Monday, September 26, 2011

Weekend in the Mountains


It's no secret that I've been out of town almost every weekend for the last long while..I like it a lot...but this coming weekend is one of those where I have nothing planned, except for a friend's birthday party.  What am I going to do with myself?

Anyway, here are some pictures from my latest trip.  This time to I went to North Georgia to a small town outside of Helen with Anna for a wedding.  On the docket I had planned a 22 mile run on Saturday morning, but as it turns out, I didn't know the distance from where I was running and solely ran on time.  I think I ended up doing about 19-20, but it could have been a little less.  What happened?  Well, I stopped so many times to take pictures and enjoy the scenery that by the time 3½ hours had passed I just wanted to get back!

Here's what I saw.

Rehearsal dinner.  It was simply a beautiful night and weekend, it couldn't get much better...
Highway 255 just before sunrise.
Eerie fog.
More eerie fog.
Highway 17.  I noticed the sun in the road reflectors so I turned around.
Even more eerie fog.
I learned all about the industrial revolution from Tommy.
Dam it!
Helen, GA.
Moo cows.
So, I am on my way back and what do you know?  I see these two turkeys stroll out from someone's yard.  As I got closer I prepared myself to deal with the impending attack as they would surely try to peck out my eyes as they crap in my hair just before they take off.  Well, that didn't happen.  I could have caught one of these with my bare hands.  Were my friend Paul here, he could have checked one off on his life list.  Anyway, these two clowns, obviously preoccupied with with gettin' it on, had no intentions of moving...I knew where I wasn't welcome so moved on.
Cue the Marvin Gaye...
So, that's about it!
The wedding was AWESOME!
The reception was AWESOME!
The afterparty was AWESOME!
Congratulations y'all!  I'm so glad that I got to come out this weekend!  May you have many many many many happy years together!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"We're going to be in the clouds in a couple of minutes..."
"Look there goes one now!"

Middle of nowhere Tennessee
It began as an e-mail:
"Question...Have you ever been here?  Carvers Gap, Pisgah/Cherokee National Forest, Tennessee"
After about 100 more emails, talking about it, and coordinating our schedules Anna and I finally were able to find a date that worked for both of us for a weekend where two of the world's most over prepared, bring enough stuff for three weeks of camping people, could just disappear and escape everything for a few days.
WE NEED A PLAN!  OK, we planned what we were going to eat, a loose route to the Roan Mountain area, where we thought we were going to stay, and that was about it.  We had no agenda.  No time to wake up in the morning.  No definite campground.  And no specific trails that we wanted to hike.  This was almost 100% "we're going to do whatever".  And, this is our trip:

Grocery shopping and packing day.  Tons of food were purchased and only a half ton was consumed :-(  It turns out that the tremendous amounts of rain prevented us from cooking all of out meals outside which was kind of sad, but didn't stop us from having a good time.  I will be eating veggies, grilled cheese, and s'mores for the rest of the week.
There was soooo much stuff stuffed into my little car that it was crazy!

I told you we had a lot of food!

Believe it or not, we left on time!
Our trip took us through some really scenic county side where we stopped several times to check out some cool and really bizarre / surreal things.

Pattons Run - Nantahala National Forest
One thing I have become addicted to since moving south is boiled peanuts.  I needed to have them!  The funny / weird thing is that we didn't see any places the entire way up except for this place in the photo below.  So, we stopped.  We should have never stopped.  No, it was a good thing we stopped.  Wait a second, wasn't good.  Aw heck, it gave us a lot to laugh and talk about for the next couple of hours, so, yeah, it was good.  This place was really strange, the people here were strange, the stuff they were selling was strange, the conversations about murdering people were strange, the place smelled strange, the guy with the tazers was scary.  Needless to say, we skipped the boiled peanuts in an effort to stay alive.

