27-The Mind Of A Guide
Greetings weekly bloggers. I come to you in the form of text this week, trying out a new format for the time being. I recently went on my May trip down to Kentucky and had quite the experience…different from my normal, teenage laden voyage into the deep gorge. This was my first trip where I was the youngest participant! Allow me to let you into the mind of a guide:
One-foot plants firmly onto a dry rock as your eyes scan the terrain for the next solid placement. You risk the wet rock anticipating the direction of slide you may encounter at less than a moments notice. It sticks. Phew, you move forward onto more stable soil, relaxing just a bit, wanting to take in the pristine surroundings of the luscious river valley. However, you remember the eight other people behind you who may not have been sticking the wet rocks of this particular tributary, let along any tributary, as you have. Watching each step, you point out where and how to place their foot as they transition through a moment of uncertainty all the while you think to yourself, “I should have worn my boots instead of my approach shoes. Lord, keep my ankles strong!” You pass along your favorite instruction to the person behind you, “Okay, pass on the help that I just offered you, like a giant game of telephone,” pointing out that if you both grab each others wrists, then if one person lets go, the other still has a hold; and you are on your way once again.
The trail is a single track, well-beaten path along a very high-banked Red River. You notice the muddy waters have swept away your beloved sandbar and favored swimming hole, not to worry since 60 degrees and overcast is not ideal for a cool down in the river anyway. Up steep muddy spots, over rocks and swinging under fallen trees, this is one of the best trails you’ve experienced on your 30 plus trips to the Red so far. It offers plenty of obstacles and opportunities to build some community and teamwork… all this thinking got me off track! How’s the group? You stop for a second and turn to find everyone spread out along the uneven trail, some clipping along, other’s taking every hand they can get as they snake around the shoreline. One of your favorite spots this time is a swim in the cold, rushing water if you happen to slip just a little. It requires perfection from every foot that slowly packs the soft soil closer to its end.
This trip will require a different path than the last trip that you had down here. Storming –the-mountainside approach will not yield favorable results with this group. Fourteen teenage boys—storm the mountain and let it be raining all the same, to create an epic, mudslide that will be etched in their minds forever. Eight middle-aged adults—find another way! “Stay here, I’ll be back” you spatter out without considering the options: I’m going to scout this trail, then come back to the group to make a plan. But, what if this is the proper direction? Should I go back down to the group? How about yelling back to them at the top of my lungs, ‘This way!’ That should do it. “This way!” you yell, as your voice quickly reverberates across the valley and back again.
This simple instruction was complemented with a “You liar!” from a witty man, hoping for a longer break. “What happened to, ‘Stay here, I’ll be right back?’” Little do you know, you will be caught with many little lies along the way, which quickly becomes the inside joke for the duration of the trip.
Trudge, uphill; one step on a rock, side step a root, plant a foot in a perfect-sized “V” formed by other roots and rock your weight up over a slabby rock. This is fun. Not too hard—slow, but fun. Ah, your assessment of the new found trail is better than accurate. It’s perfect! Enter Narnia minus the snow. A huge overhanging slab of sandstone looms 200 feet overhead. The recent and nagging rain has supplied this particular location with a beautiful waterfall, the midst blowing into a rainbow between clouds bands. Every plant, mossy rock and tree has a shadow cast over it, creating a stark contrast between light and dark, enhancing every unique color to it’s full potential. As the group draws nearing to this Kentucky gem, voices echo through the amphitheatre, reminding each of us that this is the kind of place we need to stop and allow all of our senses take in. Each sore muscle, cramping side, winded lung, blistering ankle, burning hipbone, and aching shoulder stops and soaks up what its Creator is speaking in this very moment. The pain disappears, the concern for the group and selfishly your own reputation as a now professed “liar” comes to a temporary end. This; this place goes beyond words and can only truly be appreciated in the stillness of your own mind. This is why you guide. Seeing the transformation from “Are we there yet,” to “Wow” makes every moment worth it, every time.
Bummer we have to return to home so soon.
Thank you for reading, I hope that you enjoyed this little chuck of my brain. Have a great weekend y’all (that’s Kentuckian for “you all”).