Jen Jeffrey: “Lookout Below!”

Sunday, November 11, 2012 - by Jen Jeffrey
Jen Jeffrey
Jen Jeffrey

When I heard about the newly formed hiking group “Lookout Hiking Club” I was excited to be a part of it. After my Bootcamp fail, I spent a few days with my knee on ice. Nothing is wrong as far as injury or anything serious. I will just get a flare up on occasion and I try to be careful with preventative measures. I make sure to do what my former boss, Dr. Mastey, told me to do - “R.I.C.E.” (Rest, Ice, Compress and Elevate).

I am all for natural healing if possible so I do what I can first before taking more drastic measures for pain and so far that is all that has been needed. Thankfully, it helped. When I want something bad enough – I am not sure if it is my strong will or what I do that gets me there but I was determined to make it on the first hike the group planned.

John Wilson led the hike on Lookout Mountain; we were to meet at Cravens House. I was asked to take my Jeep to the end of the popular Guild Trail. I got there early because I was sent an email telling me how to get there and I knew I could not key in an address in my GPS to get me there. I had to go by a man’s directions (which my brain just doesn’t do) so I left early in case I had gotten lost.

I found it easily and realized all it takes is confidence and letting go of my fear in order to make sense of driving directions. A man named Rodger pulled up in his SUV and we waited on John. Shortly, the group was gathering in and we left our cars at the end of Guild Trail and drove over to Cravens House in John’s car to meet the others. A fellow writer named Gail decided to leave her keys in John’s car – not thinking about later coming out where our cars were parked and she would not have her keys.

It was good to meet these people I considered my new friends. I hadn’t been on a group hike since Harriman Park in upstate New York when I was living on Long Island and had joined the Nassau Hiking Club. I get leery of group activities that are physical because I am always concerned that I may not be able to keep up and I never want to hold anyone back. I also know my personality and if something is too much for me, I will fake it until I make it and pay for it later.

I had my knee brace on, even though my knee was all better –  still just taking precaution. I don’t care if I look like a sissy or a granny when I do these things – if it means I will not be suffering later because I was smart to use preventative measures. I am not competitive or prideful where it bothers me of what people think. But this group I was with was great. We were all old geezers! Okay, I am kidding… just the men were. Kidding again, sorry.

I believe a leader of any hiking group has the same mindset my yoga instructor Cheri does, in how to assess a group and see what kind of group you have in order to know how far to take it or where to take it. And, because we only had a group of six on this first outing; we all seemed pretty laid back and a few of us had cameras – hoping to capture some of the beautiful fall foliage of Lookout Mountain, so we went at a fairly moderate pace. I am sure with future hikes – there could be some die-hard level A hikers who want to pick it up a bit and I am sure our group hikes will vary. Overall, I think it is a group that every hiker can enjoy.

The thing I liked about our group leader was that he is a history buff and he really knows this area. I wanted to learn things I didn’t know about but I think the main thing on my mind was capturing the colors of the trees at the height of the season!

With this being my first group hike since I came back to Chattanooga, I also didn’t really know anyone. I am not shy once I get to know people, but I do have a brief moment of staying to myself until I know where I fit in or who I click with. So I missed a lot of the great conversation as we hiked and I pretty much lagged behind.

I think at first the group wondered if I was having trouble because of my knee, but my knee actually was doing really well. Eventually, I think they saw that I was just in my zone – I was finding colors, shadows and light and really enjoying the scenery. I did run to catch up in between getting the shots I wanted.

We had come up on an antique gate that was all rusted and had really cool mechanism closures that looked like it was made of iron. It was neat the times that I kept up with the group, hearing some of their thoughts. I came upon a tree that had a heavy solid stone up against it and I tried to see in my mind’s eye how a Confederate soldier could have used that stone to sit on with his rifle aimed while keeping watch over the span of the hills.

It was a little chilly in the early part of the morning but it was actually fine as we moved along. The sun coming through the trees was welcoming for two reasons - for its warmth and to bring the colors alive. As I took pictures from one angle the shadows changed the scene I was looking at as I passed by and took the same shot from a different angle. And the sun added to the way the scenes changed in a matter of minutes! Photographers must have a lot of fun doing this.

