This weekend we spent a lot of time outdoors. Brett teaching Boo about her paddle on Fontana Lake:
Bryson City Outdoors (BCO) has paddle boards you can rent right at the Finger Lake. Brett, tiny Maximus, and one of Brett’s BCO partners Ben and his dog Lager:
When Brett was about 10 feet away from shore Max jumped in and swam for it with an audience watching from shore. I’d say he’s a brave little guy…but really I think he’s more crazy.
Yesterday we hiked to Andrews Bald. The drive up 441 to get there is pretty amazing in itself (it starts at Clingman’s Dome):
It’s about a 3.8 mile hike roundtrip. A little rocky in places but a great moderate hike for almost any level if you take your time. I love the balds because you can see for miles and miles, there are no trees obstructing the view. Sometimes I can’t believe places like this exist, pretty much untouched by humans except for the narrow trails we’ve left:
Logging the hike in our “nature” journal:
I keep a journal because I’ve found that if I have the intention of writing things down I see more. My mind looks for ways to describe a place to someone else. I love this line from John Keats:
I don’t know exactly what he meant by that, but my own takeaway is that the earth is itself poetry. This place has been pretty much the same for thousands if not millions of years. It will outlive us all a million times over (unless we get sucked into a black hole filled with asteroids.)
Sometimes I’ll pick up a rock or a flower or notice a new tree or animal and wonder: What if I’d never seen this? And it starts a continuous process of looking a second time, and then a third and soon I’m pulling apart a patch of clovers to see what world lives underneath that I may have been missing. And there’s a whole world underneath.
When I was younger I wanted to be a forest ranger. At some point that dream was shifted and molded into a career path that wasn’t necessarily my own. Not that I want to be a forest ranger now, but isn’t it an odd thing how we shift our innocent, passionate young dreams into what we think will be more acceptable and secure?
All the big people are simple, as simple as the unexplored wilderness. They love the universal things that are free to everybody. Light and air and food and love and some work are enough. In the varying phases of these cheap and common things, the great lives have found their joy…so simple we are, so little we want, we are wise and will get what we want… -Carl Sandburg, in a letter to his wife
And then today I’m sitting outside with my dogs because I can’t feel good about myself if they are locked inside staring out the window. And there’s the drone of a yellow jacket hovering nearby and I’ve decided to be a little more tolerant because there must be some use for the yellow jacket right? I can’t think of one but surely there is some important task for the yellow jacket. I’ve slowed my pace of life and I wonder if it’s possible to gain momentum while simultaneously slowing down? I remember learning in school, maybe in physics, that it takes like 25 miles for an aircraft carrier to stop moving because of the force.
Anyway, onto some kind of point here. If you’ve never visited a bald…you need to. Because when you get there you’ll stand above the whole world and I think you’ll get it. And maybe you’ve felt that before. Up in those kinds of high mystical places, or maybe it was on a long stretch of white beach. My friend Jodi calls it a whoosh. I think it’s where fear and hope and reverence and joy all collide at once.
And sometimes, like poetry, you can even find little galaxies of stars there:
Barb J says
I enjoyed your post. It looks like you had a happy and creative time.
Robin Cotton says
Wonderful post ! Just got back from Cumberland. Island and your comment perfectly describes it, think it’s where fear and hope and reverence and joy all collide at once. – Love that ! And you have inspired me to go hike the. Bald ! Keep Inspiring us Ashley !
Kay Souza says
Ashley, I admire and appreciate you a great deal! You can write about things that otherwise I would have to carry in my head with no expression of them. Mountains I have explored are the Sierras in California (granite and thunder are amazing), and the Rocky Mountains in the Denver – Colorado Springs area. Look forward to your next adventure!
I heard a bird tapping on my kitchen window, a Baltimore Oriole, it turned out to be. We kept looking at each other, and it seemed to be trying to figure out what glass was, tapping on it. They have a nest in our unused grill right by that window. With all the rain, it was the safest place to have a nest! Like a very large birdhouse.
Your words and pictures capture the beauty of this special place perfectly. The mountain view shots look like they could have been taken here in New Hampshire. The mountains have always held a special place in my heart and always will. Enjoy your blessings!
I love reading about your adventures! My family and I are visiting Bryson City next month and we are so excited! We live in Florida, but each year somewhere in the mountains calls for us for vacation. If you have any other places you have not blogged about to recommend, I’d love to hear them! I have also visited the Bryson City Outdoors website so I am up to date on those adventures as well. Thanks!!
Thank you, Ashley, for sharing your heart and your thoughts and a little sliver of your life here. I find inspiration in your words – and hope for the future. Our family is healing from a tremendous loss right now – and somehow your words always help me find some peace and comfort to help along the way. You’re definitely in the place you’re supposed to be – and with your openness to God and nature, are doing the work you’ve been sent to do. I truly enjoyed looking closely at your hiking journal, marveling at the beauty.
Ashley, I have been following your blog for years and I am so enjoying reading about this phase of your life. I live near Charotte and have visited the area you live in many times. I just read Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild” and feel this strong urge to be out doors more. After losing my Mom and then my brother to cancer, I am struggling to feel peaceful. I don’t want to walk the PCT like Cheryl Strayed! I just want to try maybe a 2 day back country camping trip with my husband. He loves to hike and I love to camp! Was wondering if you have done any back country camping? If so, any recommendations on where to go in NC?