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Posts Tagged ‘North Carolina’

I expected colder temps as I set out for the mountains at 4 am.  What I failed to expect was that the calm where I lived would be replaced by 15 – 20 mph winds.  Fortunately I dressed warm and for the most part I was comfortable.  The hike from 5500 feet to 6000 feet also kept the blood pumping which meant for the first hour I was relatively comfortable.

Shining Rock in the Pisgah National Forest was created as one of the original federal Wilderness Areas when that designation was established in 1964.  The high mountain range consists of a concentrated number of mountain peaks in western North Carolina with several over 5000 feet and three, including Black Balsam Knob, over 6000 feet in elevation.  Surrounded by thickly forested mountains slopes the closest town, Brevard, NC is some 20+ miles south.

As I emerged from my car near the trailhead I was stunned by the vast number of stars visible this far from manmade lights other than those I had just turned off.  Since the moon had set, the stars had the stage all to themselves, and what a performance they gave.  For the second time in two weeks I caught the glimpse of a shooting star as it’s long and invisible existence came to a brief, yet fiery end colliding with the earth’s atmosphere.  The wind was howling as I entered the 200 meters of trail running through the strip of fir trees just off the service road.  I prayed a prayer of thanks for the folks who had laid white rock on the trail through the trees.  It would have been very easy to lose the trail without it.

Breaking through the trees, the expansive view opened to the first hints of light on the horizon.  An hour before the official sunrise, I had time to soak in the immensity and grandeur of the night.  Even without the moon, the stars were bright enough to give a sense of shape and flow to the land.  The dark shape of the mountain rising to my left and the swaying form of the trees I had emerged from falling off to my right were silhouetted against millions of stars.  Toward the eastern horizon the hint of color slowly grew with one bright star shining above the brightest point.

“The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.

They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.

Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.”

Psalm 19:1-4a

Creation speaks if we listen.  It is not loud or demanding, but more of a gentle whisper… most of the time.  The message is one of beauty, power, and majesty.  From the top of a cold, windy mountain bald far from civilization I knew the creator’s presence not as in an artist’s work created and left behind, but in a world that He Himself fills and sustains.  God – the Almighty, was there on the mountain and my spirit soared to embrace His loving presence.

Another thought came.  When I look at creation, I realize the utter emptiness of an atheistic point of view.  The belief that all of this – the sun, the moon, the stars, earth and the exact combination of so many variables necessary to sustain life, just happened in a cosmic accident, is far too hard to believe.  That all of this came from nothing is the definition of foolishness.  I don’t make light of the fact that there is much we do not know about life and the universe.  There are mysteries that we mere mortals do not and may not ever know.  But evidence and logic make an indisputable case of an intelligent designer and creator.

As the sun rose I realized that winter had come to the high places.  The trees were all bare and the grass-covered bald was colored in various browns and greys.  As a lover of light and color, the view through the photographer’s lens was much closer to bleak winter than the festive fall I had hoped to capture.

I hiked to the top of Black Balsam Knob.  By this time I had been out in the wind for a couple hours.  Being stationary while trying to snap long exposure shots, the chill had seeped through my gloves.  The fleece-lined jeans were doing their job and my son’s borrowed yarmulke had my head toasty, but I realized my fingers were numbingly cold.  The intensity of the wind made it a challenge to get my fingers warm.  Frost-bite was suddenly a concern.  I looked for shelter, but the trees were about a mile back down the trail over the open mountain ridge.  I had selected the rock out-cropping I was standing by to serve as a foreground element in a few shots.  I suddenly remembered David and Elijah taking refuge in the cleft of a rock.  Sliding down the lee side of the rock from the wind I found immediate relief.  As an added bonus the morning sun was now hitting me without the wind stealing it’s warmth.

Sitting beside the rock I was aware of warmth emanating from within as well as from outside.  The physical rock behind which I sheltered brought to mind the Rock Who is my forever shelter – Jesus Christ.  I had felt His presence the entire time on the mountain, but as the winds swept over and around the rock, I thought of the challenging times of my life when He walked me through.  Sometimes He had to carry me.  Always, His strength was able to supply what I lacked.  With a smile on my face I rested in the relative warmth of the sun and the eternal warmth of the Son.

I did manage to find some color at the lower elevations.  The following shots are some of my favorites of the day.

At mid-afternoon I found myself standing on Caesar’s Head overlooking the Blue Ridge escarpment falling off into the South Carolina piedmont.  A couple hawks and then buzzards flew by, but I did not see any of the Peregrine Falcons I had hoped for.  It was fine though because the view, like so many this day, inspired yet another thought, this time from Isaiah.

“Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.”

Isaiah 40:28-31

It’s fitting that the last act of this trip was to make two new friends with whom I shared not only the view off the mountain, but a faith in the Lord.  As we stood there and chatted, we realized that we had been inspired by the view in a very similar manner – with wonder and praise for the Creator of such beauty.  We were standing on a different rock outcropping than my Black Balsam Knob, but since rock was a common thread running through this day, I enjoyed the thought that my two new friends and I were knit together as family because of our common faith in the Rock.  And that Rock’s name is Jesus.

I hope you enjoy the pics.  But even more I hope you are encouraged by the truths the Lord has given to us… to you every bit as much as to me.

“Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.”

Psalm 62:8

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:37-39

Be blessed today and be a blessing!

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Certain lessons seem to be particularly important for me to “get” because they are being reinforced  almost weekly.  Last week an exclamation point was made on the lesson – “It may not be what you expect, but trust Me, My plan is better!”

