One weekend in the middle of July, 2004, the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church trekked to the idyllic, pastoral conference center in Valle Cruces, Watauga County, for their annual retreat.
The meals were the usual delicious, filling, home cooked fare prepared by the center dining hall staff. Both nights we drifted off to sleep with the cool mountain breezes wafting through the screens of all the open doors and windows, filling the old-fashioned, tall-ceilinged, heart pine-paneled rooms with blissful somnolence.
Saturday morning we were regaled by an entertaining and historical lecture on labyrinths and bagpipes - including anecdotes quoted second hand from the Queen of England’s official palace piper. Then we went to the labyrinth in the meadow. [Note to self – the lodge director told me that the creek in the meadow beyond the garden is not accessible to the public, but is stocked by the NC Wildlife Dept. with trout – some of whom have grown fat in the cold, clear pools. Hhmmmm…..]
Then we were off the trails. Yours truly was tapped to lead the Saturday hike. Joining us were Jim Smoak, Chuck Forester, Bob Boettger, Ray and Cassie Stone and Gary and Becky Doran. We traversed the Watauga River Valley and Boone Fork Ridge to the eastern flank of Grandfather Mountain. The Tanawha Trail (a Cherokee word meaning “feather”) parallels the Blue Ridge Parkway. We started at the Rough Ridge parking area and ended at the Viaduct visitor center.
After a brisk climb of several hundred feet altitude in the first mile of the trail, we ate a sack lunch on the exposed rocks at the top of Rough Ridge. Even though WE were the Episcopalians, another group of two couples who professed to be Baptists brought and shared the white wine!
Continuing the hike south on the Tanawha Trail, we passed the headwaters of Wilson Creek. A couple dozen miles downstream this creek forms the famous trout fishing, rock climbing, canoeing and kayaking mecca in the Pisgah National Forest west of Lenoir. We finished the trip by hiking under the Viaduct. Naturally, we made it back to the lodge for happy hour and an excellent lasagna supper.
Saturday evening the group played some parlor games. The winners of Balderdash were Trent Moore and Mark Stone. The answers in Balderdash are so remote and obtuse as to be nearly impossible to know. Getting one correct is not even part of the game. The point is to make up fake answers and try to bluff the other players. But…I managed to get one factually correct answer. The winners of the Hand and Foot card game were Don Curley, Bob Boettger (undoubtedly assisted by Jane) and Jim Andrews (undoubtedly assisted by Rose).
The dates for the next year’s retreat are usually known a year in advance, so there is no excuse for having a conflict. Mark your calendars now!