Three miles into my uphill walk of Monteagle Mountain, a truck pulled up next to me and a family of four stared out of the windows. “Need a ride?” asked the driver, giving me a friendly nod.
“Ummm,” I looked up ahead but it was impossible to tell how high I had climbed and how much farther I had to go, thanks to the thick forest blocking all view. “No…” I finally answered. “Thanks, but I think I’ll continue on…It’s kind of fun walking up this mountain!”
He gave me a curious look as he rolled up the window and zoomed away. “Fun?” I asked myself. Normally, hiking up a steep narrow road where cars and trucks whizzed by while battling hordes of bugs in the blistering heat was not my definition of fun. Though I couldn’t explain it… I actually was having fun! I continued to walk on, smelling in the blooming flowers and the scent of summer that the breeze carried in. After another hour or so, I made it to the top of the mountain. I was a little bit disappointed. There was no grand overlook of the valley I had just climbed out of, due to the massive trees obstructing my view. I was hoping for a grand scene to stretch out in front of me, where the cars on the roads down below would look like little insects.
I spent the rest of the afternoon exploring Sewanee University, a liberal arts college crammed on top a mountain and hidden within the forest. Each of the buildings were built out of stones from the very mountain on which they rested, giving them a cozy cabin-esque feeling. After that, I sat on the porch of the little college inn I was staying at and watched couples play tennis in the evening light. Unable to sit still, I grabbed my pack and camera and headed down a small dirt road, determined to find the great overlook that I had been expecting. As I walked through the forest I hummed a tune and nature seemed to join in.
Finally coming around a corner, I saw it. Ahead was a gravel roundabout where it overlooked the vast valley below. I ripped off my bag and began to snap photos like mad. The sky looked as if a large knife had plunged into its mass of clouds, which were now spilling out a violent shade of red light. A few cars pulled up, their passengers took one or two photos, and then they hastily sped away. But I kept snapping, determined to find the right angles and capture them in the changing light. In the distance I could see rain falling in the valley below. As the sun continued to set, the sky changed moods. Violent red turned into a warming orange. Within a few minutes the clouds emitted a pink haze which began to fill up the air around me. As the remaining light began to slip away the pink haze quickly became a heavy gray fog.
Suddenly, a quiet buzzing noise filled my ears. At first it sounded as if a car was driving towards me, but the noise wasn’t coming from the direction of the road. As it got louder I realized what it was. The fog had just turned into rain and it was sweeping the valley below, heading my way. I looked back to where my pack and rain gear were, a hundred feet away. But as I considered running to it, the noise that filled my ears told me I was too late. It was as if someone had just turned on a warm shower, because within seconds I was completely drenched. The air was still quite warm and rain was a comfortable temperature, making it quite enjoyable. I could no longer see the valley down below as the fog lazily wrapped itself around the mountain. Suddenly two lights flooded the lookout area as a car pulled up next to me. Inside were two girls who looked about my age, most likely students of the college. The passenger side window rolled down and the driver leaned over her friend and shouted out, “Are you crazy?! Get in here where its dry and warm!”
“Are you guys crazy? You get out here!” I shouted back, giving them a wide grin. Both girls stared at me as if I had just slapped them across the face. But suddenly the passenger door flew open and one girl bounded out. She gave a shriek as she got drenched in rain and began to spin in circles, her mouth open wide, catching the water droplets. The driver rolled her eyes, turned off the car and reluctantly got out. Within minutes however, she was laughing and catching raindrops as well.
“Well luckily, it’s never too hard to remember!” I smiled back.
We did cartwheels and hand stands followed by a chorus of Singing in the Rain. As a large gray cloud shifted, revealing a shockingly beautiful beam of red light, she grabbed her friend’s hand and then reached for mine. There we all stood, perfect strangers hand in hand, with our heads thrown back and mouths open wide. Together we swallowed up the heavens and laughed as it tickled our insides.