Down and up …

TG3… or up and down.

Take a hike in the mountains and you run into metaphors everywhere you turn.

Take Tallulah Gorge, for example, on the edge of the Appalachians in northeastern Georgia. The gorge is a two-mile long canyon carved out over millions of years by the Tallulah River. Wide trails around the rim offer easy and scenic walks, but why do that when passes for the more challenging canyon floor are available?

The trek down begins with a lecture in the visitor’s center and an inspection of your footwear before they’ll issue the pass (limited to 100 per day) and turn you loose to clamber down a thousand or so steps, where the real trek begins with a boulder-hopping traverse of the river. From there, the trail is wherever you can find it along the steeply sloped and mostly rocky river’s edge.

TG4Here the reward is at the bottom, where the water roars over a wide shelf aptly known as “Sliding Rock,” where trekkers dare to scoot out to the middle and become one with the cascade on a fast ride down to what’s billed as one of the top ten swimming holes in the country. We hadn’t thought to wear swimsuits, but why should that stop anybody? A couple of slides and a leisurely swim offered a good excuse to relax and dry out on the rocks before beginning the trek out, a rocky climb up the side of the gorge that rises 500 feet over a quarter mile.

TGwarningIf we’d seen all the warning signs on the way in instead of the way out, we might have had second thoughts, but probably not. We were glad, however, that the gully-washing rainstorm hit us on the upper part of the trail, rather than while climbing through the rocks.

Another day and another trail led us on a long scenic hike that meandered along Dodd Creek to Raven Cliff Falls, where the trail got considerably steeper if you wanted to reach the top of the falls. The highlight there wasn’t the waterfall, which is mostly hidden in a cleft of the granite cliff, but the beauty of the rooty path that climbs through a mixed forest of hardwoods and firs with the constant gurgle of the creek a constant companion. RCF1Occasional falls and cascades have you stopping to admire the scenery so often that you can spend a couple of hours covering the mostly-easy 2.5 mile trail leading to the dark granite bluff that hides the falls.

RCF2Getting back to the routines of daily life could be a bit of a come-down, but household chores and going back to work are also punctuated by moments of delight. Friends or co-workers can brighten the day like an unexpected cascade, and completing a task can feel a bit like drinking from the pool at the end of the trail. Even though you know you have to walk all the way back, and the path will be both up-and-down and down-and-up, it really is true that the life is found in the journey, not the destination.

Tony Cartledge

About Tony Cartledge

Tony W. Cartledge is contributing editor of Baptists Today, in addition to teaching Old Testament studies and various ministry courses at Campbell University Divinity School. He formerly served as editor of the Biblical Recorder, newspaper of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, and as a pastor for 26 years. Tony is a graduate of the University of Georgia, Southeastern Seminary and Duke University, where he earned a Ph.D. He is the author of several books including the Smyth & Helwys commentary on First and Second Samuel and Telling Stories: Tall Tales and Deep Truths.

1 Comment

  1. …it really is true that the life is found in the journey, not the destination.

    It became fashionable 3-4 decades ago to revise traditional hymns in order to remove their undue masculinity, archaic terms and (gasp) any allusion to violence. Noted hymn-writer Ruth Duck decided to revise Shurtleff’s Lead On, O King Eternal since it actually referred to God/Jesus as King (and not Queen) and pointed to fighting, as if the Bible is not filled with wars, etc. She found the task to be too hard so wrote a hymn of opposition entitled, “Lead On, O Cloud of Presence,” which begins: Lead on, O cloud of Presence/the exodus is come/in wilderness and desert/our tribe shall make its home. Obviously, the Israelites would have disagreed, even though the hymn was based on the Numbers 40-year debacle. They never considered the journey their home or their life.

    I would suggest that “destination is found in journey, not the life.” The journey may involve character-building, faith, etc., that may help shape the life but accepting something that will never find conclusion doesn’t seem to testify.

    Reply

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