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Night Hike at Alum Cave Bluffs

Years ago one January I drove to the Smokies with a female companion and we embarked upon a night hike of the Alum Cave Bluffs trail. Our only source of light was the moon and two cheapo AA battery $1 flashlights the first of which died on the hike up just as we emerged from the tree line.

• Alum Cave Bluffs Trail (11 miles round trip) starts off easy but become difficult. An initial one-and-a-half-mile trail takes you through Arch Rock’s erosion-created tunnel. the next 0.8 mile is steeper and leads to Alum Cave Bluffs which is a 100-foot high cliff. This last half of the trail is steep and, at times, hikers must grip trailside cables to traverse cliffs. The trail begins at the Alum Cave Bluffs parking area at Newfound Gap Road between Newfound Gap and Chimney Tops on the Tennessee side of the Smoky Mountains. Elevation gain is 2,800 feet. [Source

We conserved the batteries on the other light and chose to walk the rest of the way up by moonlight. It wasn’t long before we came to a thick, solid sheet of ice covering the trail. To our left, a steep ravine. To our right, a towering ice and snow covered cliff face.

I was pushing the boundary of my comfort zone. This was dangerous, we were ill equiped for such endeavors, and no one knew we were on the trail. I would have been more comfortable alone.

I am a strong believer that we grow by pushing our boudaries. We find the edge of our comfort zone and step just beyond it. That night we made it carefully up the slippery slope and, on the way down, we rode the trail like a surfer rides a wave. It was blast! Right after the ice the second flash light died and we had to hike the rest of the way in the forest blackness.

There is a fine line between pushing the envelop and stupidity. We can step outside of our comfort zones and still be safe. Personal growth comes through experimentation. By definition, nothing happens in stasis. Walk a different path to class. Drive a backroad to work. Wake up earlier than normal. Look at the tree outside your office building and study it. Create change in your life. Seek entropy. And try something that makes you uncomfortable. Live!

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