Into the Woods: Southwest NC

This fall has been one of the busiest seasons of our lives. Both Rachel and I are deeply committed on a number of levels, running on wisps of sleep and doing what we can to keep the plates spinning.

In the midst of it all, though, we were blessed to have a long weekend to ourselves (yes, her parents kept all three kids. Thanks!) to celebrate 9 years of marriage.

We got married in October at least partly because of the color scheme, capping off the wedding with a honeymoon in Downeast Maine back in 2006. Ever since, we’ve enjoyed timing our anniversary travel with peak foliage wherever we go to celebrate. We hit the weather/color jackpot again this year with a trip over to the Highlands/Cashiers area of North Carolina.

I grew up in the mountains of North Carolina, but never spent much time in the southwest corner of the state. We had plenty of opportunity to enjoy the sights there this month, though, and we hit the trail. Rachel hasn’t always shared my love of grueling hikes, but we both do enjoy being outside. She let me drag her up and down a number of hills on this jaunt, and I’m pretty sure she even enjoyed herself.

What a treat. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

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The hill behind our condo at Sapphire Valley.

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Whitewater Falls

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Several shots from Black Balsam Knob off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Rachel tells me I should just shout “Balsam” whenever I get stressed and think about this day up there.

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Graveyard Fields/Yellowstone Prong Falls is a one-in-a-million spot…unfortunately everyone knows it. We were tripping over other visitors, even on a Monday.

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We took this one from a Canoe on a rather windy lake.

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Whiteside Mountain in Highlands is something to behold. Quite a variety of terrain and views on a moderate 2.5 mile loop.

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Dry Falls on US 64.

Yep, I think I’ll keep her. =)

Into the Woods: Sitton’s Gulch

As often as I get the chance, I’m out in the woods.

Fields, forests, and mountains indulge my inner botanist, provide the peace and quiet for “active rest”, and clear my head of the  confining realities of city life. What better venue to dial down distractions and focus prayer or creative thought than a good stroll under a dense canopy?

Few would accuse me of being an “avid outdoorsman”–I fish a little and camp a bit, but generally draw the line at activities involving expensive gear or a high risk of death and dismemberment. Mostly, I enjoy walking, and the fewer people around, the better (though the kids are getting old enough that they get to tag along frequently now).

My dear wife graciously recognizes that look I get when I’ve been stuck in town for too long, and willingly takes on extra time watching the kids every so often so I can get out for a solo hike. I sing her undying praise, but she enjoys the benefits of a sane husband that come with the deal. =)

When those chances come, I’m more than a little ebullient, which often spills over in my telling everyone I see for the next few days about the trail I found. Recognizing the counterintuitive move of inviting more people to find my place of solitude, I just can’t help but share a good thing. Hopefully this can work its way into becoming a recurring feature here…we’ll see.

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