On top of Yonah Mountain in Georgia.

Before I was diagnosed with cancer, I had this really crazy dream where I was running—not running away from something but running toward something—fast. I wasn’t just running; I was competing. I was an elite athlete—strong, sure footed, and brave.

Then came my cancer diagnosis and operation. I certainly could not see how that dream would be my dream.

I didn’t tell anyone about it for a long time though its memory followed me everywhere I went—the doctor’s office, the infusion center, and for my weekly blood work. I just held it deep within my heart.

Chemo does good and bad stuff to your body. The good came months later with the news that there was no evidence of disease. The bad came in the form of neuropathy in my feet and arthritis in my knees, ankles, and hands. So, you can see why I never thought I would be able to run or hike even the shortest distance.

But while I was still on chemo, I began to map out places I wanted to go. To my surprise, every trip involved a hike! And I was not the “hiking” type, but suddenly I had this overwhelming desire to hike, to climb, and even to rock scramble—just a little. Wink. So, as chemo ended and with my oncologist pushing me to get back to “doing” life, I began to hike and hike and hike more.

The plan was to do easy hikes first and then move up from there, but we never did the very easy hikes. They were boring, so we began with moderate and went on from there.

I realized last week as I began the second half of the Yonah Mountain hike that I have never stopped hiking since the end of chemo.

I hike so I know that I’m alive. I hike to know something outside of me or this broken world is waiting to be experienced. In the beginning we hiked six mountain peaks over 6K in less than six months.

Today, I go every chance I get and while I can’t go great distances yet; I go and the memory of my “runner” dream is with me every step of the way. I realize now this was one of God’s ways to encourage me and let me know that I would be strong again. Honestly, I’m stronger today than I was before chemo maybe except for my cardio ability. I continue to recover in that area.

So, Yonah Mountain was a tougher challenge simply because of the altitude gain over a shorter distance. It’s only 4 miles up and down but you climb more than 1,500 feet while hiking to the top. And there are plenty of rocks and boulders along the way. You begin to go up the moment you get out of your car and don’t stop until you are on the rock face at the top.

This is one of north Georgia’s most popular hikes. The trail is heavily used, so don’t look for a lot of solitude here until you reach the summit. Then people are pretty much awed by the expansive views and sit together in small groups.

You need to follow the green blazes to the top as you hike through a dense forest that is becoming more colorful with each day.  There are small boulder fields that require rock scrambles and even a little bit of a rock climb. Yes, I made it! Our Osprey day packs were all we needed for carrying water, snacks, and a Sony camera that was safely stowed away.

I watched a couple of women with young children try to go up a very steep section only to slide back down the trail! I had never seen that happen before. The climb was that steep! They struggled to go up only to end up back down at the bottom of the rise. Finally, one said to the other, “We need to quit; we don’t have hiking shoes!” So, wear hiking shoes! Forget the need to look cool in sandals or Nike fashion shoes.

Here we inched our way through and over large rocks.

Then we climbed several sets of rocky steps. These were fun and really beautiful because it was obvious that they were made out of stones from the area.

Finally, we made it to the rock face! But there were even more “ups” to get to the summit.

Once we were there we said, “What a view!”

Yonah Mountain has some amazing ones along it’s lengthy bare rock face, and the scenery feels even more rewarding after the steep climb!

The trail is listed as difficult and that’s about right—thanks to the rocky sections, but it’s definitely worth the challenge. So, if you live in north Georgia, this is one hike that you should do. If I can do it, you can, too!

Here’s Pat at the top of Yonah Mountain!

And Pat taking a photo of the North Georgia mountains, while I kept asking: “Can we see North Carolina from here?” I think the answer was no.

The greatest challenge on the top is to be safe.

Sadly, people have fallen to their deaths from Yonah. That happened this week. A young woman got too close to the side and was gone. Realize there are huge fall risks on any mountain. So be smart, be brave, but stay safe so you can continue to hike another day!