We visited our two married daughters over the course of last week.  Rhiannon and Jeff in Chattanooga Thursday – Sunday morning and then Christin and Michael in Elizabethton Sunday – Tuesday.  Everything went pretty much like we planned with Rhiannon and Jeff, but it seemed like every plan we made with Christin had to be scrapped or modified heavily.  No worries, we were just happy to be spending time together.

Monday afternoon one modified plan had us drive to the top of Roan Mountain where we enjoyed some beautiful views from the bald mountain top.  The wonderful 360 degree view had us thinking about sunrise pics over the NC mountains.  Checking the weather in Elizabethton, 20 miles away we saw that the weather report was promising and the plan was hatched.

 

Tuesday morning we arose at 4:45 am and we were headed out of town 15 minutes later.  We were excited to see a star studded sky as we rolled out of Elizabethton heading toward Roan Mountain.  Two miles from the top of the mountain was when I first noticed the moisture on the road.  A mile from the top I noticed the stiff breeze that hadn’t been present on any of our drive thus far.  Shortly thereafter wisps of cloud started sweeping across in front of the car and for the last 200 yards I had to drive at a snail’s pace into the parking lot because of the thick fog.

We were still an hour before sunrise.  I am quite used to fog.  But fog is usually stationary settling into the low areas on windless mornings.  On the mountaintop it was foggy with a 15 – 20 mph breeze driving it.  Undeterred we gathered camera, tri-pod, flashlights and goody bag and headed up the 3/4 mile hike to the top of the mountain in a cold, drizzly, windy fog hoping for the best.

Roan Mountain - Fog and Rainbows-1-4

This is about 15 minutes before sunrise and we were beginning to think the sun may not actually burn through the fog like we were hoping.

Roan Mountain - Fog and Rainbows-2-4

This is when you kinda wished you hadn’t been told about the number of bear sightings up on the mountain.

Roan Mountain - Fog and Rainbows-3-4

Inside the woods the wind was blocked and it was eerily peaceful.

That breeze that we experienced in the Parking Lot was a foretaste and not the real deal.  We broke out of the woods about half way to the top and realized that the exposed mountain bald seemed to increase the wind intensity by at least a factor of two.

We made it to the top of the mountain, thankful that we had also been there the day before so we recognized some rock outcroppings as landmarks.  We hunkered down behind a rock for a bit hoping the clouds would clear and we would get some sunrise shots.  But while the clouds around us brightened as sunrise arrived the wind didn’t let up and the fog never thinned.

Roan Mountain - Fog and Rainbows-2

The view right at sunrise… at least according to our watch.

Since we had been to the mountain the day before, we knew that amazing panoramic views existed from right where we were huddled.  Yet the wind, fog, and rain made it difficult to remember just how beautiful it was.  I was struck with how graphic an illustration that is of the impact of trials in our life.  When life is good it’s easy to see God’s hand at work.  But when trials press upon us it often becomes much harder to discern God’s actions on our behalf.  It is in these times that our faith is stretched.  Holding onto the reality that we have previously experienced – God’s faithful provision, is just like remembering the mountain view we had seen the day before.  We may not see it at the moment, but we know it exists.  Our task is to remember and wait for the reality to be revealed again.

We slowly made our way back down to the car and then headed back down the mountain.  A deer  came up beside us on the road and we slowed to let it pass.  A mile down the road we were out of the fog.

As we progressed down the mountain we saw sunshine followed by a brief rain shower.  The thought passed through my mind, “Sun and rain, I wonder if there’s a rainbow somewhere?”  Through a break in the trees just prior to the final overlook I could see a shower in the valley beside the mountain and a slight brightening where the sun was trying to break through.  As we rounded the curve at the final overlook this is the view that we saw.

Roan Mountain - Fog and Rainbows-11

We were shocked by how quickly this rainbow appeared.

Roan Mountain - Fog and Rainbows-12

The colors were vibrant and yet it was continually shifting from a single to a double and from a full to a partial rainbow.

Roan Mountain - Fog and Rainbows-13

For a few seconds it formed a full rainbow… and we just happened to be in the right spot to catch it in all it’s glory.

Roan Mountain - Fog and Rainbows-14

We couldn’t quite tell if the pot of gold was in that little barn or the orchard beside it.  What we knew for a certainty was that our Heavenly Father was enjoying our laughter and celebration with us as we alternately uttered words of praise and gasps of wonder while we snapped pics.

Roan Mountain - Fog and Rainbows-15

The double rainbow was fleeting, but we saw it come and go two or three times in then 3 – 5 minutes the rainbow was visible.

Roan Mountain - Fog and Rainbows-16

Looking toward the sun… and giving praise to the Son.

Roan Mountain - Fog and Rainbows-17

The final pic as the shower ceased and the rainbow quickly faded.

The entire rainbow celebration lasted less than 5 minutes, but a number of things stood out to me.

  • We had to make the journey to be able to see the rainbow.  We didn’t know the rainbow was the purpose and penultimate pic of the trip, but our Father did.
  • We tarried in the dark, in the rain, in the wind, in the fog, and ultimately made close to a 2 mile hike seemingly in a lost cause, but God had a better plan.
  • We had to be in exactly the right spot AND at exactly the right time to see and enjoy the rainbow like we did.  If we had rushed at any point in the morning’s journey we would have missed it.
  • Our response to seeing the rainbow was pure wonder, celebration, and thankfulness to our gracious heavenly Father for this simple, but beautiful blessing.  And I believe He enjoyed it as much as we did.

Finally I remember where God first introduced the rainbow to His creation.  It’s in Genesis chapter 9:12-17.  And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.  Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind.  Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.  Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”

So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”

We didn’t get what we expected, but what we got was so much better.

And that’s just the way God is with His children.

Be blessed today and be a blessing!  If you like this, please share it with a friend.

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