Monday, October 14, 2013

The Lord of the Hike: Part 3: The Return of the King

In the days of yore, there lived a King who ruled the land in the province of the ancient Appalachians, known as the Blue Ridge.  The land was filled with tales of a man who rescued dozens of overconfident (and mostly idiotic hikers) from the cliffs of Old Rag.  Children told stories of a man who ran the Appalachians’ most formidable hills (the Priest and Three Ridges) for his own enjoyment.  And there’s the legend of how a man once bet one bottle of Jack Daniels that he could traverse the entire Shenandoah Valley in three days—and naturally, he savored his entire prize on day 4.  The King was the man of Legend.
It's good to be the King
Then one day, crisis befell the Kingdom—the King’s mother (Momma) had fallen ill with a rare and mysterious disease. Cerebellar Degenerative Ataxia was attacking Momma’s ability to use her muscles, slowly degrading her motor skills.  Unfortunately, the cure remains a mystery to scientists (Dear medical researchers: please spend less time finding the cure to erectile dysfunction and more time finding cures to all these bullsh*t genetic disorders..sincerely, the World)

Despite his disdain of the Beach People's realm, the King moved far from the mountains to Virginia Beach so he could look after Momma in her time of need.  Even though it was difficult to leave his land behind, the King knew in his heart that he must go take care of the person who had taken care of him through his own challenges.  Momma had been among the most caring people in the Kingdom, and she had bestowed a precious gift upon her son- the gift of compassion.  He would never think twice about helping those in need. 

The King settled amongst the Beach People and found a new castle—Blue Ridge Mountain Sports.  One day, a distressed damsel entered his castle, searching for someone to lead a group of hikers bound together by the noble cause of ending the horrid reign of Cystic Fibrosis.  The King eagerly accepted her call.  He would help the hikers defeat a seemingly unbeatable enemy by preparing them to hike 31 miles of treacherous trail in one day.  He would spend his weekends training them on the trails of his former Kingdom, pushing their bodies and minds past their known limits.
Pointing out all the hills he's run naked
After four months of preparation, the King’s hikers now found themselves in the final leg of their journey.  They had hiked beyond what they knew was possible—but their energy was beginning to fade.  Their weariness was slowing their pace and putting their finish in jeopardy.  The slow guy hiking with his wife was on the verge of a breakdown.

The King had made a decision to meet a pair of hikers (Bob and Maria) on the trail and to deliver the disappointing news that their journey would end prematurely.  As he approached the trail, the King saw a strange man step out from the bushes.  The man, dressed in a black frock coat and wearing a white slouch hat, looked strangely familiar--like a long lost friend. The King couldn’t quite place where he had seen him before, but his presence gave him a since of comfort.

The Distinguished Jasper Daniel of Lynchburg, TN

The King: Hey Buddy, can I help you?
Strange Man: Corey, you need to return to the trail.
The King: Sorry, do I know you?
Strange Man:  Know me? Son, we’ve had some amazing times together—some you may not even remember.  Does Jasper Daniel ring a bell?
The King: Sorry.  Don’t mean to be rude, but I’m in the middle of something important.
Strange Man:  Corey, you need to let Bob and Maria finish—and then you need to return to the trail.
The King: How did you know their names, Buddy?
Strange Man:  It doesn’t matter. The darkness is coming—and they need you.    
The King:  I’ve been telling them to speed up all day—
Strange Man: Listen Corey—you must lead them. They need you.
The King: I’m not sure I can do it.  I’ve been celebrating since—ummm—5 this morning.  Or maybe it was 3? No matter. I really wasn't planning to hike today...especially in this condition.”
Strange Man: Son, you know what you need to do.  It’s your destiny.  I best be on my way, but we shall meet again on the trail—and at the finish line—and definitely at the hotel.  And when we do meet again, you may call me Jack.

In the blink of an eye, the image of Jasper was replaced with Bob and Maria rambling down the trail with a bearded guide.  Bob stoically asked if it was the end of the road for him and his companion.  The King thought long and hard and replied: Jack Daniel told me you need to keep hiking—and I’d be a fool not to listen to him.  We’re going to finish this thing together. Now who needs a shot before we go?"

*Note: Obviously, I was not there to witness the conversation between Corey and Jack-- these events were described to me by my own visit with Jack, and they may or may not be accurate.

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