One foot in front of the other: 1,000 indelible hikes

My continuing hiking adventure began with a flash of inspiration on an icy morning.

"You know, I could do 1,000 different day hikes and write them down; all the ones we've already done would count toward the goal. I could put them in a book: It would be something for the family," I said to my husband.

Against the ice and snow and cold wind of January, on short days when the sun was thin, something rose up and poked through the hard crust of our endless winter, saying yes to joy and adventure while pushing back the bleak landscape.

Why I mentioned it, I'm not even sure.

It wasn’t the best time for hiking. I was recovering from a stubborn case of plantar fasciitis, a foot inflammation that had plagued me for 18 months. Just when I thought it had healed, the stiffness and swelling returned. This wasn’t the best way to set a goal, either, but I knew that if I thought about it too long, I probably wouldn't do it.

We’d enjoyed hiking before moving to Hendersonville, but this would transform those periodic jaunts into a genuine adventure. The idea had energy and vibrancy; I could feel the difference immediately. We started talking about all the incredible places we'd seen and dreaming of where we might go next. My husband looked at hikes off the Blue Ridge Parkway while I hunted up trails in the Smokies.

The vision of 1,000 hikes stayed with us for the next two weeks, trailing behind like a small child at the grocery store and tucking itself into conversations.

"We could start up at Mount Mitchell and work our way down," Chris ventured the next day at breakfast.

"I figure I probably already have at least 250 hikes now," I added several hours later.

"I should go down to Mast General and get some new shoes," he said the following afternoon.

Later that week: "I was thinking we could use the anniversary money to buy a small camera."

Over coffee one evening: "Yeah, we could take pictures of each place. I could post it on a blog."

At the bookstore the next Saturday: "What do you think about a book on North Carolina trails?"

On a weekend walk, he said: "Remember how you used to worry that you weren't suited to me because you don't play sports? Look at you now!"

"Hiking is a sport, you know."

"It certainly is."

No mention of the topic was needed. Speaking in fragments that would have been incomprehensible to anyone else, we continued our meandering dialogue over whether we would do this until, finally, I realized we were doing it already in our heads. Somehow, we’d given this thing we do a name, an identity, turning our hobby into a story with a plot and an audience.

A door opened that midwinter day, and we stepped through it into a new life full of wonders I never thought I'd see. I've gazed upon the immense tumble of Whitewater Falls, cascading 400 feet down a mountainside in Nantahala National Forest; stumbled upon pink lady’s slippers scattered like fairy lanterns along the trails around Carl Sandburg's mountain home; and stood rapt at the majesty of Appalachian slopes just awakening from winter, folded one upon another in pale shades of lavender and sage.

The beauty around me has worked its way into my bones. I feel energized, strengthened, hopeful. I wake up each morning wondering where I'll venture next, what lies just beyond the horizon, which paths we'll discover together. My body is growing lean and muscular; I can now scale a mountainside without stopping for rest. What amazes me is how it all grew out of such a simple idea.

Just by putting one foot in front of the other, we're creating something indelible right here where we are. With each fresh endeavor, we're crafting an inspiring tale inside the larger story of our lives.

— Hendersonville resident Cassandra Frear recounts her hiking adventures and more on her blog at http://www.moonboatcafe.com.

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