Dad Was Flying Solo! Once or twice a year, Esther is generous enough to give me some time to myself to get away to the wilderness away from all the hustle and bustle. A couple of years ago, I went to the Great Smoky Mountains by myself and had a few bear encounters during that trip. The first bear I saw, I was hiking all alone. I just did as I had been taught over the years when I saw this bear. I talked in a monotone voice and back away slowly – the bear just walked away as it saw me as no threat. No big deal, just kind of cool that I saw the bear.

The third bear that I encountered during that trip was about 350 pounds – a big boy! I would have been okay with this one too, but what made me nervous is the way the bear just kept coming toward me and a couple of other campers I had met while backpacking. Eventually, we scared it away, but the fact that it initially had no fear of approaching three grown men, has made me a little skittish when I am in bear country.

All of that said, I do not want fear to keep me from doing something I love, so off to bear country I headed once again. This time, I decided to go to the mountains of Northern Georgia. What made it even better is that I had enough airline and rental car points to pay for my flight and rental car. I would be going for three full days.

On the first day, I arrived in Atlanta with a somewhat solid plan of what I was going to do while in the mountains. I had decided I would car camp this time and just do some good day hiking. However, the campsite I had intended on staying at was only available on a first come, first serve basis, so I was not sure if my plan for the first night would come to fruition.

I arrived about 9:30 p.m., after dark. There was one other group of campers at the campground, so I was in luck. That first night I made a small fire that didn’t last long and ate a few snacks before deciding it was time to retire for the night. I didn’t bother pitching the tent that night. I just slept in my rental car which turned out to be a Jeep Cherokee, giving me plenty of room to stretch my legs while I slept.

The next morning, I drove into town to get a few supplies including some firewood. I wasn’t feeling very motivated to go hiking on this day, so I didn’t get started until late morning. I ended up hiking about 4 miles total that day. Nothing really strenuous, but this Florida flatlander was really feeling it when I had to climb any type of elevation. However, I enjoyed the workout. Like I say, if you don’t use it, you lose it. One of the biggest reasons I like to hike is for the workout. It may just be walking, but you can really burn some serious calories by hiking.

After my short hike, I arrived back to the campsite. In the rare mode of having more than enough time to do nothing, I took a nap and listened to some music. I also set up my tent even though I had no intentions of sleeping in it unless it rained. The main reason I set up the tent was to stake claim on the campsite. As it was nearly dusk, I found a nice stick to use as my hot dog roaster and built a Grade A campfire. When I’m at home, I can be an extreme night owl. However, when I am in the woods, this changes. I guess mostly because there aren’t as many time wasting things to do. That said, I went to relatively early.

Early to bed. Early to rise. I woke up just before dawn ready to make the most of the day. I planned to take a much longer hike to see some local waterfalls on this day. After eating a little breakfast, I gathered up my gear and hit the trail. Today was a much different day than the day before, as I had every intention of getting some real trail exercise. As I began my walk, I was all too aware of the possibility of a bear sighting. I hiked about 4 miles or so before sitting down to have a snack near the first waterfall. Which, incidentally, had too much vegetation around it to actually see it from the trail.

As I was eating a snack, I was disappointed in myself for letting the fear of a bear sighting overtake my thoughts. I even considered turning back before the next waterfall, but I eventually said to myself, “Well, you’ve come this far. Don’t give up now.” I trudged on. A couple miles down the trail, my decision to keep going, was rewarded. Ahead of me was a waterfall of about 50 to 75 feet in height. A very beautiful site indeed!

After eating lunch at the base of the fall, and just immersing myself in the natural beauty that was all mine at the moment, I headed back down the trail. As I hiked back down the trail, I thought about how pushing past my fear had rewarded me, and how my fear was no longer at the forefront of my mind. There are many reasons to be afraid in life, but fear is one of those things that can truly limit our potential if we succumb to it. Fear is a very natural thing, and a necessary thing, but so then is courage. I strive to choose the reward of courage in my life.

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