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Bob Laney

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.

Sometime around early winter in the late 1980's Dwayne Morrison, President of the Northwest Outing Club, planned a long weekend backpacking trip to Mount Mitchell. I went along, together with a friend of Dwayne's from Morganton. I drove my big, old Bronco with the granny gear to pick up Dwayne from his house on NC-115 south of Wilkesboro and pick up his friend from Morganton.

Bob Laney, Dan Bumgarner and Landon Alfriend (later Dunn) had the idea to go on a New River camping trip on a summer weekend in the late 1980's. Landon's boyfriend Jimmy Stevens, the president of the Northwest Outing Club and a major paddler, was not available. Dan's wife Pat was not able to participate in such strenuous outdoor adventures, and Bob's (former) wife Kimberly had a conflict.

On one of those rare, sunny days when there is literally no cloud in the sky, from horizon to horizon, my law partner Mike Cooper and I went hiking to the three state corners of North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. Both of us had been told that there is a hill nearby called Pond Mountain which has a trail to the top, and from where you can see many miles in all three states.

I'll admit it. I was spoiled. The first time in my life that I went trout fishing was the best place I have been fishing in the 27 years since.

In the summer of 1987, I was the beneficiary of a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend deal. Joe Samuel was my Wilkes County good buddy. Bill Booth was his college hall-mate. Bill had recently become my hunting and fishing mentor. Bill's next door neighbor growing up in Rutherfordton, NC, was Billy Cunningham. Billy had a job working for a Las Vegas, NV, heavy construction equipment company. The company owned a ranch in southwest Utah with a lodge for entertaining customers. The lodge had some of the best spring creek trout fishing waters out west. Billy organized a group of eight North Carolina friends to join him for a week. Thanks to Bill, I was the recipient of the tail end of that invitation chain.

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.

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