Stop the Clock

Message From The Director

As we spring forward, the shock to my system of suddenly waking up in the dark again reminds me of how we measure time. In his novel, The Sound and The Fury, William Faulkner writes: “Clocks slay time… time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life.” As I reflected on this quote, it was easy to make comparisons to clocks killing time – from school days of watching each endless second tick by, to counting down the minutes of that last work day before a vacation or special event. We measure in numerical increments the moments we wish we could hurry up and get past – and though they eventually do pass -- they never seem to go by quickly enough. Recently, I had an experience where the clock stopped.

As a career Park Service employee, I have explored all of our state parks, and frequently get to make recommendations and share stories of my park adventures. One of the hikes that I speak of often, and encourage people to take, is to the top of Table Rock – a seven-mile round-trip that is strenuous but achievable for many. Those conversations recently resulted in a trip to the top with 10 people, many of whom had either never been or who had not been in many years. It was a day when the clock stopped and an experience came to life.

As we met at the base, we introduced ourselves and shared our previous experiences with the hike. Loaded with water, snacks, lunch and several trekking sticks, we began our hike. As you start past the creek on a gentle uphill, the sounds and sights are distracting and encouraging – it is the most picturesque part of the trail until you get to the open views from the top. As the water faded behind us, we pretty quickly found ourselves facing what I consider one of the toughest sections of the trail. For the next two miles, as we huffed and puffed up the trail, we talked about the park, the trail and other hiking experiences. We would slowly spread out and then those in the lead would stop so we could take a break together. Breaks were filled with laughter and encouragement, as well as stories about the trail construction, maintenance, seasonal changes and changes after a wildfire. The chatter never stopped.

There are three major stops along the way to the overlook. The halfway shelter, originally constructed by the CCC, Governors Rock and the sign at the highest point of Table Rock. From the last point, you hike about a quarter of a mile down to the spectacular overlook. There, our group enjoyed our lunches, views and conversation. A bald eagle and turkey vultures flew by as we sat and took in the view. We had earned this reward and we were savoring our time.

The hike down from the top, while less aerobically challenging, is not an easy one. The downhill can feel technical at times, and as a group, we helped each other more on sections of the hike back down than on the hike up. We stopped for any length of time only once, at the halfway shelter, and conversation on the hike died down for most of our group – although Jon and Robert never stopped their fish-talk. Tired, a little sore and in need of a bathroom break, we made it back to where we started.

One of the passengers in my car that day was a Park Service employee who had never done the hike before-- Enfinitee Irving. She made the passing comment about how the hike was faster than she expected, and when I asked her what time she thought it was, she was hours off. For her – and for me –  we had stopped measuring time by the ticking of a clock. Our measure of time was not about hours and minutes, but by sights and sounds, about sensory experiences and physical challenges. The clock had stopped, and time had come to life.

Life’s best experiences tend to go by so fast, while our day-to-day often creeps by so slowly. We measure the hours and minutes and neglect the experiences. Parks can be a break from the counting. Whether you are hiking a trail, fishing a lake, or walking a beach, time turns from a measurement made numerically, to a measurement calculated by your senses. You can bask in the sun for an afternoon, fish until it gets dark, hike until you finish the trail and measure your day by the experience instead of the clock. So, as our daylight hours grow longer, take a chance to head out to one of your favorite places, and make the clock stop.


March 2023