Van Hook Glade, Saturday, 13 September 2014

I’m sitting in the Scion xB (A 2006 model, so it’s 8 years old) parked at the Western Carolina Farmers Market in Asheville, North Carolina. She’s out there, somewhere, in the chaos. Cars and trucks all over the place, going in all kinds of directions, people milling about.

Did I mention pure chaos and I don’t mix well? I tend to hide in the car when I can. It’s like how I love the beach, but the only beaches I can actually go to at home are the ones at Back Bay NWR, and False Cape State Park. The rest? HUMANS! AIEEE!

Humans are, and I know it, social beings. Even I have some social requirements. I may not really know what they are, but dealing with the chaos of the Farmers Market on a Saturday afternoon is not one of them. If it was, say, Tuesday morning, during a work week, when everyone was at work, and school was in session, and there were much fewer people here, I’d do better.

I’m looking forward to the 7 hour drive home. The math says we’ll get there, and all will be fine. That doesn’t mean I’m not looking forward to getting there.

I wonder how much stuff she’ll come back with? I wonder if she’ll find stuff to buy, and then drive the car around to the different places, park at them, and put a case of stuff in the car. How many eggplant does a married couple with kids all grown and out of the house need? An entire case? One of the shipping boxes they ship eggplant to the stores in?

And in 12 minutes, the Chromebook will turn itself off. And I’ll be sitting in the car. With nothing to do. Maybe I’ll bend the rules, turn on the motor, and plug-in the charger, so I can let my fingers and mind wander, and distract myself from the chaos I’m staring into. Maybe I’ll lean back and take a nap.

I don’t hate the place. Really. I don’t. It’s just too much for me to handle. I get overloaded, and end up like a little boy, holding on to mommy’s hand, going, “Don’t leave me alone in this! AIEEE!” I won’t say that, but she knows. It’s a case of I don’t know anyone around me, so I don’t know how they will react to anything. Sort of like a normal person walking into a new job for the first time. Except with me, it happens endlessly, every day, over, and over, and over, forever.

Honestly, if I could, I’d find a cave and move into it, and never come out and deal with the world. Of course, that wouldn’t work, so I keep hanging in there, trying. Look, There’s a blue Nissan Altiima to my right. A gray Toyota Forerunner to my left. Give it a minute, and things will change. A red Jeep Grand Cherokee’s next to the Nissan. It’s loading up. The mom’s cute. She’d make a daughter someone would be proud of. The dad is, well, a guy. Looks like a typical lazy bum. The daughter’s cute as a button. Aren’t they all?

AIEEE! There’s a line of vehicles coming in! AIEEE!

Please let her finish soon, so we can go home.

Van Hook Glade, Friday, 12 September 2014

It’s Friday morning, Somewhere before 0700. It’s wet outside. We had a couple of water leaks in the tent, but not many, and not bad. We’re mostly dry in here. And that’s a good thing. I’m listening to the rain as it hits the rain-fly, and to the wind as it blows through the trees, wondering, “why am I awake?”

I suspect I’ll take a nap shortly. Fig Newtons (actually, WalMart’s copy of them) are addictive. Sunrise is somewhere around 0730 ish. We woke up about 0530 hours, Pit stops. Always fun to get dressed in the tent, in the dark, get socks and shoes on, find the flashlight, and walk uphill to the camp bathhouse. Makes you appreciate home.

Pop-tarts and bananas for breakfast. Washed down by Cranberry Ginger Ale. And my daily 40 mg of Prozac. Wish I had a way to dim the display on the Chromebook. I could get double the battery life. But, it has no brightness settings or controls. I’ve looked a bunch of times. They don’t exist.

And, we’ll see how the day goes, and how much time we spend in the tent, reading, and napping.

And, it’s now 1817 hours. We just got back to the tent. Didn’t rain as much today as it was supposed to. We raided Dry Falls, Glen Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls again. We also stopped by the Highlands Botanical Gardens, although we didn’t stay there long, because the rain started. We found two grocery stores, The Mountain Fresh Grocery, and Bryson’s Grocery.

Mountain Fresh is not like any grocery store I’ve ever seen. It’s not that big, really. A typical Food Lion dwarfs it. But, it’s not really a grocery either. Yes, it has groceries. About as much as a 7-11. And it’s all high-end. It also had a wood fired brick oven pizza, fresh seafood, a butcher, a pile of olive oils and vinegars, which you can sample, and buy by the bottle, a full up food service (order your burgers, or ding near anything else), and a wine and cheese bar.

