My usual tennis group, led by Paul Anderson, played three long sets of tennis yesterday evening in a steady, cold rain. We have done this type of thing before. Many times over the years, we have played in still falling (or already fallen and piled high) snow, sleet, rain, high wind, fog, bitter cold, whatever. But it is still instructive, nonetheless, to do it again. From season to season, I forget what it was like to do some difficult activity the year before. Maybe our mind erases the bad memories of prior painful events? It is good to be reminded of things, to practice again and to pay one's dues.
Ah, life. Another snow dump in the last week of February, another trek in the woods behind my cabin on the Brushy Mountain. Christopher Robin would call it the 100 acres woods - the magical place where his child's imagination can run free, and where his best friend Pooh Bear lives in a hollow tree under the name of Mr. Sanders. I call it Dr. John Bennett's semi-wilderness tract, the magical place where I can recreate and nobody lives except my friend Mother Nature.
Most tennis players go through cycles when their strokes alternately get better and worse. Unless the player intentionally and actively works on improving all his strokes, all the time, he will inevitably get in ruts where he loses confidence in certain strokes, and they will spiral down in effectiveness.
In hiking, camping and backpacking there is a constant trade-off between pieces of gear to carry. Like most things in life, there are few [if any?] perfect answers. Most of the tradeoffs deal with size, weight, functionality and dependability. The more comfortable and functional it is, then the heavier and bulkier it is. When carrying everything you need for 5 days on your back, the extra weight and size can be a deal breaker.
On the beautiful, sunny Saturday of May 25, 2019, Deena Thomas and I took a spring time trip to the Virginia Creeper Trail, a converted railroad bed in near Damascus, VA. The drive through Ashe County, NC, and Grayson County, VA, was probably the most beautiful road trip on which I have ever been in my life. Every few feet we saw and smelled blooming wild and cultivated flowers: purple Catawba rhododendron, white mountain laurel, orange flame azalea, red roses, blue wild irises, yellow dahlias and on and on.
On the Sunday of May 26, 2019, Deena Thomas and I went paddling on the South Fork of the New River in Ashe County. We took my canoe and parked at Zaloo’s Canoes Outfitters beside the river near the intersection of NC Hwy 16 with NC Hwy 88 east of Jefferson, NC. We planned to paddle down the river about 5 miles to the New River Wagoner Access State Park and then rent a shuttle from Zaloo’s for our canoe, gear and ourselves back to the parking lot.
On the soggy Saturday of June 8, 2019, Deena and I went hiking in near constant rain on the Twin Pinnacles Trail in Grayson Highlands State Park. This place is probably the most scenic, well maintained and beautiful state parks I have seen. It also has wonderfully long mountain views that unfortunately were completely blocked by the fogged in conditions.
The highest peak east of Colorado! What could be more enticing to mountain hikers? Nothing, I guess. So, on the sunny day of June 22, 2019, with thunder coming and going most of the day, bringing with it the threat of rain, Deena Thomas and Ranger Bob set out to experience Mount Mitchell’s high altitude trails. In consideration of our ages, we drove to the main parking lot near the top and took the tourist route to the tower at the tippy top. In consideration of the crowd of people, we only stayed there a few minutes. Then we drove part way back down the mountain and started the real hike along the northern ridge to Mount Craig and Big Tom Peak.
In our effort to do as many sports as possible, to aid in the recuperation from our several recent surgeries, after recently hiking, camping and canoeing, on June 29, 2019, Deena and I went biking on the Old Railroad Grade Road from Todd to Fleetwood Falls. After several years of being empty, it looked like somebody is renovating the Todd General Store. While driving to the trip start Deena’s bike slide off the roof rack and bent the rear wheel. So, we drove to the western side of town to the River Girls store which rents inner tubes, kayaks, bikes and guides trout fishing. We acquired a bike for Deena and made like horse manure. That is, we hit the trail. Get it? Hit the trail. Okay, was that not so funny?
Every summer about mid-July, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Wilkesboro conducts its Parish Retreat at the Conference Center in Valle Crucis, Watauga County. This year on July 20, 2019, Ranger Bob and Deena Thomas went for Bob’s about 25th trip and Deena’s first trip. Happily we took along Deena’s granddaughter Mileena Ruiz, age 13 years, and her grandson, Tre Ruiz, age 9 years, from Tampa, FL.