The Destination is the Journey

By Ben Bailey

The time was late October, we rose before the dawn,
Six men in concert, yet each was still alone.
No one led and no one followed, yet each one did his part,
Like a dance or a piece of music that someone plays by heart.

We met at the appointed place and loaded all our gear.
We left our comfortable beds behind and all those we hold dear.
We were off on an adventure, a week in the woods or more,
None of us really knew for sure what this week held in store.

Three of us were walking down from Clingman’s lofty Dome,
Three of us would pick us up and return us back to home.
It was an honor to be among them, good men everyone,
All of them are brothers and one also my son.

We passed by the Oconaluftee, a little past Cherokee,
Where, out of the mist walked a majestic elk, like a ship out on the sea.
I’ll never forget that image burned forever in my mind,
Life went into slow motion; I lost all sense of time.

The views at the top were wonderful, majestic, and serene.
The valleys still wore their cotton linens, the air so fresh and clean.
Mountain ash adorned with rubies, emeralds in the pine,
The woods breathed out a rich perfume, healing for both the heart
and mind.

The packs were heavy, the air was chill.
The way was long but all downhill.
Double Springs Gap, we take a water break,
Talk to some hikers while we hesitate.

We made Hazel Creek Cascade that first night on the trail,
Felt good to rest our backs and sit down on our tail.
Steak and baked potatoes, our celebratory meal,
I’ve had bigger but never better, it was quite a deal.

The brookies were small but beautiful and responded to my fly,
We left them there in their quiet pools nestled against the sky.
A silent testimony to all that’s pure and clean,
A fish in whom there is no guile, with beauty like a queen.

The next day took us to Proctor Creek, then on to Calhoun,
The weather couldn’t have been better, we even had a full moon.
The fishing was good, we all caught our share,
God was good to all of us but particularly good to me there.

These are God’s finest sculptures, anyone can see.
And here we walk among them, wonderstruck and free.
It was a veritable garden kept by God’s own hand,
Even the logging scars inflicted on her by man.

I’m inspired by her beauty, humbled by her power,
Indebted by such a gift, it becomes a worship hour.
An out of doors cathedral illuminated by the sun,
An altar made of granite, open to everyone.

Bone Valley then to Sugar Fork, we’d all been here before,
But it all looked and felt different, coming in the back door.
We pitched our tent and stretched our tarp the first time on our way,
It’s good we did for it was raining before the break of day.
The fish didn’t care they were already wet, so we caught a few.
David missed a big one using alternative methods too.
Halfway up the gorge there’s a waterfall that plunges to a beautiful pool,
That’s where Moby Dick lives; you can’t catch him, that’s the rule.

We walk on down to Proctor trudging in the rain,
Our mood a little somber, a little akin to pain.
Half want to stay on a while and fish a little more,
Half want to get back home to those whom we adore.

Jim, Jerry, and Jason are there to meet us and light a waiting fire,
A welcome sight if ever I saw one, a dry place in the mire.
We sit and talk and remember way up in the night,
We speak of beauty seen and obstacles, every fish and fight.

you come far Pilgrim… It feels like far.

Ben Bailey, is a native of Western North Carolina, Master Carpenter, Avid Angler, and Naturalist.