The drive was needed-the camaraderie even more. Although it had snowed/iced/sleeted at least once a week for four straight weeks, the roads and my lower back seemed fine. It had taken two weeks to heal to the point of packing. The previous 24 hours of doubt disappeared. Dancing their way into different formations the clouds created such an amazing accompaniment along the way. Of course, so did Finley. Uplifting music and the Ozark Mountains kept me warm. Winding lanes and open valleys made my soul sigh. My tribe of friends was waiting, and my cell signal would fade. “I’m ready for more of this!” I said out loud. “I’m strong, I won’t fall, it will be A-OK!”
The Icy Reality
Our trusty Subaru’s met on the desolate snow-packed road. We waved to one another and I followed. Slowly we continued the trek off the main road. Was ice beginning to form in my GUT? My mental strength seemed to fade with my cell signal. Then a left, a right, another right, and three cattleguard crossings proved the hand-written map’s preciseness. There it stood. The Hickory Hill Cabin of Red Rock Retreat (a 130-acre horse farm where the world famous “Dancing White Stallions” of Vienna, Austria are raised). Despite the deep love I have for cabins, my enthusiasm made a run to the hills while I parked my Subie at the “bottom”. Forcing a smile, I opened the car door to greet my friends (who were all prepared to “unload” Finn and me). Barely stepping out I was slipping on the skating rink below me. My trekking pole was in the back of the car (along with food to feed more than just our crazy crew!). Finley’s three little legs gripped the ground better than my two. Laughing, a friend grabbed me as we tried to make our way up the steep hill. Then two or maybe 3 more had to help? Oh my. For the 2nd time in two weeks, I felt limited. Helpless. Their trekking poles were lined up like soldiers on the front porch…oh great! I’m a lost cause!
Seeing the fireplace, the overall ambiance of the cabin, and my little bedroom with my patchwork quilt like Laura Ingalls Wilder DID make me smile. But as we stood around the table sharing and putting things up I blurted, “I should just go home!” Tears were flowing. “You guys don’t understand! I CAN’T fall! I can’t have another injury! I’m useless! I can’t even walk up the path to the door!” (All the “I cant’s”). My neck, back, foot, hip…they all have their great days, and this was not one of them. They’ve carried me to peaks I never dreamed I could reach and have kept me, at times, from walking in my own house. I experienced my first rapid meltdown of the icy situation. My first ever in our adventures together. IMMEDIATELY this is what I heard “We have you!” “We won’t let you fall!” “We will not put you at risk!” “You have us to help you!” They shared of their own falls. My heart melted. How blessed was I? My trekking pole got placed by the soldiering ones. In that exact moment my uncertainty unraveled. Friendship quickly squelched my squabble. Together, with our poles for walking, we piled in the car for 4-wheel exploring.
In 2003 I bought a hiking book of Arkansas written by Tim Ernst (.https://timernst.com/). It was my first of several. Tim is known as the Arkansas Wilderness Photographer. The Ozark Mountains are his backyard and most hikers and photographers in our area know his impeccable reputation! His books are essentials for Ozark Mountain hikers! He and his gifted artist wife, Pam, were hosting an Open Gallery THAT DAY. Would it be open because of the ice and snow-covered roads? Let’s go! We continued more in the middle of nowhere in the middle of nowhere to their road. There was his sign. He welcomed us, and Finley, to his gallery. The road had just opened up two hours earlier. We were the first (perhaps only?) visitors that day. Awe-stricken we respectfully and admirably viewed the spectacular displays. The limited crowd allowed rich conversations with Tim. To support them, and for our own desires, we each left with a piece of giftedness. Tim and Pam, like any artists, have limited editions. On March 1st, 1972, the Buffalo River became our nation’s first National River and several limited editions depict this celebration. My tribe and I also bought matching shirts to commemorate the birthday.
After a stop for carrots (HUGE ONES!) it was time to high tail it to the horses. Atop the beautiful, snow-covered hills, they galloped towards us; my giddiness came galloping too! The carrots were a hit. Aren’t horses the most amazing creatures? They nibbled on us and couldn’t get close enough. I thought of the time I rode a mule with my friend, Nicole, in the mountains of Montana. For a moment time stood still. When it was time to leave, the horses cleverly circled the car- we weren’t for sure how long we might need to stay with them. 😊 That evening, after a delicious meal around the table, we sat by the fireplace. Pictures and memories made. The sun melted most of the ice the next day and the journey home was perfect.