the microspikes from my vest, slipped them over my S-LABS and glanced down at my watch as I continued to *crunch crunch crunch* my way upwards along the icy trail.

Midnight had come and gone without much notice. Ever since leaving an empty Alum Cave parking lot, words I wrote a year ago had been echoing in my head:

The stars shine through the powdered pines, tears like crystals in your eyes.

The trail grows dark, you know the way. The Appalachia’s in your veins.

You feel It’s touch, the cold embrace, praying for another day. Your soul cries out, “te amo Deum.”

With the microspikes, my mind relinquished it’s footing concerns and moved it’s focus to the gentle snow flurries and cold Smoky Mountain air. I moved in and out of clouds as I enjoyed the quiet cadence of my footsteps. During daylight hours and warmer months, Mount LeConte Lodge is typically a vibrant hangout… but at 1am in the middle of winter, the lodge is at best a desolate ghost town shrouded in comforting darkness. Although there was only one car in the parking lot when I departed at 11:45pm, I kept the shine of my headlamp fixated on the trail as I passed the shelter as to not disturb any potential sleeping guests. I reached the summit a few minutes before 1am, tossed a rock on the pile and started the descent. I smiled as I thought of Albert Camus’s words, “Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night-filled mountain, in itself, forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

Despite the icy conditions, it only took a little over 2 hours for the round trip. I noticed an orange piece of paper on my windshield as I walked across the parking lot. Overnight parking is frowned upon in the Smokies so I made sure I left a handwritten note in my windshield: “NOT overnight parking! Just a midnight summit. Left at 11:45pm. Should return around 2-3am.”

Thankfully the orange literature wasn’t a citation. The sweeties running the show at GSMNP left a little notice letting me know that 441 was closed (again… it only had been open for a few hours) due to snow and ice. They were even so kind to leave me the code to the lock on the gate so that I could get out!

The sub-freezing temps on LeConte called for an extended hot shower. I finally crawled into the bed just after 3am.

3 hours later I found myself crawling up the stairs to share a cup of coffee with Ash and Bailey. For years, we’ve had a standing Smoky Mountain tradition that we call Mountain Girls Weekend. These weekends usually happen periodically throughout the year… winter, spring, summer, fall… and each season brings a different element of fun. These mountains mean the world to me, and some of my best Smoky Mountain memories involve these girls:

We chatted as we watched the seasons change during the ascent of West Prong.

Before long, our world became white.

Views were nowhere to be found as we hit the Appalachian Trail. Ash and I followed mountain cat tracks as we crunched our way up to Rocky Top.

After a brief snack break, we carried on a little past Thunderhead before turning around to retrace our steps back to the Tremont. When we passed the summit on the way back, we noticed Bailey had left her calling card atop of Rocky Top…

As usual, the mountain provided a serene escape amidst our hectic lives.

A voice calls out against the wind, the comfort of it makes you grin.

The setting sun, the coming night, cradle close the candle light.

You feel It’s touch, the cold embrace, praying for another day. Your soul cries out, “te amo Deum.”

When dinner rolls around, we typically stick to what we know for MGW… but this time we decided to branch out. After a +2 hours wait for food… the decision to branch out again was a unanimous… “no”

Come Sunday morning, Ash and I drove up to Newfound Gap. We had every intention of repeating an 18 mile Bradly, Bradly, Bradly route that we did 2 years ago, but the Ice King had different plans.

After a dreadfully slow 3/4 of a mile along the AT, we decided Northbound was too icy (especially without spikes… not gonna call out anyone who may or may not have forgotten their spikes in the car… *cough DAYQUAN cough*…

We hopped NFG road and started Southbound along the AT towards Clingmans. This side of the mountain had a little more snowfall, but it was mostly just a coating for the ice. We had not so high hopes for faster movement, but in the end we were forced to slow it down and accept the tundra setting…

Though the actual temperature had been colder the previous days, the whipping wind made Sunday’s outing remarkably colder. We followed the AT for a few miles before scooting down to Clingman’s Dome Road for a somewhat quicker return to NFG. During the Fall, the road to Clingman’s is grossly mobbed with camera hungry tourists trying to snap pictures of the vibrant autumn colors… but the winter brings forth a tranquil abandonment.

