Much of the “Green Tunnel” in Georgia and North Carolina looked like this.

Tray Mountain stood before me, its massive presence reaching toward the heavenly expanse and eclipsing the final efforts of the sun.

Sitting on a log beside the trail, I took off my pack and reached for my water bottle. I estimated that I had an hour before the final remnants of the day gave way to darkness. It was just enough time for a short break before setting up camp, walking 0.2 of a mile down a blue-blazed trail for water, and cooking dinner. I would need a restful night of sleep and recuperation before tackling the steep rocky terrain of Tray in the morning.

It had been a good day. I had hiked over thirteen miles and had scaled two notable mountains, Blue Mountain and Rocky Mountain, since leaving Low Gap shelter that morning. The descent into Indian Grave Gap and back up to this campsite at the old Cheese Factory had taxed me. Satisfied with today’s progress, I was ready for a meal and a hammock. I had accomplished a lot and it had prepped me for a good tomorrow.

“Joe!”

I turned to see a hiking buddy that I’d met just a couple of days before. We had camped together the prior night but had gotten separated early in the day. He dropped his pack and took a seat on a log opposite me.

Pointing toward to the blue blazed trail, he asked, “Is there water?”

“I don’t know. I just got here 5 minutes ago,” I replied.

“Are you stopping here,” he asked.

“Yep. This was my goal for the day,”

“You know,” he said with a grin, “we’re only a short way from the top of Tray.”

“Yeah but it’s a long way up,” I countered.

“Wouldn’t it be great to wake up in the morning and see the sun rise from up there? Just imagine the beauty.” His grin widened.

Ever the pragmatist, I began voicing the reasons why that was a bad idea. It would certainly get dark before we made it to the top and, although I like night hiking, this wouldn’t be the ideal path for it. What if we ran out of energy and couldn’t find a place to camp along the steep trail? What if there was no water up there? What if, what if, what if. My list continued.

He listened patiently.

“All that’s true,” he said, “but just imagine how great it could be.”

We locked eyes for a brief moment, our steely gazes challenging and spurring each other.

“Let’s do it,” I said.

AT LESSON #6: Dreaming Big is Contagious

It was midnight before we summited Tray Mountain. The hike was arduous and we had to rest often along the way. But every step forward, every foot of elevation change, was well worth the effort.

When we reached the top of the mountain, the “Green Tunnel” opened up. On that moonless night with no man-made light pollution for miles, countless heavenly bodies dotted the black velvet sky. There were more stars than I’ve seen. It was an incredible sight that words cannot adequately describe. We stood in awe as we took in this view of creation and its majesty.

When the sun rose the next morning, we were once again treated with an equally incredible, yet very different, view. The sun peaked just above the distant mountains, its light streaming down and slowly bringing color to the grey world below.

That night and the following morning were among the most enjoyable highlights on my trip. I was exhausted, but I felt a great sense of accomplishment. Sitting here typing this, I am so very glad that I didn’t miss that experience. I’m thankful to my fellow traveler for spurring me on and challenging me to do more than I had planned, to achieve a higher standard than I had set for myself. The reward was worth it.

At work, at home, and in life, we can help one another achieve more. We can encourage each other to dream big, to not count the obstacles in our way but to set our sights on the goal. We can even take the journey with our colleagues.

Opportunities abound all around us. Just look for them.

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