From Exhilarated Hike to Tragedy

Progress from constant vertigo has been measured in the smallest increments possible for the last year and a half.  There are days that I feel that I am counting grains of sand to determine improvement and I have the remainder of Panama City Beach to count.

“]Hickory Knob RoadParking lot on Hickory Knob Road

Be that as it may I have found significant positive signs when I am hiking.  For the most part when I get my heart rate up I feel better.  So the answer seems to be that I must now hike 24 hours a day……seven days a week.  Thus……reunion time with Pamela Hembree and Joe Gavalda….the hiking maniacs!!!!

On an early January 2020 morning we met with the temperature in the mid 30’s and ventured over toward Franklin, North Carolina for a hike along a new section of the Bartram Trail.  The weather was perfect,  clouds were few, and the elevation rose for the first three miles….just what was in order to get my heart rate up.   The fact that the leaves have long given up the ghost provided great views as we worked our way up the small mountains that paralleled U.S. 441 from Clayton, Georgia to Franklin, North Carolina.

As a matter of fact the elevation rose enough that we soon found ourselves in abandoned snow left over from where the daily sun could not find it. As usual the hiking maniacs were well out in front of me as I measured what I was capable of accomplishing.  I found that I could now turn my head to the left and right in order to look at the surroundings…

I could even turn 180 degrees and look at what was behind me.  Believe me when hiking that is important.  Every time someone behind me asks a question or wants to talk the act of turning around has been an adventure.  I have become intimate with many a tree and embraced the dirt around me more than once when attempting to look behind me.


But on this day there would be none of that……my mind could be on what I found around me….an interesting tree….the valley below….leftover snow… heavy breathing….slippery footsteps….the out of doors….  By 3.7 miles we had completed the new portion of the Bartram which once again placed me in the position of being able to say I’ve hiked all of the 115 miles of the trail. Decisions were made due to the fact that I was beginning to have the sensation of a slight setback.  We would take the longer but easier terrain hike back to the point of beginning. We were at Buck Springs Creek.

That called for a celebration.


As we began the back side of the hike I can only regret that I did not have my phone camera out.  Pam began to work her way back down to the trail head at Buck Springs Creek when her feet went out from under her. It was a graceful and lightning fast fall. One that needed to be accomplished in slow motion so that I would have had the time to record it for posterity.  As usual she just laughed as she worked her way back to her feet. I managed to get a shot of her in her three point landing position with the emphasis on her non leg point which took most of the blow.

Our downward descent was filled with remembrances of hikes in the past.  Pam has the uncanny ability of remembering each and every hike which includes what was worn by the hikers…..I can barely remember the hike itself.  Well…. I remember the crash and burns.  All of us have a pile of memories and I find that it is safest to relate them to each other rather than bore others who may have absolutely no interest in our passion for remaining in the forest.  

Once we reached the road we came upon an old store built about 1939 which was being remodeled into a sleeping cabin for visitors.  As we always seem to find when hiking…we were invited in to view the progress.


You can see the old store on the left side of the next picture but more importantly you can see the view that they enjoy each and every day.  

We ended up with something over 10 miles for the day…..a good day filled with conversation and friendship.  

Joe Gavalda and Pamela Hembree

A hike like this deserves a treat and so it was off the the local Dairy Queen in Clayton for Blizzards.  A short break there with the normal banter….Joe with his quiet quips and humor and Pam with her exuberant excitement.  She truly seems to be excited with just about everything and isn’t afraid to express it.  And so…the ride back to Walhalla was filled with excited conversation about the hike…..that is….at least until Pam’s phone rang. 

She answered….she listened….I heard her say to the person on the other end of the line, “Oh, this isn’t going to be good.”  A heavy deep silence filled the vehicle fueled by Joe and I.  Her demeanor changed instantly as she listened to the person on the other end of the phone.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen her so quiet….  I heard her relate that she was out of town and couldn’t get there now.  “What about tomorrow?” That did not seem to be an option. Finally I heard her say….”Well.  Just let me know”.  She hung up and the silence continued.  Highly unusual for her.  This had to be bad. 

When we reached the parking lot in Walhalla I ventured to ask her what was wrong.  That is not my norm.  I don’t ask questions generally but this seemed too serious.  It felt like there was a major negative medical emergency looming. 

She just looked at me when I asked…she seemed hesitant to answer…I knew then that it was catastrophic. Finally with a great effort she let it all out.  The fear and grief she felt flowed from her.  “They’ve canceled my hair appointment!”

“What!!!!!  That’s what’s wrong?  I thought you were dying!!!!”  

“This is serious!  Do you know how difficult it is to schedule a hair dresser appointment when you travel around so much?”  she responded. “Besides,  I’m two days past due!” 

I was forced to think about it.  It didn’t seem as important as dying but evidently it’s right up there with it. I thought about the women I’ve known in my life…..She was right….every one of them were intent of avoiding bad hair days…except when hiking.  I’ve actually had to schedule vacations around a hair dressing appointment rather than scheduling the appointment around the vacation. 

WAIT!!!  There has been one woman in my life who didn’t care about fixing her hair.  Never once did I hear her mention it and she always looked perfect to me.

21. Awwwww Never a Bad Hair Day.JPG

Maddie: The Never Had a Bad Hair Day Woman

5 thoughts on “From Exhilarated Hike to Tragedy

  1. Cool story.. I can relate. Being the hairdresser I have heard tears and growling toward me when I have had to cancel or postpone an appointment … even if it’s an emergency!! Geesh!! Your Maddie is sweet 🐕

    Sent from my iPhone



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s