Come early, if you want to find a parking spot anywhere near the Laurel Falls Trailhead.*
Or maybe just show up. That might work, too.
So we discovered yesterday afternoon, as we joined the throngs of day trippers intent on tackling one of the most popular hikes in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We suspected something was up as drew near the spot: All the “turnouts” along the side of the road seemed curiously full of cars and pickups, parked every-which-way.
Then, rounding the bend, our suspicions were confirmed: the trailhead’s modest parking lots were also packed to the gills…with loads of other moving vehicles swirling about, vulture-like, ready to descend on any car-sized opening–legit or not.
‘What the heck?,’ I thought. ‘Let’s just turn in, and see if we get lucky…’
Then, almost as soon as I flicked the turn-signal: a little miracle unfolded before our eyes. We spied the white backup lights illuminated on an SUV, just three slots in. We paused…allowing the Buick to depart. And then, we were in! Just steps away from from the path!
We still had plenty of hiking to do, of course — a 2.6 mile round-trip, ascending some 400 feet to the Falls. But boy, were we glad not to have to trek the extra half-mile or so that others were enduring — at the beginning and end of the hike, just to get back to the car.
Later, Gerri and I chatted about whether this counted as “grace,” or merely “luck.” We certainly are no more worthy of God’s favor, after all, than the dozens of other trekkers who arrived at the trailhead at about the same time.
I’m going with “grace”, I think…for the Psalmist tells me so. Here’s the very verse I found in my morning prayer today:
Gladden the soul of your servant
for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul;
For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
abounding in kindness to all who call upon You.
Psalm 86: 4-5
* l’ll be darned if it didn’t happen again today…this time, at #ClingmansDome.
Due to my blogging this morning, we got into the Park a little later than we planned. By the time we reached the top of the mountain, the visitors lot was stuffed…and Parking Scofflaws had already started jamming their vehicles willy-nilly on the shoulders a good half-mile or so down the road.
But we drove ahead anyway… rounded the bend — and there was Spot #3 opening up, right before our eyes. Amazing!
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy and Merciful One.