CommunityOpinion

Enjoying nature a new way, but maybe not that new way ever again

View of mountains in Haywood County from a dirt road.
A beautiful view after a mighty rough ride. Photo by Clint Parker.

By Clint Parker

Haywood County – I don’t know how many of you have ever been “four-wheeling,” but I got my first taste recently when my wife asked me to accompany my young son on his first off-road trip with his new, used Jeep.

He had a couple of friends that would be leading the way, but in a separate Jeep and he would be riding alone, so I said ok if nothing else to spend the day with my son, but I was living under no illusions as I didn’t think this was something I was really going to enjoy.

See, I’m the kind of guy that likes his cruise control (actually adjustable cruise control that will slow down and speed up with traffic), air-condition, leather seats, nice stereo playing my music and a smooth ride. None of that was to be mine for the next five hours.

So what was it like? For you that have been to Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida, think the safari ride without the animals or any smooth roads. 

For those who’ve not been to Animal Kingdom, think a three-hour traffic jam with lots of bumps, ruts and mud as you inch your way to what you hope to be a beautiful graveled road around the next hill or bend.

We first hopped on this trail off of I-40 in the gorge area. There was no exit ramp mind you. It’s just, slow down and get off just past the guardrail. 

At the start, there was a nice mountain stream flowing beside the trail and I wished I’d brought my fishing pole and I could just get out and see if there was any fish down in that glorious mountain water.

Then the bouncing began and for the next couple of hours, it would be back and forth and to and fro with only an occasional stop for pictures or break with my inners being jostled until they were all out of place. I also felt for my son, as, while his friend had an automatic transmission, he was pretty much operating the clutch, gas and gears the entire three hours. 

It was reported to be only a six-mile ride, but it took about three hours. With each minute and bump, making me think I’d seen the last of civilization. I didn’t show it with my son, but I was losing the thrill of the new experience fast. 

After a couple of hours, I wished I’d brought a few more snacks along instead of just that one stick of beef jerky. My heart sank when we took a wrong turn, which resulted in a dead-end and had to backtrack for 15 minutes and my stomach reminded me on several occasions that it was feeding time. 

We made a stop for a necessity break, and I got out a can of soda (which was impossible to drink while riding) and had a bite of a snack bar my son had bought. That, along with a stretch of good graveled road, we found a few minutes later, I started to think civilization might not be far off. Even though the good graveled road evaporated into thin air, I had hope that there was more to come.

As we topped the mountain and forest gave way to more gravel and high mountain pasture, a view of the valley below made the trip with the drive and bouncing worthwhile. We stopped to take pictures and enjoy the views that God had waiting for us as a reward for our endurance. 

We had pavement waiting about a mile more down the road, followed by an interstate. All in all, I was happy to spend the day with my son enjoy nature in a new way. If you’re wondering if I would take the ride again for the view, I’d have to say…NO!!! That’s why I took a picture, so I wouldn’t have to, lol!

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