We got our first rural treat tonight – we went grocery shopping at Ingles. For those who don’t know, Ingles is the Publix of the rural South. Our cashier was very nice and was astonishingly pretty even without comparing her to the 2-ton locals roaming the aisles.
When we approached for checkout, we got to talking, and after some discussion, I revealed that we Floridians don’t have an Ingles but instead have Publix. “My!” she exclaimed, “I ain’t never been somewhere that didn’t have an Ingles!! Wow…!” Not a world traveler, we suppose.
On the way home we saw our first wild animal: a fox. No, reverse. I take that back. It was only a house cat. Ah, maybe next time.
Day Two – Sunday
Well, ok – we didn’t technically go to church. Up here, you have to choose: snake handling or fire and brimstone. So Mike and I slept in and had our own devotional time together on the deck, overlooking the mountains, and eating eggs and muffins. Perfection.
- This is why they call them the “BLUE Ridge Mountains”
Later we went to one of my favorite trails – Roan Mountain. It has an overlook at the peak which grants a glorious view of the valley below and mountains across the way. The panorama is stunning. It was COLD if you can believe it – in late June, I was wearing a sweatshirt while hiking!
Next stop: Frisbee golf! Mike found three courses up here for us to play and this was one of them. Only nine holes, and relatively tree-free. Which is too bad, because I need the trees to use as a scapegoat for my lack of skill and my high score. Rain from the previous trail followed us and, after a brief hideout under a clump of trees, we finished the course while bubbles of water squished inside our drenched sneakers.
Day Three – Monday
Have I mentioned yet that the cabin has no air conditioning? No need. We sleep with the windows open and awaken to the sun rising over the mountains and birds singing their morning tunes. At night, we actually need light blankets because the temperature drops significantly. Sometimes I will awaken in the middle of the night and hear the leaves rustling in the breeze. You can see the stars here.
In the interest of decorum and discretion, I’ll shorten the next portion of today’s story to only say that what I thought was a bladder infection was diagnosed by the Marion County Rural Health Clinic as – count them – two (non UTI) infections for which I need prescription medication. Boo…
The afternoon was spent with me at the helm of a golf cart, reading a good book (not while driving, of course!) while Mike played “real” golf. It is a beautiful course, with a local husky who followed us with his one brown eye and one blue eye. He was a welcome companion at a time when I would be tempted to really miss Bailey.
Over dinner, Grandma entertained us with tales of Grandpa’s mother and family. A bunch of crazies, that lot. I hope it’s not hereditary…
Day Four – Tuesday
There is one large boulder very close to the falls where my and many other families have often climbed to and sat while feeling the water’s spray lightly hit their skin. I slept on this rock for about 20 minutes today while Mike explored downstream. Only on vacation can one nap on a rock. The rock is smooth from years of hands rubbing its surface and bottoms sliding this way and that to find a comfortable spot. I love that rock.
After a brief picnic in the back of the truck, we drove to Blowing Rock for – what else? Kilwin’s Chocolate and Ice Cream! For those who don’t know about Kilwin’s, well – shame on you. That’s all I have to say about that.
We roamed the quaint shops on the main drag and refreshed ourselves with an ice cream cone for Mike and a slice of “chocolate cappuccino fudge” for me. One of the shops on this street used to have two huskies who slept on its floor and greeted customers with a negligible and very lazy head turn from their worn spot on the floor, and accepted children’s sticky petting as part of a day’s work. I went back to the shop in search of the dogs and did not find them. Not once were the dogs missing from that floor in all the time I’ve come to North Carolina. Sadly, I wondered if they grew up like me… I didn’t inquire with the shopkeeper since their absence probably only means one thing, and that one thing probably saddens the owner a great deal.
Speaking of animals, we drove past “Gypsy’s field,” a meadow where, at the age of 10-ish, I and my family drove by as a foal was being born and then as she took her first wobbly steps. We named the foal “Gypsy” for reasons I have, by now, forgotten. Gypsy is long gone now (to where, I don’t know) but today there were two horses standing by the fence. I asked Mike to stop the truck and I got out to pet them and say hello. They are, after all, probably relatives of Gypsy’s and I didn’t want to be rude. Mike stayed in the truck wondering if what I was doing was safe. Probably not, but I still have all ten fingers – no harm, no foal (malapropism intended).
