Christmas is a time for celebrating life. A time for family, friends, and loved ones to connect with one another. This celebration comes just once a calendar year. Celebrating with the people you care the most about can bring memories that will last a lifetime. Memories that you can relive every day that follows. They are the kind of memories that a grandfather tells to his grandchildren. The kind of experiences you write about in your journal, Christmas cards or even, in this day, your social media page. These memories are sometimes captured by a photo but more often than not an experience that escapes the camera and can only truly be remembered with a look into the eyes of the person you were with at the time. The eye contact you make with that special person can take you right back to the place you were in the story that you are reminiscing about. Sharing these experiences with others can be as gratifying as the time you have lived. These special moments can be found sitting around a fireplace or on the top of a mountain in the vast wilderness. Wherever you find your happiness be sure to share it with the ones in your life that mean the most to you and beyond.
Some of my most memorable moments have been found outdoors on a trail, on the water, or deep in the forest where you can feel like you are the only person to ever find this special place. These moments are sometimes experienced alone and may be a once in a lifetime occasion. It is still a story worthy of sharing but the times you have experienced with others are without a doubt the most celebrated ones.
One of my more recent memorable hikes came this summer on an evening in July with the sun quickly setting behind the mountains to the western skyline. I was with my friends eight year old daughter, Vanessa, and of course my constant hiking partner, my dog, Taylor. We were equipped with some water and a headlamp, the bare essentials for a short, steep climb to Hawk Rock on the Appalachian Trail in eastern Perry County, PA. This was her first real experience hiking on a trail! She had just earned her black belt in tae kwon do over the weekend, so there was no doubt about whether she physically was up for the challenge of the quick elevation change over rocks and roots.
Her excitement had myself and my dog reeling to keep up. The dog, usually the leader, had fresh competition! Large boulders and a few water breaks were the only things that allowed me to catch up with them. The colors from the setting sun peaked through the tops of the trees to the forest floor. Loose rocks on the North side of Cove Mountain rattled below our feet. The switchback of the trail was proof we were soon to reach our destination. This was just motivation to her and the dog to continue climbing what may be the steepest part of this particular section. At this point, I could not of been more proud of how well she was handling what was not only her first hike but a lung busting, muscle burning one!
We did it! We reached the unforgettable destination of Hawk Rock. The sun had just disappeared behind the far away hills. It filled the sky with a pallet of colors to make the experience that much more unique. With just enough light we could see the confluence of the Susquehanna and Juniata Rivers to the East. The lights of the Appalachian Trail Community of Duncannon were lit and the Shermans Creek twisted below at the base of the mountain side. We shared this moment with an AT section hiker who was setting up for an overnight stay. He was equipped with a camera and asked that we capture this final moment of daylight with him sitting atop this vista. He did the same for us. I have countless memories of hiking to this location with family and friends. This particular hike ranks as one of my favorites. We successfully made our way back down to the car with only the light from the headlamp. This was just another unique part of the once in a lifetime experience. One the two of us can share for the rest of our lives with each other and our family and friends! The week following our hike she earned her hiking badge with the Girl Scouts in Small Valley.
I was hospitalized this September from an accident involving a tree and numerous broken bones. I am blessed to be alive and healing successfully thanks to the many volunteers and doctors who helped put me back together. Physical therapists are training me to regain the use of my leg and hand to a manner I not so long ago considered normal.
As Christmas approaches I look forward to spending time with family and friends. It will be an opportunity to share stories with one another. A time to reflect on the past. A time to create new memories. A time to celebrate life!
This is all I want for Christmas.