This trail leads through Pisgah National Forest to the summit of Mount Pisgah. Named after the Biblical Mount from which Moses first saw the promised land. This Peak affords a panoramic view of Western North Carolina. Trail Length 1.5 Miles. Elevation Gain 712 Feet. Steep in Spots.
Thus reads the sign at the beginning of the climb to the top of Mount Pisgah. When hikers reach the wooden lookout deck at the top, which has withstood the elements since it was built in 1979, they are rewarded with an inspiring vision, maybe not of the land flowing with milk and honey, but of the impressive terrain of western North Carolina, this wonderful state that 9.72 million people call home.
In the opening pages of the Baltimore Catechism, the question is asked: “Why did God make you?” The answer: “God made me to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him in this life, and to be happy with Him forever in the life to come.” The peak of Mount Pisgah is a place where one can come to know and appreciate the creativity of God in the unfolding of the landscape below and the ever-moving clouds passing above in the Carolina blue sky. North Carolina calls those within its boundaries to a deep sense of gratitude simply by the diversity of terrain, from the peaks of the mountains down to the Atlantic coast.
And yet, even with all this natural beauty for which we must all be grateful, I would argue that this is not North Carolina’s surest way to point to the happiness of the life to come. Like many other residents of North Carolina, I was not raised here. I had heard about Southern hospitality, but it wasn’t until I experienced it firsthand that I came to see that this lauded characteristic is no mere myth. From my first days in the state, I have felt at home. It doesn’t seem to matter who you are, or from where you’ve come; people in North Carolina are good at making folks feel welcome.
In the Gospel of Luke, a scholar of the law asks Jesus how to inherit eternal life. After Jesus asks him how he reads the law, the lawyer responds: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus says, “You have answered right; do this, and you will live.” Loving with all we have, without duplicity, in a completely authentic way, is what we are called to do in order to inherit eternal life.
Our state motto, “Esse quam videri,” or “To be, rather than to seem,” calls us to this authenticity. The residents of North Carolina find themselves in the midst of an idyllic landscape. With countless places to visit, high in elevation or low, just a few hours from any resident, there is natural beauty all around for which we should not merely seem, but actually be grateful, thanking God each day for the gift of living in this beautiful state.
Extending from this gratitude should come the continuation of that great attribute, Southern hospitality, that all of us transplants can acquire as well. For in the way that we are called to completely love God and our neighbor as ourselves, my prayer for our state is that hospitality continues to grow in each one of us, not that we might merely seem friendly, but that we may truly love our neighbors as ourselves and join them one day in the life to come, of which the good things of North Carolina provide a sweet foretaste.