Another day, another dinner with Grandma. She’s good company, that lady. Last night, she played classics on the piano while Mike and I listened, and I was transported to my childhood when Robbie and I would spin in circles “dancing” to the songs that she and my other grandma played for us. Scott Joplin is my favorite.
Day Five – Wednesday
Today we hiked Upper Creek Falls and rock-climbed our way upstream to find several smaller falls which led to the main falls. At one point, the only thing between the sharp rocks below and myself on the 80 degree incline was my death grip on some sturdy roots and rhodadendrum trunks. Using my newly formed bicep muscles, I pulled myself to the safety of the cliff above. I’m serious! It was such a thrill!
I crawled out on a boulder to get this picture. Notice the sunbathers at the top edge…
After that hike, we didn’t have the energy for another trail and opted instead to head home, stopping by a local Orchard on the way. We toured the marmalades, bee hive, and local artisan showcase and then headed home.
Boone, a one-hour drive from the cabin, is home to the “Dan’l Boone Inn” restaurant – an all-you-can-eat (but they bring it to the table) country-cooking, historical house that serves yummy Southern food. The servers dress in period attire, which seems to be universally unflattering.
After we stuffed ourselves, we went to see “Get Smart” at the local theater (since there is no theater in the town where our cabin is located). We didn’t return home until 1:00am. Whew!
Day Six – Thursday
Mike and I have been working out at our local gym now for many months. Having dropped 15 pounds myself, and almost 30 for Mike, we wanted to hike a challenging trail. We picked a 5-mile “moderately strenuous” mountain trail which took us across several creeks, down a ladder between huge boulders, and up and down along a beautiful cascading river. We not only did it in about 2 hours, but we jogged part of the last mile. Yeah, that’s right. Feel the burn.
And hey, we were only 10 minutes from Kilwin’s! It would be a travesty not to stop. So stop we did. Eating ice cream on a park bench in 75 degree weather in July is pretty awesome.
The 5-mile hike was just not enough, so we went to a lake and rented a canoe. We paddled for about an hour and took in beautiful views of the lake with a backdrop of the very BLUE blue ridge mountains.
All day, Mike and I had an ongoing bet about whether the cabin is brown or green. I won, of course, since he’s color blind. As I type this, I am sore from a long, hard, good day so off I go to get my 30-minute massage!!
Day Seven – Friday (Independence Day)
Grandma’s close-knit neighborhood had a 4th of July Homeowner’s Association picnic today, to which we were invited. This tiny community is FULL of Seminoles! Mike and I both wore FSU shirts with jeans (red and blue – it’s patriotic!) and we were greeted several times with the Seminole chop. A great bunch of people, we met one woman – Anna Wood – who went to school with Mike’s dad/siblings (and probably my mom) and a man whose daughter works for the College Board in Reston, VA. Small world…
After the picnic, Mike and I went horseback riding and now have very sore tushes. The guide took us on a trail which crosses rivers, where we let the horses drink. My horse’s name was Moses but there was no parting of the waters for him, just clomping and splashing across.
Tonight we invited my “first cousin, once removed” and his wife over for dinner. Bill and Claudia are spunky and funny people. They brought along Claudia’s 90 year old mother, Eloise, who asked me at least 7 times where I was from.
Day Eight – Saturday
We tried to hike Crabtree falls today because we couldn’t do it in November. Foiled again! We arrived at the trailhead only to have a ranger inform us that our back right tire was flat. After Mike fixed it and I finally found a mechanic who was open on a Saturday in Hicksville, it was raining too hard to hike the trail.
So we drove on the spare to Walmart and spent 2 hours roaming the store while waiting on the fix. Walmart has some very interesting stuff!
With little left to our day, we used up the last hour or so by roaming an old “Used and Rare Books Shop” in downtown historic Little Switzerland. It is a favorite of mine from childhood, and they have since expanded. Three stories of cobwebby shelves including a basement with a grate in the floor that shows a creek that runs underneath the house. I could have spent hours in there, exploring the thousands of books, but I asked Mike to drag me out before I moved in.
Day Nine – Sunday
Last day. 😦 Well, yesterday was more like our last day because today we left North Carolina at 8:15 A.M. and drove home to greet a very happy dog. His “Uncle Michael and Aunt Jill” took good care of him while “Uncle Stephen” was gone, and they even bought him some rawhides! They spoil the little guy…
It feels good to be home again.