Tag Archives: Nantahala Gorge

Some might say skill sharpening is boring. Some might say it’s fun.

Yesterday while out and about doing priest stuff, I was brought to see what I’ve never seen before but which I might blindly drive within feet of – on one side of the river – at least once per week, the “river’s end” of the Nantahala Gorge immediately before it dumps into the extreme southern end of Fontana Lake (reservoir). I’ve always been on the upper highway. It’s funny how you can live in a place and never see the sights that millions of people flock to see.

I always knew that all kayakers and rafters get out of the river immediately prior to these rapids with their jagged hidden boulders amidst churning vortexing impossible to exit back currents, but I didn’t know that one could simply drive down to see them on the other side of the river. There is a bridge. Duh… And now I know why the river’s end is so famous. Such rapids. Wow.

The above 15 second video just had to be taken. I’m too old now, but I instantly knew as soon as I saw these rapids that if I had grown up anywhere near here – and I know by way of Ancestry.com that I have plenty of relatives in these here mountains – that I would have been here daily with a tiny, easily shoulderable kayak making this 300 yard precipitous descent a thousand times a day. But, don’t do this. I hear it’s actually dangerous.

As it is, where I grew up as a kid up in Minnesota, a similarly dangerous extreme sport was available to me that I’ve described elsewhere, the misuse of a trick-downhill-ski-jump as a long distance jump. I’m the only one who did this to such an extreme, sailing along the tops of the tall Minnesota north woods forest trees far past any slope of any hill and landing on the “flats” far below again and again, electrifying and somehow peaceful, adrenaline filled and somehow peaceful, death defying and somehow filled with life, crowds watching and yet being utterly alone (as no one else was so crazy), utterly alone and yet flying with the angels – it seems I was in the air for the longest time – flying with the angels and yet being reprimanded by the ski patrol and administration of the business, reprimanded for risk retention, but all with a wink and a nod as this helped to bring some life to the place.

Some might say skill sharpening is boring because, although they might try something once, if they survive, even just barely, they quit, and just don’t get the point of, you know, having fun with what you do. Do these people never have fun? It’s like a life of compromise, the ol’ just enough to pretend that one is getting by attitude, getting by, that is, until one doesn’t.

Some, like me, might say that skill sharpening is fun. You take the most unpredictable thing, and not only survive but learn to have mastery over it, not just predictably surviving, but managing how you survive, even turning the most dangerous aspects into that which works for you, in this case learning to pivot off of boulders through the air, spinning with perfect control into… what?… Who knows? But it’s fun.

Why is it fun? Because there’s an analogy with not compromising in life. If 100% of the time you’re not compromising truth or morality, you’ll find yourself having really a lot of fun, call it the joy of the Holy Spirit.

That joy of the Holy Spirit is not something you can control, but it is something you can take on board in dealing with the unpredictable so as to use obstacles to pivot you into, well, even more joy in the Holy Spirit.

Does this priest have too much fun? No. I should say not. You can never have too much joy in the Holy Spirit. That joy is there for the asking, by anyone, at any time, no matter what: Bless me Father, for I have sinned, my last confession was…

That’s an extreme sport. Falling on your knees. Yes, it is. :-)

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Filed under Confession, Missionaries of Mercy

Old time trains, Mother Teresa, Jesus

Yesterday, while out and about doing priest stuff, I stopped along the river road of the Nantahala Gorge – part of which is in my parish – to take the above 14 second video of The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad passenger train that is complete with dining car.

I only wish I could have recorded the iconic chug-chug of the engine, the squeal of steel on steel around the endless curves, the ever-so-loud horn sounding for no apparent reason other than there might be a panther or bear or elk on the tracks, or perhaps a wild boar as big as a cow in these parts of the upper ridges of the Great Smoky Mountains. The horn is surely sounded for atmospherics what with all the tourists on board.

The train doesn’t have any set destination. It just travels along, stops, and then reverses course. But it’s all spectacularly beautiful, especially for the city slickers on board. I’ve never been on this particular train, but the locals also love to climb aboard.

If it’s shocking to see all that smoke belching out of the engine-works up front, try driving behind a pickup accelerating uphill, you know, one that’s been modified to belch out at least as much smoke as seen in the video above. Those modifications seem to be one of the local pass-times. I can’t imagine how expensive fuel and oil costs must be even for a short trip.

Meanwhile, I recall another similar train on the far side of the world whose passenger back in the day was the now canonized Mother Teresa of Calcutta:

From the Vatican website:

“On 10 September 1946 during the train ride from Calcutta to Darjeeling for her annual retreat, Mother Teresa received her “inspiration,” her “call within a call.” On that day, in a way she would never explain, Jesus’ thirst for love and for souls took hold of her heart and the desire to satiate His thirst became the driving force of her life. Over the course of the next weeks and months, by means of interior locutions and visions, Jesus revealed to her the desire of His heart for “victims of love” who would “radiate His love on souls.” “Come be My light,” He begged her. “I cannot go alone.” He revealed His pain at the neglect of the poor, His sorrow at their ignorance of Him and His longing for their love. He asked Mother Teresa to establish a religious community, Missionaries of Charity, dedicated to the service of the poorest of the poor. Nearly two years of testing and discernment passed before Mother Teresa received permission to begin. On August 17, 1948, she dressed for the first time in a white, blue-bordered sari and passed through the gates of her beloved Loreto convent to enter the world of the poor.”

mother teresa of calcutta

  • With something so very mundane as a ride on a train, one can be with Jesus.
  • With something so very mundane as anything whatsoever in our lives, one can be with Jesus.



Filed under Saints, Vocations