Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Wellness Retreat in the Heart of the Southern Appalachians

Some of the best days require early starts.

Fall is the season that may just speak to me a slight bit more than the others.  I love all the seasons, and feel that the Southern Appalachians are a rather natural place to feel such even-handed appreciation for the whole year. Yet the change from hot and humid to crisp and clear, from green to grey, all ushered in by the most dramatic means, really is my time.  Autumn is also typically busy, and it can be hard to get to all the places you think you will.  For anyone who really gets out there and looks, the candidates for "favorite place to be" are as many as there are days in the wild.  Every place is special, and deserves consideration.  I might recommend that if you don't have a favorite place, you should start seeking it out.  Don't be too concerned with objective qualities and finding the empirically "best" place.  The human experience is a subjective one, so just find the one that speaks to you.

I recently had the opportunity to take a Friday off, not for a kayaking trip for a change, but for the purpose of losing myself in my favorite place.  I could cite the water quality, national champion red spruce forests, and protected wilderness as reasons, but as valid as those arguments are, I just feel connected to this place.  And having some close friends to share it with was just too rare an opportunity to pass up.  Following are some shots from my first go light and fast trip into one of my favorite places.  

The first person I saw.

James and Sean employing two different backpack methodologies.

picture by James Locke

Here I am excited to be leaving second growth Cove Hardwoods for uncut virgin forest.

Grass-lined single track.


4 miles in, where we left the trail.

Reverend Trey Coleman, lost in a sea of Rhododendron

Our natural conveyance to the sacred footprint of the Raven.

Rate Inversion: Hours per mile

Touched by the Untouched

Ancient Forest

Stepping into the painting.  

While waiting for Trey, I sat on this log.  Turns out my interpretation of this log as being provided for the weary hiker quickly reshaped into a less anthropically based reallity.  There is nothing quite like being 12 feet off the creek in the middle of nowhere while getting nailed by yellowjackets to bring about pure concentration.  It hurt, but really was a beautifully clear moment of purposeful action.  I calmly stood up and slowly navigated the slick log to the far end while the stings continued to acrue, where it finally seemed safe enough to tumble into the thick rhododendron below and quickly downstream.

Our destination.

No 200 foot waterfall, no rugged and wind swept spire, no multi-state view, no summit, nothing to define a clear goal achieved.  Whatever this place has to give, it isn't readily discerned.  There may be nothing below the surface, and maybe that's the beauty.

James Locke, ichthyo-charmer extraordinaire.

picture by James Locke

Less is more.  My whole sleep set up weighed 2.3 lbs.

Sean Kennedy, protector of the wilderness.

James and I hiked out the next morning, and were treated to 4 miles of early morning rock hopping with gusty winds and bluebird skies.  

picture by James Locke

Balance Beam.

picture by James Locke

The way the leaves fill the water this time of year is one of an uncountable number of little things that add up to  big experiences in the wilds.  The shadows and reflected light that they randomly disperse creates a mirror ball-like three-dimensionallity to a sometimes otherwise planar appearance with respect to the water surface.

picture by James Locke

Picture by James Locke

The early fall glow of the green to yellow spectrum, accented by the tall dark green spruce trees striking up into the cloud studded sky blue sky;  A vivid and enriching sight.

picture by James Locke

Here we took a secret route up and out to the trail system.

picture by James Locke

Back up the wall to the trail and then the other world.  

The truth for me is that I will never find my "favorite place".  This ideal lies beyond the asymptotic barrier of our own limited time here on earth.  All I can say is that the search is so sweet.  Seeking it affords the chance to really pay attention to where I am at all times, and what I feel in all these different locations.  It all seems connected, and in this way I feel that I am always in my favorite place.  Being in certain spots though, really helps us see that we not only have the potential, but the obligation to ourselves to be as in tune in our everyday life as we are when we are in these special places.  Almost more important than immersion in the pure, is the rejuvenation it provides for the days following our return.


Jenny B. said...

Incredible journey into the realm of giant red spruce, wild streams, and deep greenish pools. Beautiful photos.

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