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Bob Laney

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.

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.

The weekdays of July 24 - 27, 2017, Jimmy and JoAnn Caudill led their annual campaign to paddle the wild Tuckaseegee River running near Dillsboro, southwest of Asheville, NC. Jimmy researched the water release dates and JoAnn contacted the outdoor crew. The happy travelers were Jimmy, JoAnn, John and Vickie Barker, Ricky and Beth Lovette, Jim Sebastian and yours truly.

Over the days of August 23 - 26, 2017, I went camping and hiking in Grayson Highland State Park, VA, with my hiking buddy Annelise. This Park is part of the greater Mount Rogers National Recreational Area, in the Jefferson National Forest. Mount Roger is a few miles north-west of the Park and is the highest point in Virginia. The Appalachian Trail traverses the northern edge of the Park.

On September 16, 2017, I went hiking at several sites on the Blue Ridge Parkway between Asheville, NC, and the Great Smokey Mountain National Park. My hiking buddy was Annelise. We first drove down the Blue Ridge Parkway and enjoyed many views in the clear, warm late summer air. Our first stop was at the Mount Pisgah Recreation Area. I had some hikes mapped out to explore here, but we found so many places to go that we decided to concentrate on three waterfall hikes. The helpful staff at the Mount Pisgah Lodge store gave us directions to the places we chose.

During the week and two weekends of September 29 through October 8, 2017, my buddy Paul Anderson and I went scuba diving on the Caribbean island of Bonaire, which is adjacent to Aruba and Curacao and just north of the Venezuelan coast. We were diving with David Smith and his wife Hilda who snorkeled each day. When Paul and I returned home, David and Hilda stayed another week and were joined by others of their family members for more diving. This was about my third trip to the island and 75th dive; it was about Paul's seventh visit to the island and 275th dive; and about David's twelfth trip to the island and 275th dive.

The second half of the week and weekend including October 19, 2017, I went camping and sea canoeing at Cedar Point camp ground in the Croatan National Forest and Bear Island in Hammocks Beach State Park. With me was my hiking and paddling buddy Annelise.

Most of my hiking and back packing career I have been traveling under the influence of tough hike leaders. All persons are different in all kinds of ways. A hiking or backpacking group of two or more persons is going to have someone who is faster and stronger; and someone who is slower and weaker. A tough hike leader is one who is faster, and who won’t mitigate his or her pace to accommodate the slower ones. Of course, the same dichotomy applies to any group endeavor – biking, canoeing or whatever.

On the beautiful, sunny Saturday of May 4, 2019, Deena Thomas and I took a rehabilitation hike. About two months earlier she had surgery on her foot, and I had hip joint replacement surgery. Our doctors told us to start exercising, but it will be several more months before we will be fully (hopefully) recuperated. The weekend before we walked three miles on the North Wilkesboro Greenway. Today would be our first post-operation mountain hike.

The Laurel Fork Gorge is a river valley that is traversed by the Appalachian Trail. It lies just west of where Dennis Cove Road crosses the A.T., northeast of Hampton, TN, and a few miles east of Lake Watauga. The Gorge is known for having a section of the trail that crosses a narrow rock ledge right in the edge of the water. In the course of hiking the A.T., I went through Laurel Fork Gorge quite a few times in the late 1970's and early 1980's, in several hot and cold seasons.

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