Jen Jeffrey: Rocky Mountain High

Sunday, February 24, 2013 - by Jen Jeffrey
Jen Jeffrey
Jen Jeffrey

The morning was overcast and cool, but it would be a great day for a hike on Pigeon Mountain to see Rock Town with the Lookout Hiking Club. I was excited to be going and I stopped to get gas in my Jeep with just enough time to get to the meeting site. I didn’t feel like taking the time to use sanitizer after pumping, so I pulled down my sleeve on my sweatshirt to avoid handling the germy gas nozzle. I have gotten pretty good at using my long sleeves to dodge germs in public places during flu season.

It worked fine until I tried to put the nozzle back up. It slipped and, as I tried to get a grip, I gave myself .26 cents worth of extra gas in my face! I do believe that has to hurt more than being maced.

My eyes were on fire while I felt the cool gasoline in my hair, on my shirt and on my hiking boots.

Luckily, my house was a block from the gas station and I drove home blindly as I could barely open my eyes. I opened the door and Mama saw ‘Alice Cooper’ coming in the house with mascara smudge and tears pouring from my face. I wasn’t crying emotionally, but my eyes were streaming with water, trying to cleanse themselves. Mama yelled, “What’s wrong?!” I assured her that I am fine but that I sprayed myself with gasoline. I peeled off my wet shirt and leaned over the bathroom sink flushing my eyes with cold water.

My eyes were bloodshot and I was getting light-headed from the fumes. Mama wanted to take me to the ER, but I told her that I had flushed my eyes as good as any doctor would. I took a rag and washed the top part of my body really quickly and threw on a hoodie and headed back out the door. I had two minutes to meet up with the gang before they carpooled to the mountain and I was not going to make it, I was about 10 minutes away.

I called the club leader, John Wilson, to let him know that I was on my way and asked if they could wait 10 minutes. Because he is also my boss, I almost felt as if I were calling work to say that I would be late, so John got an earful of my panic with no pauses or deflection in my voice.

“John - it’s-Jen-I-was-on-my-way-but-stopped-to-get-gas-and-sprayed-gasoline-in-my-face-and-had-to-go-home-and-flush-my-eyes …I sound like the dog ate my homework… but-I-am-on-my-way-if-you-guys-can-wait-a-few-minutes…” I got tickled realizing how I sounded running a few minutes late for a ‘leisure hike’. John said, “Yeah, we’ll wait” in his usual unruffled manner.

The shot of gasoline had happened so fast and I was determined not to miss this hike! As I drove to St. Elmo to meet up with the group, I realized that I felt a little ‘high’. My head was buzzing. It wasn’t the feeling you might get when you have a beer or a glass of wine, it was an actual ‘buzzing’ feeling, kind of prickly in my head. When I arrived, I was asked if I was okay but I felt so stupid knowing that I smelled like a garage mechanic.

As we piled in cars to head up the mountain, I got in the backseat of John’s car with a lady named Barbara. A few minutes after we were driving, John rolled his window down and told me he could smell the fumes.

I had washed as much gasoline off of me that I could (if I was going to make the hike on time), but the smell was still in my hair and on my soaked boots. I knew I was stinky and I felt bad that I was making every one in the car high too!

I probably shouldn’t have tried to go, but …hey I was high and didn’t know any better. Disclaimer – though I am able to put humor in most situations that I find myself in, I don’t take it lightly that gasoline kills your brain cells and I do not think that part is funny nor think it is okay to take a bath in gasoline on purpose.

As John led the pack of cars up the mountain on a foggy, gray morning, he said, “I feel like I am in a funeral procession.” That made me laugh. I listened to Barbara chatter and realized that she was not a gal who would ever enjoy ‘roughing it’. She liked the outdoors but when she talked of what she liked, she would put conditions on it. As we passed by large farms she couldn’t get over that people actually would choose to live out there away from ‘civilization’. This struck me funny too, (it would be my dream to live that way). Barbara then asked, “What if there are bears?” John and his male passenger Norm said, “Run!” I don’t think Barbara liked that answer.

We had almost arrived to our destination when John said that he lost his contact out of his eye. He grabbed it… but he was driving with probably as much vision as I had when I had gasoline in my eyes! It didn’t seem to bother anyone that our driver was half-sighted. Maybe the gasoline fumes had gotten to them.

John eventually found a place to pull over and the rest of the convoy pulled over as well, playing ‘follow the leader’. No one got out of their cars, no one called or text’d John asking why we had stopped, as he put his vision back in. I had to ‘go’. But after having arrived a few minutes late and causing a big stink, I didn’t get out at the place we had stopped, even though I saw bathrooms.

John headed back toward Rock Town and we soon arrived at the trail. I had my camera ready and I was out in the open air with new friends, so I forgot all about my sore eyes and my buzzing head and having to go. As we followed single file, I made myself the ‘sweep’ so I could take my time with photos.

We were good hikers until we got to the “rock concert”. When you first get to the trail it is deceiving. You do not see the playground of boulders until you get into the middle of the trail. Then we all spread out like kids at recess and none of us were in single file. I had no idea where the ‘front’ or ‘back’ of the group was. I was snapping away (about 200 photos all together) and it was free for all! Part of me wished we were kids again and could play ‘fort’ or ‘cowboys and Indians’ in this uber-cool playground of hiding places and climbing toys.

Do you remember the old church hymn “In the Garden”? The writer talks about God walking and talking with him in the garden. I have those times too, but I think God also likes to play (maybe one day I will write a hymn about playing on the rocks with God).

I actually wished we had all stayed together because I knew I would miss out on everything to see. I had asked a few of the others where the head of the group was, but they were content to wait on the rest of them to come back. I didn’t know which way to go to catch up, so I just kept snapping photos of interesting boulders. I leaned against wet mossy rocks and climbed on top of fallen trees and wedged myself in tight places just to get a few shots. I was in my element. I guess I just feel that this is ‘clean dirt’.

Finally the group gathered again and we started to head back. We stopped at an overlook and took pictures of the magnificent land below. It was a stunning view.

When Garnet was at the edge of the cliff; I told him to pose like Superman. He fell into character and struck a flying pose (he is good to appease my inner child – I think he has one too).

As we headed back to Chattanooga, John still cracked the window. I guess I was still stinky, but it was a great outing and we all had a good time.

When I got back in my jeep, I smelled the gasoline really strong again. The fumes must have reeked in my Jeep pretty good while I was wet with the fuel all over me. I began getting nauseated and I had a headache. I still felt buzzy. When I do stupid things or have a mishap, I try to find the good in it. The only thing I can think of is maybe God wants me to ease up on the germa-phobe stuff. I am not really that bad – except when it is flu season. I can’t afford to get sick so I do all I can to stay well and, so far I have been well all winter long.

I can’t really find the silver-lining in a face full of gasoline so if anyone can come up with something, let me know. I did, however, have a wonderful time on the hike and I saw more of God’s beauty! I showered profusely when I got home to get rid of my gas problem once and for all. 

Photos of the hike:

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