Today was the day I drove my mom to the Tennessee/Alabama state line to meet her friend Ann who was taking her the rest of the way to Mississippi.
I missed my alarm so I was a bit behind getting ready. I hurriedly packed my hiking back pack with a change of clothes, deodorant so I didn’t offend the wildlife, contact lens solution, glasses, and my knife.
After we got everything loaded we set out. Gas station stop for gas. McDonalds for food but not coffee. We decided we would splurge on Starbucks. We get to Edinburgh and I exit thinking surely there would be a Starbucks by the outlet mall. I’m here to tell you there is not. It is absolutely rediculous and totally unAmerican. Someone is missing out on a money maker over there. I’m just sayin’.
Praise sweet baby Jesus that the next exit proved to be All American and we were able to get our high calorie, over priced coffee after throughly confusing the barista at the drive through. My communication skills were so bad that I told him he should probably get hazard pay for having to deal with people before they’ve consumed caffeine. People, a non caffeinated Jo is not a pretty sight.
Back on the road and we talk about all the things. How much different it will be when mom gets home now that Grandmother is gone. How much we miss her. I tell my mom how amazing she was through all of this. She worries that she didn’t do everything right. I call bull shit on that. I talk about hiking and if I might get rained out. Talk about being single in my 40s, about missing being on the plane that fell out of the sky over Lockerbie Scotland by just a few days, recalling childhood memories, and recapped how there really should have been a Starbucks at that exit.
We spent the entire ride to the state line without the radio on. No phones. Just conversation. And when I realized that, after I dropped her off, I smiled and thought about how amazing that was. Just two friends talking.
Heading back I hit Nashville and the bottom fell out. Rain, rain and more rain. The further north I went the heavier it fell. I checked the radar and thought my hike was going to be rained out for sure.
Oh wait, I haven’t told you about my hiking plans! So, I have this Epic Shit list. It’s like a bucket list but I don’t like the association with death in that title so I changed it. Anyway…on my list I have “hike every national park.” On this trip I was planning to stop and possibly catch a cave tour. So imagine my surprise when I pull up the website and see that Mammoth Cave is actually a National Park! Oh yeah, I’m hiking there for sure. The cave tour was put on the back burner.
Back on 65 north I’m trying not to be bummed about possibly having to pass up hiking.
I have passed this park more times than I care to think about. I didn’t want to pass it by yet again. At the last minute, with the rain falling still, I decided I was hiking no matter what. I exited and drove the 7 miles into the state park.
I changed my shoes and unpacked the clothes from my back pack. Loaded up my water and quickly thumbed through the park brochure my mom had grabbed at a rest stop. I made my way to the visitors center and got a map and some guidance on where to pick up the trail. It’s still not raining and I’m trying not to skip in excitement over the bridge to the trail head.
By the time I got to the bottom of that hill and across the way to the next incline it started raining. And it was the softest rain. Listening to it fall through the trees was amazing and all the vegetation lit up in such vibrant shades of green.
By the time I approached one of the off limits caves it was raining harder. But I didn’t care. This cave is closed because it is full of hibernating bats. The bat population is currently being negatively affected by a fungus. You can read about it here https://www.nps.gov/maca/whitenose.htm
1 National park down. 58 more to go!
You’ve seen my descent. Now watch my rising!