No peanuts and no Santa either...
Next stop Asheville, NC.  I have been there once before, have a few friends that live there, and have heard all kinds of cool things about it, but it was weird as well.  This weekend Asheville played host to the LAAFF Festival, and it brought all sorts of types of people and creatures.  Most notable was the swamp thing.  Don't ask, it would never make sense, but just understand that this human was by far the scariest human (I think human) I have ever seen.  I mean, I felt like I have contracted disease from walking by him / it.  And yes I said disease...what kind?  No kind...just disease.
We stopped in a few different shops, walked through a gallery, tasted some cheese and fresh potato chips, perused the LAAFF Festival and then escaped back to reality.  Oh yeah, and check out the awesome pot helmet!
Army Anna

Finally we arrived at the Watauga Lake campground.  When I talked earlier about our loose plans I really meant it.  In TN, the campgrounds are all first-come first-serve, so we didn't know if we would even have a place to stay.  As it turned out there were two spots left and we snatched one of them up as quickly as we could and then set off to town for some more supplies.
Creepy ass building in Elizabethton, TN.
We know that there are dead bodies in is that creepy...

Mmmmm dinner...
Weenies about to be God...look at my arm!
Mmmmm looking at the stars...
There is only one way to go...creepy...

Check this breakfast out...this is camping done right!
Mmmmm food...
Hiking  around Carvers Gap is the plan...rain was not, but inevitably became part of it.  Here's some of what we saw:
We 'section hiked' Part of the AT.
Spikey trees.  They kind of remind me of the Kung Fu practice things.
The next Runner's World "Rave Run".
One of my favorite photos.
Flashback from Cali.  The "Lone Not Quite Cypress".
Christopher McCandless would know if these were edible...or would he?
Wait a second...we're really over a mile high?
Despite the clouds, it is still beautiful up here!
Cairn City.
"Oh, yeah it's a..."
OK, so we're a good ways into our hike at this point when Anna asks me "Is that a goat?"  All I could do was chuckle and laugh and say "'s a big white dog." And then I picked on her for the next 10 minutes until we got to this picture:
Yes, you too can adopt a goat.
I think this is God's way of...well it is clearly God's sense of humor.  Right after this mailbox on the trail there was a field with a "Nice" big white dog (that was nice until it tried to kill another dog some hikers were walking by with) and about 30 white goats.  In my defense you could not see the goats from where were were initially, and only upon close examination of the field did we even notice the herd.
On the way back you could really seen the goats.
"This one would be perfect!"
About the time we reached the Grassy Ridge it really started to get dark out.  Hiking thus far had been awesome with no rain and the cloud cover kept the heat down.  It was perfect, then the breeze picked of those there's a storm a brewin' breezes.  I turned to Anna and said, "We're going to be in the clouds in a couple of minutes..." Turning to my left and what do you know "Look, there goes one now!"  Literally, 50' away, 2' off the ground, about the size of an adult pig a cloud went floating by.
We decided that it would probably be best to high-tail it out of there.  A concern of mine (though I didn't mention it) was lightening.  We were on a ridge, completely exposed, and a big ol' storm was making its way toward us quickly.  In situations like these, where I know that things are actually pretty dangerous, I've found that it is often best to just lead and not freak people out by telling them why we are moving quickly.  Like 2 minutes after I decided that we were going to get the hell out of Dodge, Anna asks, "What about lightening?"  Then we decided to MOVE.  We power hiked hills, ran downhills, and when the threat seemed to have passed we just the was AWESOME!
After the rain.
Just plain moist.
After we got back to the car we drove around looking for a place to picnic.  The idea was to break out the camp stove and make some killer grilled cheese with tomato sandwiches on Asiago peppercorn bread.  That didn't happen.  It rained...hard...really hard...relentlessly hard.  When you thought it was going to stop it rained even more....a lot more...relentlessly more.
We decided to eat in the car at Roan Mountain State Park where we would have left over potato chips from Asheville, hummus, carrots & red peppers, beef jerky, and Nerds.  The rain started to let up, so I decided to take out the trash.  As soon as I got out of the car it returned...with a vengeance...with a relentless vengeance...I was wet...again...
After picking up some more supplies and returning to camp, the rain stopped enough for us to build a camp fire, cook an amazing shrimps & mixed vegetable dinner and s'mores as dessert.  Eventually I drifted off to sleep listening to the rain...
Mmmmm food...

It was time to pack up and go.  We decided that it was best to get everything broken down and loaded before it started to rain again.  We did it, but when we finished we just didn't want to make breakfast, it was time to hit the road.  Taking 321 to 411 to 75 the drive took us 7 hours to get back home.  We drove through a lot of creepy towns, saw more creepy things, experienced a lot more creepy rain, and stopped at an apple orchard where we were the YOUNGEST people by far.
One hint: Golden Delicious...ha ha ha ha!

TUESDAY (today):
I so need more weekends like this past one...