The Shenandoah National Park is part of a thin strip of the Blue Ridge Mountains located in central Virginia. This section of the Appalachian Trail is a welcome change for hikers because the ups and downs are moderate, and the trail is never very far from the Blue Ridge Parkway.
I hiked this section in May 2005. The first few days were easy; I kept the mileage to a tolerable ten miles or so, finishing well before nightfall. But on the fourth day, I planned an eighteen-mile day in order to reach a cabin that the guidebook said provided a view east toward Old Rag Mountain and other lesser peaks. The temperature that day was fine for hiking, and the trail provided easy footing; but the climbs were more numerous than before, and I began to wear out.
The last big climb of the day was Bald Face Mountain, which by North Carolina and Tennessee standards was nothing special, but I had run low on energy, so I merely slogged along. When I was about halfway up the mountain, a bright idea dawned on me. Rather than suffer every miserable step, why not march up the rest of the way. I usually do not like to hike with music playing in my ears because I feel I will be missing part of the nature experience, but this time I put aside my concerns and began listening to Michael W. Smith’s album, Worship.
I like many of Michael’s songs, particularly “Above All,” but as I neared the summit, his song “Purified” began to play. I don’t know if you have ever heard it before, but it was the perfect song, for as I reached the summit, the amazing chorus reached a crescendo with the words, “I will stand in cleansing fire, by you I’m purified . . . (for) you are Holy.” Music and moment met together on that mountaintop, and for an instant, I felt as if I were walking on holy ground. I stopped to appreciate the view of the world all around me, and felt gratitude for the beauty and power of Michael W. Smith’s song. Soon enough, though, the moment passed and I moved on in the twilight toward the cabin with a view.
—Eric Kampmann, Signposts