For the second year in a row, my wife and I chose to take our vacation the third week in September and to spend that time thousands of feet above our usual location down here in the Coastal Plain. Last year, we began in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and worked our way down Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway to Mount Pisgah, southwest of Asheville. This year, we headed straight to Mount Pisgah and made only short drives from our base as we sought out different hiking trails and landmarks.
Both years, we spent most of our days on hiking trails, working our way up steep slopes and through dense forests. Our rewards for these treks (nine miles or 22,000 steps in one day on three different trails) were majestic views of the mountain-ridge-rumpled horizon or waterfalls or simply the enjoyment of walking deliberately along rock-strewn paths.
This year, cloud and fogs rolled into the southern Appalachian mountains and obscured some of the sights we had wanted to see. The fog, sometimes so thick that I could not see 20 feet in front of me, even made it difficult to get to our destination, the Pisgah Inn on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Once there, the clouds obscured our view of the great vistas the inn's location provided. But the fog did not linger all day, and the sight of the sun peeking through the clouds and shining spotlights on small segments of the landscape made the views even more appealing.
During our resting moments, I managed to read two novels. But even in the mountains, with spotty cellular service and very limited Internet access, I responded to several business emails and one business phone call (taken while I was halfway up a mountain trail). Being able to keep in touch with the world is a great advantage over just a few years ago, but it has its negatives as well.
Already, we are thinking of where we should go next ... back to Shenandoah or Mount Pisgah or perhaps to some trails we've never seen at Acadia National Park or Rocky Mountain National Park, or even Yosemite. As John Muir said, "The mountains are calling, and I must go."