“My hip is killing me,” he said as he slid onto a nearby bench and lit up a cigarette. I waited patiently at first, but when he started to light another one, I decided we’d rested long enough.
“I mean this in the kindest way,” I said softly, “but I have two words for you…”
He paused and looked at me inquisitively.
“Chalk Bluff.” I smiled.
. . . . . . . . .
It was a weekday in October and, except for a light shower, the weather had been perfect. We arrived at Chalk Bluff mid afternoon. While I checked out the park’s facilities my husband wandered over toward the trail to read several signs that awaited tourists.
A few minutes later I started for the trail myself. No longer able to see my husband I hurried past the signs to find him.
“Ron!” I called as quietly as I could and still be heard. “Are you sure you want to go down there?” He kept walking so I followed and soon caught up.
“You said you wanted to check out the trail,” he said.
“Yes, but I don’t know how far it goes,” I replied. “Did you see anything that told us?”
“It’s so quiet here,” he sighed as he stopped to take in the view. “Think your ancestors fought here?”
“Probably,” I surmised, “and probably on both sides. The census records list them at Chalk Bluff and Four Mile. You know we just left the cemetery at Gravel Hill and you saw the headstones I pointed out. My folks were married in Clay County and I started school here. My earliest memories began in this part of the country. A lot of my roots are here.”
“I’m glad we came,” he smiled. ” This has been an excellent trip so far.”
“You know,” I pointed out, “this trail is still going downhill away from the park. How are your legs holding up?”
“I’m okay,” he assured me, but this was from a man that can’t push a mower across a modest front yard without taking at least three breaks.
“It’s almost ghostly quiet,” I observed aloud. Not even the sign of a squirrel I noticed. “Hickor’ nuts,” I whispered as I left the trail to stand beneath a hickory tree. ” We used to pick these up off the ground when I was a kid. We cracked them with a board and hammer and picked out the meat with a bobby pen. Mom would use them in her divinity. ”
“I need to sit down,” Ron calmly stated. I dropped the nut and hurried back to the asphalt trail. “The sign says there is an observation deck ahead. They’ll have a place to sit down there.”
It was like a roofed balcony that hung out over a ravine. We sat down on the wooden benches and rested for awhile. We tried to imagine a time long before we were born. Were there soldiers that had died in those ravines?
“I wish I’d known about this place before we came,” I said. “I would have researched this stuff and had a better idea of the history and geography of this battlefield.”
“You can do that when we get back,” he smiled. “It’s getting late. We should get back on the trail.”
Neither of us said anything but I could tell he was wondering too. We still had no idea how far we’d come but we knew it would be at least this far going back…and it would be all up hill. He was getting tired and had to stop more often. He isn’t one to complain, but I could tell he was hurting pretty bad by now.
Finally we reached the lowest point of the trail….a walking bridge allowed us to walk over a small ravine. We leaned for awhile on the sides and observed the ground below us. The soil was dry now but you could see the roots from the trees where the water had washed the soil from around them in wetter days.
“Looks like we finally reached the river,” I said but you could barely see it through the trees that covered the edge of the bluff.
We walked up some wooden steps and I discovered a weathered bench to our left. I sat down to check the settings on my camera. I hoped it would encourage him to slow down and take another break, but he kept going.
“He’s getting nervous too,” I said to myself. We had been the only vehicle along the road and in the parking lot. No sounds had broke the quiet to indicate a change to that fact. The trails were narrow and there would be no way to get our car down here. If he couldn’t walk we’d be in trouble here.
I caught up again and we both stopped to catch our breath.
“Sucks getting old this young,” I huffed. “I remember when I could take those steps without any effort.”
Ron’s face was red and his breathing was heavy. He squinted his eyes and tightened his lips as he bent in different ways looking for some relief. I looked up the trail knowing how far we’d come. I was trying to stay calm but inside a panic was slowly evolving. It was getting late and no one knew we were here. I was sure I could get back to the car and get help if I need, but I didn’t want to leave him here.
At last we managed to get back to the park. The first bench he saw he sat down and I stayed with him for awhile to make sure he was okay. Then to save him having to walk any further than necessary, I walked across the park and drove the car back. He was waiting for me when I drove back.
“We’ll remember this event in more ways than one, ” he laughed as he got into the car. “I’d do it again in a heartbeat…well, maybe three or four… Chalk Bluff!” he smiled thumbs up.
- A Hike on The Bluff Trail (lynnekovan.com)