Monday, October 6, 2008

Sam's Knob Backpack

Ah, cooling, crisp, aquamarine-skied Autumn. October is absolutely my favorite month in the North Carolina mountains. The summer humidity has retreated, the skies are clear, mornings are foggy and icy, and the landscape turns all shades of fire.

Our little town of Brevard is filling up with tourists once again: they come in droves (and minivans and SUVs bearing Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina tags) to take in Fall in the mountains. And even when they drive exceedingly slow and block traffic because they have no clue where they're going and refuse to pull over to find out, I'm happy they're here. In these increasingly sad economic times, they bring sustenance to our local businesses. (Now, if they could only increase the number of students attending Brevard College, I'd have a job next semester.)

I spent most of the weekend with three fabulous friends--Erin McManus, Mike La Voie and Liddell Shannon (plus dogs Finn and Scout)--in Pisgah National Forest, up above the Blue Ridge Parkway at an area called Sam's Knob. The colors were incredible, and will surely be peaking at that elevation by next weekend (Note to leaf-watchers headed to the area). We hiked out on Saturday--our packs overflowing with a ridiculous amount of food and adult beverages--to celebrate Erin's 32nd birthday in the woods. We secured a prime campsite along rocky, gurgling Laurel Creek, built a fire, and enjoyed Mike's fabulous cooking: cheese, proscuitto and fresh bread appetizer, wine, beer, and pasta with red sauce and shrimp.

We told ghost stories (and some real ones) around the campfire, checked out the stars and settled in. Were interrupted rudely in the early AM by a couple of drunk guys who stumbled through our campsite and fired their headlamps into our tents. At the dogs' growling, they departed--but not before they poked and prodded at our bear bags full of food and trash. Punks.

Early the next morning (because my dog is like an antsy two year-old) I woke and took a solo walk down the trail in the frost, breath fogging in front of my face. The woods were silent, the creek bubbling, and ice magically coated everything, turning the earth crystal in the rising sun. I breathed in the cold, fresh air, and thanked the Divine for all of it.

Now it's time to return to the world of grading papers, trying to write a second, better novel, and attempting to better and enjoy my home and family. The most reassuring aspect of it all is that I can return to Sam's Knob and the forest just about any time I want. Such is the glory of living here. Again, I say, "Ah."

(Photos graciously supplied by Ms. Liddell Shannon.)