With the exception of my one ungraceful fall, we gleefully navigated the ice/snow covered blacktop while we created stories for the wild animal prints we tracked along the road. The calming, beautiful blue hue of the distant mountain range served as a tender reminder to be intentionally present in the moment and enjoy what’s around you.

We navigated around the barricade to Clingmans Dome Road and moved along the roadside until we arrived back at Newfound Gap where Bailey was waiting. We snapped a quick pic in our stylish MGW shirts before we parted ways.

The drive back from the Smokies never passes quickly. Regardless of where the Sunday run ends… it’s typically a 5 – 6 hour drive back to Montevallo. Usually, I’ll throw on a couple podcasts to pass the time, but today was different. My mind remained immersed in an Appalachian conversation surrounding fears and insecurities that Ash and I had earlier in the day.

What do I fear the most? I sometimes catch flak for my lackadaisical viewpoint of life and death, but honestly, death isn’t something I’ve ever really feared. I became friends with my Death a long time ago and don’t really exhibit any death anxiety. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to die… and the name of the game is to prolong death as long as possible… but if my life were to end abruptly, I’d be satisfied with the life I’ve lived. So to some, a solo midnight summit of Leconte in icy conditions may seem foolish or reckless, but in my own heart and mind… it was a calculated risk and one that was approached with caution and safety in mind. I always want to walk away from an adventure alive and well and return safely to my Dark Princess waiting at home. So far, I’ve successfully stuck to Rule #1 of my own personal adventure rules: don’t die.

On the one end of the spectrum… I’m a man’s man. I love guns. I enjoy craft beer, good and bad whiskey and red wine. I’ll take an elbow in a mosh pit and wake up the next day and run all day in the mountains. On the other end of the spectrum… I’m sensitive. I’m emotional. I cry during sad movies and anime. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I love cats. I enjoy painting my toe nails and vibrant colors. I love to dance to synth pop and goth music. Honestly, I could care less at what society deems as appropriate for manhood. I’m not afraid to be my authentic self.

So what do I fear the most? I think what I fear most is the thought that the people I love most don’t/won’t truly understand their significance in my life.

Words mean the world to me. Maybe that’s why I adore musical artists that are great lyricists. Maybe that’s why I enjoy writing and stringing together my own lyrics so much… because it’s so intimate and personal. I do think sometimes I over analyze peoples’s language… verbal and nonverbal… and look too deeply into the soul’s abyss. But in the end… I take words to heart. Over the years, I’ve actively tried to become more and more mindful in expressing my feelings towards the people I love because in all honesty… you never know when Death will come lead you across Styx. I can only pray that when my time does come, the people I leave behind will understand and have no doubt about how much they meant to me… even if it’s not always verbally communicated. One of my biggest hopes is to live my life in such a way that when Death does come, It will grab my hand and we’ll smile together as we float across the river to a new beginning.

Winter Winds

by: Anakeesta Sun

The winter wind is coming for us all. The winter wind is waiting for the sun to fall. And the chill in your bones runs deeper than you know. Blood runs cold in the deafening snow. The winter wind is coming for us all.

A voice calls out against the wind, the comfort of it makes you grin. The setting sun, the coming night, cradle close the candle light. You feel It’s touch, the cold embrace, praying for another day. Your soul cries out, “te amo Deum.”

The winter wind is coming for us all. The winter wind is waiting for the sun to fall. And the chill in your bones runs deeper than you know. Blood runs cold in the deafening snow. The winter wind is coming for us all.

The stars shine through the powdered pines, tears like crystals in your eyes. The trail grows dark, you know the way. The Appalachia’s in your veins. You feel It’s touch, the cold embrace, praying for another day. Your soul cries out, “te amo Deum.”

He takes your hand to lead you home. It’s cold as ice inside your palm. He feels your fear, He squeezes tight, walking slowly into the light. You feel the sun, the warm embrace, the song of angels guide your way. Your soul cries out, “te amo Deum.”

The winter wind is coming for us all. The winter wind is waiting for the sun to fall. And the chill in your bones runs deeper than you know. Blood runs cold in the deafening snow. The winter wind is coming for us all.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s