When you prepare to meet someone for the first time, I think it is healthy to keep expectations low. After all, our creative minds can generate an entire grand image from a picture and a few words. That being said, having low expectations, or not striving to get to the marrow can allow you to settle...and you should NEVER settle for less than is available.
When my friend, who I'll call "B," suggested Natural Bridge State Park, I immediately agreed. I have wanted to visit this wonder for several years, and have never gotten around to making it there.
I arrived at 7pm on Friday night, not knowing what to expect regarding lodging, or this new acquaintance. B had called from a land line earlier to let me know there was no phone/internet service there, and that I could find the cabin myself or go to the lodge. I chose the latter since I had no clue where I was going. I parked the car at the lodge and prepared to go in to find out where B was located. I noticed a blue Subaru in the lot, and had an inkling that was B's car, but was not sure. As I was walking into the lodge, B was walking out, and acknowledged me with a warm smile. Ok, so far, so good. I arrived on time, met him immediately upon arriving, and discovered we were staying in a sweet little cabin. We ate cake (for B's birthday) and played question games as we delved into learning more about one another. Having kept my expectations low, I was pleased at how the weekend was beginning.
The next day we went for a short hike and while driving around B pointed out a stone outcropping high above the tree line and mentioned a desire to get there. Without skipping a beat I said, "I bet we can get there," and left it at that. After a short hike with B's dogs, we moved to a room in the lodge, took a short rest, and prepared for another hike.
Journeying out again, we drove around a bit looking for a spot where we could hike. Finally, I said I wanted to go to the Natural Bridge. B agreed, but mentioned that he thought I was going to be disappointed by it. Unbeknownst to me, B had been there before and had believed the natural bridge was a small wood plank and rope bridge over a little creek-- some tourist activity. When I saw this bridge, I knew this could not be correct, and looked around. Immediately, I spotted a trail marker that said .75 miles to the Natural Bridge. I pointed this out and we began walking.
After only a few hundred feet we stopped at the next marker because we had B's dog and the sign at the trail head said "No Pets." As we stood there trying to decide what to do, B noticed my car parked in a nearby parking lot. Ha! Conveniently, we ended up right next to our room. B dropped the dog off at the room and we continued up the trail.
As we hiked more and more beauty was revealed: green-blue pitted cliff faces, microclimates of mosses and caves, clusters of rhododendron bushes, waves of color in sandstone overhangs. I could feel myself relaxing into the magic of nature.
Finally, we came to a spot under the sandstone bridge with a lookout high over all the trees. B and I both rested there and drank in the fresh mountain air and the scenery, as the wind pulsed with gusts. After a while I looked at B and said, "Are you ready to get going?" thinking we could continue on to the Natural Bridge. He responded, "No. What do you mean?" It was then, that I realized he thought we had reached our destination.
I pointed to the narrow natural staircase guiding us up even farther. He chuckled, and with a smile of surprise and delight, he got up and followed me. The view from the top of Natural Bridge was breathtaking. I think B's mind was blown, as was mine.
Standing on top of this sandstone bridge we could see for miles, the wind was gusting even stronger, and there was an overarching sense of awe. Taking it all in, B pointed to a stone outcropping and noted there were people over there. I immediately recognized it as the one B had pointed at earlier in the day when we were driving in the car far below where we stood now.
Not only did we end up making it to the spot B mentioned wanting to get to earlier in the day, we got to other outcroppings and sweet spots neither of us had anticipated. And as we walked the dogs on the final morning there, it began to snow... light, peaceful flakes thickened to a steady stream for a while. Nothing close to significant accumulation, but still!
Overall, it was a fun adventure, and an intriguing lesson to see how each of us prepared to be underwhelmed in different ways, and had our expectations exceeded.
That being said, I think it is even more important to note that preparing to be underwhelmed can also leave one settling for a plank and rope bridge when with a little more exploration, intention, and openness one can manifest hopes and dreams that may have, at one time, seemed unimaginable or unattainable.
When you continue to believe in the potential of your dreams, and you step towards your desires, life continues to unfurl like a flower to the sun, saying, "Yes."
So, dream big, honor your desires, and follow through by stepping into them... even if you stumble, or get lost, or feel like there is no way you can get to that outcropping. The path is there, and it is waiting to be found.