The parson pulled into the parking lot at the Cul-de-Sac of Faith Church where Brad Edwards was pastor. Brad had been appointed there about two years ago. He was in his early forties and in his third appointment. The parson had taken a likening to Brad because of his dedication and servant attitude. He'd invited him to go hiking with him.
Brad was waiting. He bounded down the steps of the church and hopped into the car. Charlie Brown, the parson's faithful canine companion, stuck his nose between the seats and sniffed in an apparent effort to assure Brad was United Methodist. Satisfied, Charlie Brown plopped himself back down upon the seat with an audible grunt.
It was a forty-five minute ride to the parson's destination Cloudland Canyon State Park, situated in the very Northwest corner of Georgia. During the drive they talked of clergy gossip. Brad, who sought positions on area denominational boards, was in the know about much the parson did not know, nor at his age and retired status desired to know. Following that discussion the conversation turned to the bishop and his strengths and shortcomings. Brad was of the opinion the bishop spent too much time out of his area. The parson smiled a bit but said nothing.
As they turned into the entrance of the park, that was located on part of Cloudland Canyon. The parson reached over and withdrew his pass from the glove department. He hooked it on the rearview mirror support. They drove past the gate as the parson waved at the one who collected the fees. A couple of miles further the parson parked his car in the sun. He knew by the time they returned from the bottom of the canyon the car would be in the shade. He retrieved a garbage bag from the trunk. Then he opened the rear door, slipped the walking harness over Charlie Brown's head, wrapped the restraint around his chest, fastened it and said, “Okay.” Charlie Brown leaped from the car and immediately headed toward the trail that led to the bottom of the canyon.
Brad walked along beside the parson still talking of the happenings among the clergy of the area. Charlie Brown lead the way, pausing only to mark the trail as his own. Down they went, down. The path continued down. Finally they arrived at the steps. The park long ago had constructed metal steps that protected the erosion the many hikers caused and made the trek a bit more compatible. Down, down the steps they went. Finally, at the bottom, with Brad huffing and Charlie Brown pulling on his leash, the arrived at the lower falls. They sat on the benches built into the platform that looked out onto the falls. The parson sat the trash bag to the side, now partially filled with the litter he'd picked up along the way.
“Whew,” said Brad, “that was quite a trek. When you said I could tag along, Parson, I didn't know it was this long a hike.”
“Well, look at it his way, Brad,” said the parson, “we've finished half of it already.”
Brad smiled and said, “Well, that's true. You know, I didn't know I was this much out of shape.”
They talked a little more, drank some water and headed back to the canyon's rim. About a third of the way up, Brad asked is they could stop for a minute. Charlie Brown, feeling the tension on his leash, turned and stared at Brad. The parson and Brad rested on a bench the park rangers had placed at intervals along the way. Charlie Brown plopped down on the ground with an audible grunt.
“You know, Parson,” said Brad, “you're evil.”
“Yeah. When you made that remark about we'd done half the hike you knew the last half was a thousand feet straight up.”
The parson chuckled, “I did, Brad, I did. But if you remember I warned you when we talked about this.”
“I remember, but I didn't have a point of reference. Now I know better.”
“It's just one foot in front of the other until you get to the top.”
Brad stood. “I guess we'd better keep going. I'm going to get cramped up if we don't.”
They continued their hike up and up using the steps for the steepest part. But, as Brad would count, there was over nine hundred steps.
At the canyon's rim, they paused and looked out over the fall foliage. Brad turned to the parson, “You're almost twice my age. You do this every other week? Why?”
“Because I can, Bard. Because I can.”