Every October we dust off our hiking gear and with much anticipation prepare to go on a hike with a great group of guys. Mostly guys that Greg knows from work. Some of the wives come along too. :) We aim for early October because the weather is still nice and you get the beautiful fall color in the mountains.
This year, there are 8 of us and I am not the only girl this time - hooray! Phillip planned a great hike in Panther Town Valley on the edge of Nantahala National Forest in Brevard (The land of waterfalls). We had the best time and really loved being out of the world for a couple of days and out in the beauty God created for us to enjoy. Of course none of this would have been possible without Greg's parents watching the kids (Thank you, thank you!). The kids had a great time hanging out with Grandma and Grandpa at their house and at Tweetsie Railroad! Toot-toot!
Drove to Brevard and up Cold Mountain (Yes, the setting of the book!) left the cars near the entrance to Panther Town National Forest and hiked a couple of miles in to the gorgeous School House Falls. We were able to walk behind the falls as well which was really neat. The weather is perfect...so far (rain expected). The leaves are beautiful even though the colors are not quite at their peak. After hanging out at the falls for a while, we hiked another 30 minutes and found a great spot to camp in a grove of white pines. Robbie, Greg and I set up the same claustrophobic, 3 man tent that we shared last year. Good times :) Then we ate dinner (Subway from down the road earlier and soup heated on the propane stove). After that we hung up the food bag, A.K.A. bear pinata, and sat around chatting. Paul suggested a game of cards and we were just getting started when it started raining pretty hard. So it is 9:00 pm and we are tent bound. Rob says he wishes he was watching Ghost Hunters on his ipod which he left in the car. Greg said he wished he was laying in a tent listening to the rain. lol. I think it is a pretty good time too. We were all pretty tired so it didn't take long for the rain to lull us to sleep.
I slept pretty good last night. Lost my camping pillow half-way through the night and couldn't find it in the dark so I used my jacket instead. It rained off and on all night but we stayed dry!
It is a lovely fall morning! For breakfast we made blueberry granola and hot chocolate and then packed up and hiked around the back of Cold Mountain to lovely Warden Falls. After that we crossed Sassafras Gap and had some lunch, (PB&J!). We got rained on for a little while but it stopped as soon as we got our rain gear on of course. :) Next we climbed the aptly named Sassafras Mountain. We saw sassafras growing everywhere. Rob pointed it out and we dug up some of the roots and shaved off the bark. The roots totally smell like rootbeer! It actually used to be an ingredient in root beer until it was banned by the FDA in 1960 because it caused liver damage in laboratory animals. I read that on Wikipedia after I got home and after Greg and I had chewed on some for at least an hour. lol. Anyway, just hiking with it in our hands and smelling it made us ridiculously happy and it reminded Greg of when he was a little boy.
The trails here are not blazed and there are so many side trails and old logging roads that getting around can be a little confusing. We also figured out that we were using an old map but we have managed to find our way around and after a couple of wrong turns we made it to two different beautiful overlooks. After that we reached a large stream and had to take of our boots to wade across and get to the shelter we are camping in tonight. The water was freezing but it felt great on our tired feet! The shelter we are staying in is a large, well built, A-frame shelter. We set up our tents in the shelter because there was plenty of room and it offered added protection and warmth and because we didn't want mice to crawl on us. :)
Greg was kind enough to get dinner going while a few of us walked down to the river to check out some pretty little falls in the beautiful gloaming light. Then back to the shelter while the sun put on a spectacular setting.
Dinner tonight was dehydrated teriyaki chicken (so good!) and a snickers bar for dessert. Snickers bars are the best food I have ever tasted when I am hiking. I love them! I wish I brought more. I brought 4. hahaha.
After dinner we wanted to make a fire, but the wood was too wet. We found a bag of tea-light candles someone left in the shelter (trail magic!) and Phillip lit them all around the shelter and it felt like Christmas. :) We visited for a little while but everyone was too tired to continue our game of cards so we called it a night. Greg walked around blowing out the candles in the shelter and told us later that he felt like he was tucking in all of his children (everyone in the shelter) on Christmas Eve. There were probably 25 little candles to blow out. In the tent Rob said "It does feel like Christmas because I can't sleep, except there is nothing in the morning to look forward to." That cracked us up! I think we are all a little sore this evening and we are sleeping on a wooden floor tonight which actually feels harder than the ground. Rob's good knee has been bothering him and James' ankles are bothering him but they have been troopers!! Also tonight we couldn't stop laughing because there were so many people around us snoring in different octaves. It was like a snoring symphony. One person's snore had the intonation of a question every time. It was hilarious. Rob and Greg put in ear plugs and I had to try really hard to think about something else and finally sleep came.
Oatmeal for breakfast and then a 3-4 mile hike down the mountain. Everyone is getting excited for a giant chinese buffet for lunch! We heard about it from several other people who have been to this area. But first! Lots of pretty scenery and a detour to two other waterfalls. At one point on the trail today there was a lot of micah and other shiny rocks that made the trail look like it glittered. It was so pretty! At another point there was a stream that flowed parallel to us on the same rock we were walking on and that was very beautiful too. I think the next falls we hiked to were called pothole falls. They were awesome and they were not the easiest to get to. Getting up close to a waterfall is such a different, powerful feeling. It is hard to explain. It's like you can feel the energy of it and it makes your chest expand. Other neat things we saw today: a very interesting spider, fuzzy yellow caterpillar, bright orange salamander, green salamanders, a mushroom that looked like an apple pie (I wish!), and some neat areas that would be great to take the kids back to. Shallow pools near a fall that they could splash around in in the summer time. :)
Chinese Buffet here we come!