I like playing with shadows, color or angles but I could never learn all the switches and dials on the professional cameras or learn the things that photographers know. I don’t have the patience for it and it takes away the ardor in capturing my own memory by getting to technical. Doug (who signs my paychecks) came from Mentone to go on the hike with us and he brought a pretty intimidating camera. I am sure he got some very beautiful shots as well – he is a nature nut too when it comes to beautiful scenery.

As we passed by parts of the mountain, you could see through the trees way out across the other side of the mountain. It was so beautiful –  I don’t think I could ever get tired of that setting. The scenery from my balcony is just as stunning but I see it from the ground up. The mountains are beautiful no matter if you are looking up at them or looking down. I am just happy to be in Tennessee.

To be in the midst of the mountain and right under the trees had changed my perspective while viewing the colors. Where I would pass by mountains on a drive or see them from my apartment, I would see them as a whole as they spanned out across the hills. But this time I was seeing them one by one; each tree having artistic dabbles of color here and there. Changing from a lime green sprawling upward into a bright yellow and some trees with splashes of red and rust sporadically placed on golden leaves. There was one point where two trees seemed to compete for my attention; a brilliant orange tree that was next to a shimmery gold one.

I wasn’t scared when I trailed so far behind the group at times because I knew I could run to catch up and I kind of liked that. As soon as I would catch up, I would see something else that caught my eye and began snapping away again with my camera. I saw a tree that either had split as it grew or it was two trunks that fused together. It made a “twin” however it was made and being a mother of twins, I love that! Twin trees always make me smile.

As the hike moved upward I felt my heartbeat get heavier and my calves get tighter. This was actually my favorite part. I still didn’t break a sweat though, not like I did when I went on the hike up past Lula Lake with my friend Rick this spring. That was all uphill!

It was good to have just a little of this hike uphill though, to change it up some. We were almost toward the end anyway.

Garnet had found a broken piece of pottery and what was most fascinating was that it had a date on it! It was dated in the 1840’s – what a find! Our land is so full of history and it really is cool to learn about what happened over a hundred years ago. On the next hike, I plan to stay more with the group and “pay attention” in class - (that was always a problem for me in school).

I found a tree with a large dwelling that reminded me of the tree in the book called “My Side of the Mountain” that I had read in school (hey, I guess I paid more attention that I thought). I had just had a conversation with my best friend about that tree and I had to get a picture of it for Susie. It seemed the brightest colors were toward the end of the hike but I already ran out of memory on my camera. I was able to get a few shots with my cell phone.

We came out by our vehicles and that was when Gail realized that she left her keys in John’s car. John had mentioned Cracker Barrel and we all planned to go eat. I only brought my camera and my driver’s license, but I just lived around the corner from Cracker Barrel so I planned to swing by my apartment to get my purse on the way. Rodger had a large SUV and, since there were just six of us (and I had to go back for my purse), they all piled in his car to take the others back.

I had parked my Jeep at the end of the trail so that I could be a vehicle that took others back to their car. When everyone told me to go ahead and they would all ride with Rodger, I wanted to joke with them by sniffing under my armpits as if that was why no one wanted to ride with me, but I didn’t because they didn’t know me very well and may not get my personality. They told me I could save a table. I zipped by the apartment, changed clothes, grabbed my purse and went to across the street to get a table.

It was nice being out with new friends. I knew John and Doug but pretty much just through emails but being with a group and knowing you may see them again for the next hike was nice in building friendships.

I am not the fashionable hiker who has the coordinated outerwear from Rock Creek or Land’s End that is all ‘matchy-matchy’ and I am not the marathon hiker who plans to hit it hard and fast and really far; I am just a nature lover and a people person and I am a free spirit who loves to be a part of everything around me. Lookout Hiking Club is a very welcomed experience for me to be a part of and I can’t wait for the next hike!

jen@jenjeffrey.com   

Lookout Hiking Club
Lookout Hiking Club
- Photo2 by Jen Jeffrey

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