Day 191

The cold has taken its toll on my truck. I mean to leave in the morning, but find that the battery has died during the last few days. Eventually AAA comes to jump me, but I end up leaving much later than I had intended.
By the time I get to my first destination for the day it is already late afternoon, and I know this will be the only place I will be stopping today. It is a location I have been to many times before, Whitewater Falls North Carolina. A pull-off to a parking lot and then a short hike leads to an overlook where a family is posing for snapshots. They don’t step aside from the view, so I decide I may as well hike the path that descends to the falls.
The trail has barely changed over the years since I was here last. The woods are quiet, aside from the subtle roar of the river below. I see no other people after the overlook, no creatures or birds either. It is cold here, and colder as I make my way lower.
At the river I am glad that I wasn’t able to look from the overlook, for the view here is so amazing. The days of freezing cold have turned the river into a beautiful flowing ice sculpture. The falls are frozen in place, shimmering brightly in the late afternoon sun. It is not completely frozen of course, large sections are still flowing rapidly, churning with chunks of ice. I clamber over rocks along the river bank, and make my way to the foot of the falls, where I linger as long as I can listening to the roar of nature and feeling the cold icy mist on my face.

Days 189-190

A weekend spent at my mothers. She cooks things I like, and we go thrift shopping and talk about family and grace and such. It is time well spent. The world outside is freezing, and I am glad of the warmth here.

Day 188

I arrived at my mothers house last night, and when she asked what I wanted to do first I replied “I thought we were doing Table Rock? Isn’t that why I’m here?” Which immediately set her into making plans and getting excited about the hike. The hike to the summit of Table Rock is one that I went on more than a few times as a teenager, and it brings back memories of my family and wintry days spent in the woods.
Today is another of those wintry days, spent with family. My younger sister was loathe to come, and is none to pleased at the prospect of spending the day here. My mother and stepfather however, couldn’t be more happy about this hike. I try to cheer up my sister, pointing out icicles along the small creek, and the needle ice in the shadows at the edge of the path.
Like many of the places I have been to recently, other places from my past, I feel as though I am walking through a dream, an old memory. The rocks and trees are familiar, the shelter where we eat lunch the same as it was years ago. I have been here before on days like this, but the me I was then is not the me I am now. I perceive things differently, see the spaces with eyes that have seen much more. Years of painting, of examining my surroundings with the artist’s eye let me see this place in a new light, which is strange because it looks the same it does in my memory. There are subtle differences of course, places where rocks have shifted, trees that have fallen. Many of the pines are dead, killed by some sort of beetles according to my mother. We talk about the changing forest as we eat lunch in an old shelter built decades ago by the CCC.
As we munch on sandwiches and hummus small groups of young people trickle by. We all take note of the average age of visitors today. As I’ve traveled the country I’ve noticed that most of the hikers I’ve seen on trails have been older, people in their 40s and up. Today however it seems everyone is in their early 20s. And boy are they loud as they walk. I suppose I take it for granted that the forest is a place of quiet introspection, and I certainly feel old as I grumble on about the youths and their babbling ways.
As we make our way to the top we pass sheets of ice with water flowing beneath it. The water slips by as dark spots, like shadowy spirits sneaking past. They gurgle as they go, and for a moment I am able to forget the ceaseless chatter of the other hikers here. There are small clearings up here, and I wander away from my family for a while, looking at the lichen growing on the rocks and the short twisted trees that struggle to survive here. The voices fade away and the only noise becomes that of the water spirits slinking past on their icy paths. I stay awhile and listen to the world.
I meet back up with my mother, and we make out way to the end of the trail, where we snack a bit more and I take pictures of family enjoying the wilds. The day winds down as we make our way back to the car and ultimately to my mothers house, where I will spend an evening reminiscing and sharing stories.