On the way home from Asheville Sunday, we took a different route. Hoping to catch more fall color at lower elevations, we decided to drive back to Atlanta through South Carolina on Route 11. Known as the Cherokee National Scenic Byway, this two-lane road runs through tiny rural towns, past farms and pastures, and along the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
I remembered visiting a state park along this road many years ago. A few business colleagues and I on the ride home from Charlotte decided to forgo the thunderous semi-truck traffic of I-85. We turned onto the quieter and appreciably more interesting Route 11 instead. On our journey along the byway, we stopped at South Carolina’s Table Rock State Park. There, we had a delightful dinner of grilled trout and corn on the back porch of a 1938 log lodge built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The sun was slanting low in the sky, the weather was fine, and I felt as if more than my stomach was being in fed in that moment.
When Gail, Leo and I took a detour into the park this past weekend, we discovered that the lodge was no longer a restaurant and gift shop, but a venue for weddings, reunions and meetings. No matter. I was eager to for Gail to see Table Rock Mountain itself. We drove up the winding park road and stopped at the designated spot for an unobstructed and spectacular view.
An imposing hunk of granite that rises over 3,000 feet,Table Rock Mountain was named by settlers for the Cherokee legend that surrounded it. It was said that the spirit of a great Cherokee Chieftain would stop at the mountain when he finished hunting.The spirit would use Table Rock Mountain as his dining table while sitting on adjacent Stool Mountain to dine on his venison.
Called Sah-ka-na-ga by the Cherokee, meaning “the Great Blue Hills of God,” the Blue Ridge Mountains were considered a holy place. Is it any wonder that, if a great Native American spirit fed himself in the foothills of those mountains, I might be fed there too? Not by venison or trout or corn, but by the timeless and endless beauty of fall leaves, blue skies and softly curving ancient hills?
This is where my notion of a timeless and endless God lives and breathes . . . not in a sterile, supernatural heaven above, but in the heavenly, natural earth down below. I believe that the holy is among us and all living things, soothing us with gentle breezes, laughing in running streams, resting under tall trees . . . and dining on the side of great rocks.
For me, that’s a thought and feeling that satisfies the soul.