Ross's jack-o'-lantern was a large eyeball. The squirrels in our yard love pumpkins. By late afternoon on November 1, they had eaten the iris part - leaving a large hole. This morning, I was able to take this photo of a squirrel having breakfast.
Saturday, we returned from our two week vacation. While we were on vacation, we only got on the internet long enough to check Ray's Weather Forecast for the Blowing Rock area. Cell phone reception at the house was very bad. Even the hikes were less populated than in a usual year. Because of the government shutdown, all of the National Parks on the Blue Ridge Parkway were closed.
Not prohibited, just closed...
...which means that there was a longer walk in to the trails from where the car is parked by the side of the road. Only the really dedicated hikers did so, which made for much quieter trails.
We didn't do much shopping this year either. Since we planned better, we had fewer grocery trips. Two days before our vacation ended, it was a very foggy, dreary day. That was the only day we shopped for fun. Dear husband and I went to just a few of our favorite stores in Blowing Rock,* but then we were talked out and headed back to the house for a quiet afternoon before another walk at the Cone Lake. We walked at the Cone Lake almost every evening.
Not that it was a totally quiet vacation. We brought lots of music, old and new. We had long conversations after meals, and on hikes, and while watching sunsets at the Cone Lake.
We read lots of books.
Yesterday, I mentioned to the guys that we had a very introverted vacation. Younger son replied that it wouldn't be a vacation otherwise.
Mary Chapin Carpenter's song was unfamiliar to me before vacation. Now, I know almost all of the words, and I can hear the guitar accompaniment in my head when the room is silent.** It goes along with who I am and with my trying to accept that (more on that in tomorrow's post).
I have a need/For cool verdant spaces/Beneath the trees/Secret empty places
It was wonderful to spend all that time on vacation out in the woods. We hike every day when we're in the mountains on vacation - whether we need shorts & t-shirts, rain jackets, or winter coats. I haven't spent that kind of time outside this year, and that's not good for me. Partly in order to get myself outside, regardless of the weather, I'm considering starting a photo blog of someplace local (closer than Duke Gardens).
On my birthday, I decided that I wanted to do some of the trails that we see, but haven't ever taken. One of my favorites that we did that day was the hike at Grandmother Mountain (right) on the BRP. It was a rainy, foggy morning, but we spent it hiking.
It cleared up in the afternoon, and we saw some beautiful views before we headed back to the house in the early evening.
But you can find me/When the light is changing/At that time of day when/There's little day remaining
The time of day she's describing is one of our favorite times of day, although we call it the "Golden Afternoon." When we're on vacation, even if we have a quiet afternoon after the morning hike, we always go out for another hike in the Golden Afternoon.
Here's a closer view of the rapids. You have to go to the left of the long rock that's a bit above and to the right of the center of the photo.
One of the guides from the kayak company was out in the water telling us where to go and helping if anyone had problems. I was glad that I got through the rapids okay - but then I went into some tree branches hanging over the water on an island at the bottom of the rapids. It wasn't a problem, though.
The view looking back at the two bridges. This is right next to the town of Haw River.
The rapids at the beginning were, by far, the most challenging part of the trip.
When we've crossed the Haw River on I-40, west of Hillsborough, I've always wondered what it would be like to kayak down on the river. Here's the view of I-40 from the river.
Going under I-40
...and a turtle
Coming back out of a side stream we went down. This is one of the things I love about kayaking - being able to wander around and investigate much easier than in a canoe.
We're getting close to the end here - it's a bit more rocky with small rapids.
After going under the last bridge (Swepsonville-Saxapahaw Rd.). The take out is 100 yards downstream.
Speaking of take-out... we were hungry by the end. The Mellow Mushroom in Burlington is only about 20 minutes away from the park where we finished. I called younger son so he could look up the phone number for the restaurant, and we ordered pizza to bring home. This is the statue in front of the Mellow Mushroom.
When the dogwoods are in bloom, I try to drive down Old 86 as often as possible. I love this dogwood (Btw, dear husband was driving, and these were taken through the van window so they're not as clear as I'd like):
Sunset from the back deck of the house we were renting.
Parts of The Hunger Games were filmed in DuPont State Forest, southwest of Asheville, NC. Daughter said that the State Forest is very busy on weekends now because of the movie. We went there on a chilly, drizzly Monday so it wasn't very crowded.
The covered bridge
View from the covered bridge of the top of High Falls
The ceiling of the covered bridge
High Falls from up on the trail
View from the rocks at the bottom - you can see the covered bridge.
The rather optimistically named Lake Imaging. We had our picnic lunch in the shelter on the left.
Dear husband at the bottom of the second waterfall
We had a different sort of vacation this year. It was shorter because dear husband started a new job in July and he hasn't built up much vacation yet. For the first time since before daughter was born, we didn't spend our vacation in Blowing Rock, NC. Since we were trying to make sure that both daughter and older son could join us, we spent our vacation in Black Mountain, NC, near Asheville. That way, we could easily pick up daughter in Asheville, and older son could take the bus back to the Triangle when his break was done. Many thanks to my mother who picked him up at the bus station!
Older son hasn't been able to spend the time in the mountains that the rest of us have been able to spend the last few years. We went to two of the most beautiful places while he was here.
The first day, we went to Graveyard Fields - a somber name for a beautiful valley southwest of Asheville.
Older son wanted to save Mt. Mitchell (one of his favorite places, which he hasn't been to for three years) for the second day, when daughter could join us.
Older son found a red-spotted purple.
The fog moved in on the drive up to Mt. Mitchell, and it was a lot colder than the previous day.
Older son, younger son, and I waded in the stream like usual.