Sunday, December 28, 2008
Christmas in Southern Appalachia
While tiny tots lay in bed dreaming of a white Christmas, Art and I dragged ourselves out of bed on Christmas morning at 3:45 a.m. to start our journey south to the land of verdant Christmas. I gave a little nod to the five-foot snowman on the neighbor’s lawn, knowing that he may be just a memory when I make it back to New Jersey again. Slipping away unnoticed in the darkness at the start of this 12 hour journey, but as the sun rose, we spotted other traveling souls on the road …. some in cars filled with gifts and some wearing Santa hats.
The Appalacian mountains greeted us with a welcoming 58 degrees and a beautiful sunny sky above. Although with a close look into the woods, I could see moisture weeping out in every tiny gap. This was a sure tell tale of the weather that lay ahead, and as expected, the next few days would bring rain and mist that make these mountains what they are: “The Smokey Mountains”.
After a combination of cabin fever and an optimistic moment in the sky, we saddled up for a bike ride from the in-law’s house, where country dirt roads wound around the mountains. Within minutes and a wrap around the first mountain, we rode into a misting rain, but around the next curve, we warmed up with the first real climb in the forest, and soon the mist was forgotten.
The rhododendron along this stretch were probably the tallest I have ever seen, and once we reached a certain elevation, the sides of the road were lined with galax. Around every bend, crevasses wept and you could hear falling water. A few breaks in the foliage offered views of glassy top mountains in the fog.
After about five miles, we reached Panthertown National Forest. The trails seemed to be in good shape regardless of the rain, so we rode them as well. We visited a waterfall and some single-track, and then started heading back. The ride was short, but enough to stretch our legs and have a brief moment to commune with nature and be outdoors.
With only a few days to this trip, and a visit long overdue, we spent most of the weekend visiting with Art’s family. It was a good time for all, and a very Merry Christmas.