She tried the 4 flavor 20 ounce beer sampler. Got to pick the 4 flavors she wanted. I had a big cup of soda from the soda fountain. I don’t remember the beer flavors. But I had Boylan’s Black Cherry soda. Yum.

We picked up $5 of gas, ‘cause, in Highlands, gas is like $3.60 a gallon. Yeah. Yeah. I know. Everyone in Europe just said, “Gods, that’s cheap!” But if we go 38 miles East of here to Brevard, its’ $3.42 a gallon. And back in Virginia Beach, it’s $3.19 a gallon. So, we just got enough to get to Brevard.

Bryson’s grocery is a normal grocery. ‘Cept that half the back wall of the store is beer. Yeah. Half. I told her, “Well. What else you gonna do when you’re snowed in to the house in winter?” And yeah, there are houses out here that have wood burning stoves inside, huge freezers (usually a couple of them), and gigantic pantries. Because there are times when you can’t go anywhere for a couple of weeks in the winter up here. You live on a gravel road in the middle of nowhere? They ain’t sending a snowplow out. Hell, a snowplow couldn’t get down a lot of the roads out here.

Dry Falls is always fun. The trail goes right behind it. Yep. You get to look at the back side of a waterfall. If you’re averse to getting a bit damp, don’t walk behind it. But, if walking through the mist is not a problem for you, you’ll love it. It’s easy to take pictures from both sides of the fall, and fun to see a waterfall from lots of different angles.

Glen falls was fun. We were both exhausted. Especially her. Glen Falls had 3 waterfalls. The first 2 are good. The third one is nothing special. You can usually skip that one. If you go to the 3rd one, the trail from the parking lot is about a mile, and drops 700 feet. One thing to note. Glen Falls is a dangerous place. Lots of wet, slippery rocks, and very large cliffs. Stay on the trails, and don’t take the chance on getting hurt.

We went to the middle fall. When we started back, I sang the song I kept hearing in my head. Sung to the tune of Sherry Lewis and Lamb Chop’s Song That Never Ends.

This is the up that never ends.
Yes it goes up and up my friends.
Some people started climbing it
Not knowing what it was.
Now they’ll be climbing it forever just because….

And repeat. Forever.

The woman that caught up to us, and passed us on the trail while I was singing that nearly choked, she laughed so hard.

Pat wanted specific pictures at Bridal Veil Falls. With me under the falls. So, she took three. One is showing the full size of the falls, with a little me standing there. The other shows me waving, and the third has me sticking my hand under the very edge of the fall, just enough to get some water on it. No, I did not step under the fall. That would be suicidal. I stood at the edge of the road, and reached as far as I could.

Yeah. I’ll have to post those three pictures, I suppose.

Dinner tonight was calzones from Brick Oven Pizza. We were hungry. It was good, not great, but good. And for Highlands, it was dirt cheap.

And here we are, once more, at Van Hook Glade. Hiding in the tent. She’s reading her Kindle, I’m writing this on my Chromebook. Got over half the battery charge left. Turning off the WiFi does help extend the battery life. But only so much. 90% of the power use of this thing now is the display. Which I can’t dim.

Ah. Another night of sleeping to the sound of rain striking the rain fly on the tent. Take that, cabin camping. Take that hotel life. You can’t get this kind of experience any other way. Yeah, I know. It’s not for everyone. But, if you can deal with having to get up in the middle of the night, get dressed, and walk uphill to the bath house, to make a middle of the night pit stop, you might be able to do this.

And $30 a night beats the cost of any hotel. Gets even cheaper when you cook your own food at the campsite. Just heard an owl. And tonight, as the sun sets, the frogs, and crickets, and all the rest will come out, and we’ll be serenaded to sleep.

Tomorrow, we break camp, and head home. We’re planning to stop in Asheville, at the Farmer’s Market, and then for lunch at Apollo’s Flame (It’s a Greek place). Then, we drive all the way home. Saturday night, we sleep at home. And Sunday morning, we see if we can move at all.

Nighty-night, everyone.

Mark.

Van Hook Glade, Thursday, 11 September 2014

Today was fun. She let me sleep in until after 0700 hours. We had Souvlaki with sautéed vegetables for breakfast. We fixed it burrito style. We were supposed to have it for dinner last night, but we didn’t get here until after dark, so, she changed the plan. She had coffee for breakfast. I had White Hot Chocolate.

