This has been the warmest fall season that I can remember. Here it is the day after Thanksgiving on November 25, 2016, and we still have trees with full fall leaf color on the south sides of the mountains and in the piedmont. To burn off some of the turkey and dressing calories that I stuffed myself with yesterday from Terri's and Heather's delicious cooking, I took a hike in Doughton Park.
In September of the year that my daughter Allison turned one year old in October, my good friend and across the street neighbor Chris Carter and I took a backpacking trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. Since we had more time than money, we skipped the airplane and rental car and drove Chris's pickup truck. The trip included many firsts for me - an out of state road trip, seeing the far west and planning a week-long outdoor adventure.
One fine spring weekend in the mid-1980's, my good friend and Highland Park neighbor Chris Carter and I took a fishing trip to Slickrock Creek Wilderness. The wilderness is a little known component of the Nantahala National Forest, south of the Great Smokey Mountain National Park, on the North Carolina - Tennessee border. It is adjacent to the west of the better known Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest. Kilmer is famous for having one of the very few pockets of original, uncut virgin timber east of the Mississippi River.
The weather report called for temperatures in the low 30's and light rain. I awoke in the trail shelter Sunday morning to several inches of snow! The weekend of December 3 - 4, 2016, I went backpacking in Grayson Highland State Park, VA. The Park is part of the Virginia Highlands Recreation Area, and contains the highest mountain in VA. The trail started at the backpacker's parking lot on the driveway to the main front country camp ground, called the Appalachia Spur Trail, It went up hill to the east of the main trail in Massie Gap and joined the Appalachian Trail on Wilburn Ridge just northeast of Massie Gap.
On New Year's weekend between 2016 and 2017 I went winter backpacking in Doughton Park. Terri and I did not miss any big parties because of our habit of going to bed about 8 p.m. most evenings. I had been backpacking a month earlier in Grayson Highland State Park, VA, and was a little unprepared when I was surprised by several inches of snow. I planned this trip to practice my winter camping techniques, and to use some cold weather gear that rarely sees any action.
The Saturday of April 15, 2017, I took a hike on Grandfather Mountain. The goal was to enjoy the warm spring weather, see all the beautiful dogwoods and other flowering trees along the road and mingle with lots of other people on the trails. Today I saw an abnormally large number of really small children. Most were hiking bravely. A few were pouting and needing some parental encouragement. As usually happens, I got to play Ranger Bob by answering questions and giving trail directions to a couple from Ohio who were somewhat turned around and mostly lost.05/27/2017
The Saturday of May 27, 2017, some lawyer buddies and I took a paddling trip on the New River in Ashe County. My partner Mike Cooper, Drew Willardson and his Maryland lawyer buddy Justin canoed and kayaked from Zaloo's Canoes just south of NC Hwy 88 north about 6 miles to the Wagner Access New River State Park.06/18/2017
The Sunday of June 18, 2017 [Father's Day!], I followed up on my trip announcement in Blue Ridge Outings to lead a group of hikers to Roan Mountain, TN, to participate in the Rhododendron Festival. The festival is an annual event organized by the Tennessee Roan Mountain State Park to promote the peak season for native rhododendrons, flame azaleas and mountain laurels. These flowers grow in wild profusion at the top of the mountain and all over the surrounding hills.07/04/2017
The long weekend before and including July 4, 2017, the Laney clan held their annual family reunion at the three cabins that the family owns in Watauga County. One cabin on Shulls Mill Road was purchased by my parents from a local farmer in 1952 and is the main gathering place which we call 'Hope.' It was truly a mountain shack, with no running water, limited electricity and only a wood stove in the living room for heat. Growing up there in the summers, us kids loved hauling fresh, cold water from the spring down the hill; and going to the bathroom in the outhouse up the hill. That shack burned down in about 1977 and was rebuilt as a more modern house in the 1990's.07/23/2017
On Sunday of July 23, 2017, I went hiking and picnicking on Mount Mitchell with my hiking buddy Annelise. We started at the main peak parking lot and hiked up the short trail to the observation tower at the top of the mountain at 6,684 feet altitude. The air was cool and a little thin, so we felt the difference in the atmosphere as we hiked.