The first month that Bob Laney, Kimberly (then Laney, now Naegelen) and Leslie (then Dancy, now Greer) was with the McElwee Firm, in January 2000, the Firm sprang for an all expense paid ski trip to Big Sky, MT. I thought, I could get used to this! Is this a great law firm or what? (Then) partner (now solo attorney) Chris Lane had settled a big decedent's estate case and earned a large fee. Rather than have it all go to profit, Billy McElwee and Chris agreed to spend some of it in recreation for the attorneys and their families. Karen McElwee chose Big Sky because it was near where she was raised and it had great family appeal.
Our group was a large crowd of about eight attorneys and about ten spouses and children. Bright and early one morning we flew out of Charlotte. After arriving at the Montana airport we rode a shuttle bus to the Big Sky resort. We stayed in a hotel right beside the slope. Most of us could check the snow conditions right outside our windows.
Scott, spouse of lawyer associate Beth, was the best skier in our crowd. Several times he rode the highest lift to the top of Lone Mountain and skied down the double black diamond slope. One time he took Billy's daughter Mary Catherine's husband Brian Mendenhall with him to the top of Lone Mountain. Brian was over his head and had such a big fall that the called it a yard sale ' his gear was scattered all over the slope. Fortunately, nobody was injured.
Another lift, the next-to-highest, went to the upper east slope of Lone Mountain. This lift had huge exposure ' between some of the towers it stretched what seemed like a hundred feet above the ground. It must have been an old lift because it did not have a safety lap bar. Every time I rode it the winds pushed it around in the ski and scared the stuffing out of me. I found the lift to be worse than the single black diamond slope. On one of those high mountain runs I was in several feet of powder snow when my ski bindings broke. I had to search for about 10 minutes in the deep snow to find the part and put it back together with my Leatherman tool.
It snowed on us several times that week. I loved getting into the new powder and feeling the creamy smooth sensation of skiing on a foot of frosted air.
Billy excelled in skiing at high speeds nearly straight down the groomed slopes. He did not have much use for fresh powder or moguls, but he did not need to traverse back and forth to slow down. Billy left a wake of snow like the jet stream of an airplane. Karen and Will were also excellent skiers and spent a fair amount of time with Billy. Will's wife Lani and Kimberly were somewhat newer skiers and needed to be encouraged to stay on the slopes for very long. I personally liked to take the mid-level lifts, blues and greens, and traverse the slopes, snooping in the trees, looking for pockets of powder and unskied snow.
Near the end of the trip I found a snowshoe trail that started at the lodge and wandered out of bounds, up a small mountain, to the southwest of the main slopes. My equipment was randonee skis. That meant the binding toe was hinged and the binding heel could be clamped down for downhill skiing, or unclamped for walking uphill. To give the ski traction for going uphill, I had skins, or pieces of fabric that attached to the bottom of the ski. At the top of the mountain the skins were removed to expose the slick bottoms of the skis for normal downhill skiing.
One morning I packed a lunch and took off up the snowshoe trail. The trail had not been used since it last snowed and was covered by several feet of fresh powder. After a couple hours I made it to the top of the hill and had a great view of Lone Mountain to the northeast. I carefully removed my skis and daypack and sat down to lunch. I say 'carefully' because the deep, soft snow made it hard to keep my balance, and if I dropped something, I might not be able to find it. The run back down the trail to the lodge was a fun exercise in making swooping first track turns in fresh powder.
It was a great trip. Many thanks to Billy and Karen for making all the arrangements. Maybe if I can settle a big enough case we can do it again.
Early one winter weekend in the late 1990's, Cassie Stone decided to go biking on the Virginia Creeper Trail with her friend and employee Martha Rizoti and their myriad children. All the kids were in their early teens except for Katie Stone, who was in her late teens. Since I was familiar with the trail and knew both families, I was invited to go along as an adult leader. All the kids were excited to do anything outdoors, especially the boys. That is, all except Katie. She was being pushed to go against her will.
In November of 1998 my good friend Bill Booth invited me to join him on an elk hunting trip to the Wyoming Range in west central Wyoming. Our guide and outfitter would be Chuck Thornton. Chuck was a retired game warden from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Bill had already been on several fishing trips with Chuck in the summer with his family. This was to be Bill's first elk hunting trip. I did not want to spend that kind of money, so for a discount, I went without a gun but with fishing gear. I tagged along on the daily hunts and fished in the beaver dammed streams near camp in the evenings.
One winter day in the late 1990's, we got a good snow. I wanted to get a more natural outdoor experience than skiing laps at one of the lift served resort slopes. So I took my cross county skis to Cone Estate on the Parkway outside of Blowing Rock, NC. Cone is laced with carriage paths that make for wonderful walking in the warmer seasons. When covered with snow, the trails are perfect for cross-country skiing. Most winter days find dozens of Boone and Blowing Rock area skiers traversing the horse paths.
In late spring of 1995, my friend Ed Martin called me to go backpacking in Great Smokey Mountains National Park. Ed is like Jim Smoak, a tall, strong, rangy guy who is a natural backpacker. Ed was a Morehead Scholar at UNC Chapel Hill, which requires both brains and athleticism. He still has plenty of both. On this trip he invited about three other guys, all good buddies from First Baptist Church North Wilkesboro, which we both attended, or from Lowe's, where Ed worked.
Mike Shouse was mine and Wally Van Meter's most adventuresome buddy. He was from Louisiana. Due to some experimental medicine his mother was on while she was pregnant with Mike, he never got cavities in his teeth. He liked grand adventures, such as when he was about 18 years old, he took his father's yacht and a friend on a thousand mile cruise around the Gulf of Mexico to Central America. Or some years later he piloted a hot air balloon into the middle of the Pisgah National Forest, landed among the trees and had to hike out for miles.
On the bright, sunny, cool fall Sunday afternoon of October 23, 2016, I took a solo hike around the Boone Fork Trail in Julian Price Park, on the Blue Ridge Parkway just north of Grandfather Mountain. There were plenty of other hikers on the trails, of all ages, genders, colors, sizes and whatever.
One stormy Saturday, around the end of November, maybe in the early 1990's, I made my first double traverse day hike of Grandfather Mountain. That is, I started at the bottom of the mountain at NC Hwy 105, climbed the Profile Trail, traversed the all the peaks the length of the mountain on the Grandfather Trail, to the Swinging Bridge, then back to the Profile Trail and so to the bottom of the mountain in the same day.
Last week I wrote about hiking on the Boone Fork Trail in Price Park. I mentioned that it was a poor season for fall leaf color. Well, I was a week too early. On Sunday, October 30, 2016, I hiked on the (confusingly named) Boone Scout Trail on the east side of Grandfather Mountain. Colors were every where! Driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway from Deep Gap to Grandfather Mountain was like looking through a kaleidoscope.