If you’re anything like me, you have a long list of things you’re interested in, many of which you hope to get around to learning or doing one day when you have time. That list can be inspiring, but it can also make you feel guilty – like you’re not doing enough. Gretchen Rubin discusses this in her popular book, The Happiness Project. In it, she asks you to consider your life and what you actually make time for right now. Those are the interests that are most important to you. This point has stayed with me since I read her book over a year ago. My answer then is the same now and would be the same five years ago or ten years ago – hiking and reading.
In our many discussions leading up to this journey, Alan and I talked about how excited we were to be able to go hiking more often than once a week. I (foolishly) thought that maybe we could go hiking every day. This might be doable if was just me and Alan, but taking Van hiking every day would be a recipe for disaster. Van loves to hike – loves it – and I don’t want to ruin it by turning it into a chore. I also spent a lot of time before we left thinking about the many books I would bring and read during our journey. We sent some ahead to Colorado to trade out when we arrive and left some with my parents in case we need a resupply when we see them in Arkansas.
Hiking and Reading. So far, it seems that we’ll have a lot of opportunity to do the former, but less opportunity to do the latter. I suppose that comes with the territory when you’re camping with a toddler.
We had our first opportunity to go hiking on this journey when we arrived in the Boone area. We were lucky enough to spend three days in a row traveling on some magnificent trails. Our first day took us to Linville Falls and Moses H. Cone Park, both on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Van spent most of the hike to the falls on Alan’s back (yelling “more, more” every time Alan would brush against leaves) and enjoyed the hike/walk along the carriage roads in Moses H. Cone Park in his stroller.
Our second day of hiking took us to the resort town of Blowing Rock. Before heading out on a hike, we went to see Blowing Rock itself, a cliff above Johns River Gorge that got its name from due to the current of air that flows upward due to the shape of the walls of the gorge so that if you throw very light objects off of Blowing Rock (emphasis on very), they’ll return to you. I tested this with some pine needles and they boomeranged right back to me. Not the same with the small pebble that fell into the gorge below.
After a picnic lunch, we set out for the Glen Burney Trail, which leaves right from the downtown of Blowing Rock. It was a great trail that followed the river and took us to the ruins of an old sewage plant from the early 1900s and to two beautiful waterfalls. Thankfully we had water for the uphill hike back – though we experienced snow just a few short days ago, it was pushing 80 during our afternoon hike.
We spent our third day of hiking at Stone Mountain. It was a bit of a drive from our home base, but it was completely worth it. We opted to do the four and a half mile loop trail, which took us up to the summit of Stone Mountain, down and around the other side by a waterfall. We unknowingly took the hard approach, climbing a steep ascent for the first one and half miles, which allowed for a much more gradual descent over the last three miles. As the signs below show, they take their warnings very seriously in this park!
While getting our feet back on the trails was exciting, the highlight of our time in the Boone area was staying with a friend who I haven’t seen since college! She and her family were kind enough to welcome us into their home and life for a couple of nights. There is nothing better than spending the evening with friends after a long day outside, especially when those friends are excellent cooks who happen to cook the kinds of foods that you love. A huge thank you to Sarah, Tom, and Carter – especially Carter who was great about sharing his toys with Van and didn’t mind having a superfan who followed him around everywhere. It was truly an honor to get to spend a few evenings together and to witness the beautiful life that they’ve created in this corner of North Carolina.