I spent the last 10 days in the Appalachian Mountains near Batesville, GA. Why, you might ask? The town is about 90 minutes north of Atlanta, where I grew up. I went home to visit my brother, who is home on two weeks leave from Afghanistan. He owns a small, rustic log cabin which is a great base camp for day hikes along the Appalachian Trail, boating on Lake Burton, or trout fishing one of the nearby streams or rivers. We’ve spent a lot of time up in the mountains over the years, and recently it is becoming too infrequent.
We did a lot of fun things, but two will remain etched into my memory for a long time. One particular hike took us to the summit of Chimney Mountain. As far as we know, there are no actual trails that lead to the top. It was up to us to find our way. It was only about 2 miles as the crow flies, but our nearly vertical climb took us through nearly a mile of mountain laurel bushes, which we had to crawl through on our hands and knees. There was no other way through or around them. Once we reached the top 2 hours later, the view wasn’t nearly as stunning as the one from the neighboring Tray Mountain, which is on the Appalachian Trail. Still, it was worth the climb and beats the view from my office chair any day. I put together a KML file, which you can download and open in Google Earth. Photos are on Flickr, here.
The second memorable experience was visiting the Foxfire Museum, outside Clayton, GA. No, not Firefox, the popular web browser. That was my first thought too. The Foxfire Museum is not actually a museum per se, but a collection of historic Appalachian log cabins that were restored and relocated in the 1970’s to capture the essence of self sufficient mountain life from previous centuries. There we met one of the most entertaining, knowledgeable, wise, funny, practical and captivating person you could ever imagine. Robert Murray is the curator of the museum and spent nearly 4 hours demonstrating and explaining the daily lives of what most people would call hillbillies. There may be some truth to that. But if I were lost in the woods or had to live on a deserted island, Robert is the one person I would want to take with me. We left the museum able to start a fire with sticks, identify and prepare edible plants, build a log cabin, dress a hog and catch small animals with various deadly, homemade traps. The best description that we could come up with for Robert is Chuck Norris. If you’ve seen the jokes, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Photos here.
These days, it’s rare to find a place that is out of range from a cell phone network and wireless or wired internet connections. I managed to find one, and it was a little unnerving at first. After the initial first few days of email, text, and Facebook withdrawal, I felt right at home among the trees and animals. There’s a certain calm that comes from knowing that your cell phone isn’t going to ring and your email isn’t going to chime…because they can’t. But then there’s a certain angst that comes from having to get caught up after a week off the grid.