Earlier in the summer, I almost hiked Black Balsam Bald, but stopped before I reached the summit because I had not hiked that far in well over a year! For almost eight months, I dealt with Chemo treatments, and I walked very little. Once I healed from the initial surgery, we would all pile into an SUV and go for a ride in the mountains.

Even though I was still fairly strong, the Chemo made me weak. I felt fragile and for the first time in my life I had to set hiking and outdoor activity aside for awhile. That was very hard for me.

People don’t understand cancer treatments. I’m convinced of that and really, I don’t expect them to understand. Why would they, it’s an elite group that can talk about Chemo ports and white cell counts. But once all the trappings of that phase of my life was behind me, I decided that I would try a new thing—Peak Bagging—hiking mountain peaks higher than 6,000 feet. It quickly became just plain fun!

Here’s Pat at the beginning of the Black Balsam trail, which is located just off the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Hiking six peaks over 6,000 feet before the first of the year became a goal for me, and I talked my friends into hiking with me. Well, actually, all I had to do was ask and present the plan. They were ready to get back outside with walking sticks and cameras. You see, my friends gave up a lot during my Chemo treatments in order to help and support me.

Today, we hike for ourselves but we also hike to make a statement. “We don’t ever have to give up. God is your strength and your Healer. Lost strength is regained with Him.”

The day my doctor told me I had stage two cancer, was the day that I told him, “I want to live.” A nurse overheard me and after he left, she said, “Then get up and start walking.” That was one of the hardest things I had to do, but I did what she said to do and I’m still walking.

This photo doesn’t show the actual distance to the top of the Bald. It does show the type of trail that we hiked to the top.

We always stop along the way to rest and for photos. We are such “hams.” That’s the fun part of life.

So, when I started back hiking, I didn’t think twice about taking my photography backpack that I fill up with additional lenses, snacks, water, and lipstick! The last is essential to life. (smile)

We easily made it to the top of one Bald and using our GPS coordinates, we knew we had to turn and go up a little further. Wonderful things—smart phones!

Selfies are in or selfies are out?

I don’t really care. My “tribe” left me alone for a few minutes; so, I turned the camera on myself and got this view of me standing on the top of Black Balsam Bald—6,214 feet.

Once they returned after their “happy dance” at the top, they took this photo of me and my happy dance. Peak Bagging is a lot of fun and being outside is the best. Here’s the link to the challenge that I’m doing. Take a look; its something all of us can do!

Once we were at the top, we went in different directions . . . enjoying some moments of pure silence.

I always look for fire pits to see where overnight hikers might have stayed.

Then l look for strange things like reflections of clouds in puddles of dark rain water.

Pat at the top with the Blue Ridge Mountains behind her.

In this photo, you can see the serpentine trail along the ridge line. It’s the one we hiked up and the one we hiked down. This is such an amazing area.

When I hiked this trail before, I stopped at an open area and sat for a long time thinking about how much life had changed and how grateful I am for where it is today. I still feel that way only to a greater degree.

I had to toss this in for all my “bear loving” friends.

Before our next upcoming hike, I guess I need to find a couple of small “bear proof” containers.

Recently, my next door neighbor pointed out something to me. He said, “If you encounter a bear, you really only have to worry about one thing.”

“What is that?” I asked.

“Out running the others,” he said with a smile.