Did I mention I love camping with her. Because I get to spend oceans of time with her. 🙂

We started at Gorges State Park (North Carolina, remember), where we took the 3+ mile out and back trail to Rainbow Falls. We both took oceans of pictures. She told me it’s 125 feet tall. “Think of it as a 12 story building.”

We took lots of pictures of wildflowers tool. They had plenty of them. Lots of different kinds. Don’t ask me what kind. I’ll answer, “purple. white, yellow, orange, blue, pink”, and if there was more than one kind of purple, “2 kinds of purple”. I don’t know what kind. We got shots of bees (all kinds of bees, as in more than one kind, and more than one size). And shots of a couple of butterflies. The butterflies may not have turned out so good.

After that hike, we raided Ingles in Cashiers, NC, where we bought bananas, peanut butter, a 2 liter Diet Cherry 7-Up, a 2 liter Cranberry Canada Dry Ginger Ale, a bottle of vegetable juice (like V-8, but the Ingles brand). I’ve had a good ⅔ of the Ginger Ale. Hey, after all the walking, I was thirsty!

Then we went to Silver Run Falls, and took another ocean of pictures. They call it Silver Run, ‘cause there are oceans of silver-colored flakes of Mica all over the rocks, the ground, and anything else it can stick to. It’s a very popular swimming hole. But, everyone was at work, or at school, so we had it to ourselves most of the time we were there.

Lastly was the crazy person trip to Chattooga Pot Holes. Somewhere in the Pisgah National Forest. Or maybe it’s the Nantahala. I can’t really remember. You take a nice road out of Cashiers, turn right on a paved two lane road that’s a bit skinny in places, and has lots of hills. Then the pavement runs out, and it’s a dirt and gravel road. After a bit, you turn left on a road into the National Forest, which is also a dirt and gravel road. Eventually, you reach a bridge.

I’m betting the bridge would terrify some of you. But, it’s rated for 31 tons. So, it’s perfectly safe. The Forest Service takes good care of things.

You park on the far side of the bridge, and take pictures of the potholes from the bridge, and from the side of the river.

The potholes are interesting. Some of them could swallow a small car. They’re round, like circle round. Carved by water into the granite and sandstone rocks. Water swirls around in the potholes.

Then, it was back to camp for chilli-cheese dogs, nice, hot showers, and crashing in the tent.

And so, Day 2 of the excursion comes to an end. We’ll see what day 3 brings. The weather says, “rain, and lots of it”.

Now, it’s getting dark. And she’ll tell you, “When I take you out into the woods, when it gets dark, you climb into bed, and sleep.” Yes, I do. Yes, I do.

Van Hook Glade, Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Well. It’s 2116 hours as I start this little missive. It’s pitch dark here. No. I mean, WOW is it ever dark here. As in, my feet are in white socks, and I can’t see them. Yep. It’s that dark.

We are at Van Hook Glade Campground, in Highlands, North Carolina. We drove here today. Her alarm went off at 0345 hours this morning, and at 0430 hours, we were in the Scion xB, and heading out. We stopped at Caesars Head State Park, South Carolina, and made the 2+ mile hike to Raven Cliff Falls overlook. The trails are somewhat washed out now, so the only safe viewing area is from the overlook. And that’s like a mile from the falls. But, we got reasonably good pictures. I’m happy with them.

I took a bunch of experimental pictures. Playing with light and tree leaves. It was dark enough in the woods I had to push the camera to 3200 ISO. Never had to do that before.

We’re in the tent. I’m thinking I’ll turn the Chromebook off in a few minutes, and pass out for the night. She takes me camping, or to a mountain lodge somewhere, and I revert to pre-historic state, and go to sleep when it gets dark, and wake up when it gets light.

Coming down 85, through North Carolina, I think every county sherrif’s car was on patrol. Along with all the state troopers. We saw one every few miles. Hint. Don’t drive stupid in North Carolina.

Dinner? Yes, we had dinner. We each had half a Subway sub. She washed hers down with a coffee mug of Sangria. I washed mine down with an 8 oz. Mike’s Hard Smashed Apple Cider. Now, I shall turn off the Chromebook, and see how long it takes for the crickets, frogs, birds, and all the other wildlife to serenade me to sleep.

And tomorrow, we try to get pictures of waterfalls. 🙂

Mark.