Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Mount Mitchell (North Carolina Highpoint)

Luckily our drive to Mount Mitchell was much less eventful than the drive we had just finished to Sassafras Mountain.  Anne's patience must know no limits because she was still on board with hitting North Carolina's highpoint after the South Carolina disaster.

I am glad she did too because this drive was a classic drive down a beautiful, historic highway ending with a sunset on the top of a mountain!  There is only one way to get to Mount Mitchell and it is along the Blue Ridge Parkway, a national parkway and part of the US National Park Service.  As we drove along, I felt just like I was back on the AT in Vermont.  Thick forested, damp, green mountains which hug and almost suffocate you and then unannounced lay out a spread of beautiful views for the taking.  Although it was beautiful, we didn't have a ton of extra time because the state park (and the summit) closed at 9:00pm and we were pushing the deadline.

We eventually pulled up into an empty summit parking lot at 8:45pm just behind the park ranger who was up there to close things up.  He let Soren and I walk the couple hundred yards to the summit where we snapped a couple of pictures and soaked in the sunset before jumping in the car and heading out at 8:59pm!

Although we will be within striking distance of the highpoints of West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania tomorrow, I think it would be wise to call it a week and make that trip another day.....

...... on to our family's new life in New York!!!!

Sassafras Mountain (South Carolina Highpoint)

After hitting Brasstown Bald, the family jumped into the car and headed east toward South Carolina.  Our next goal was Sassafras Mountain.  If bagging Georgia's highpoint was easy and uneventful, getting to South Carolina's was the opposite.  Admittedly, I caused most of the trouble.... as usual!

It didn't start well.... after grabbing lunch for the boys, I made a wrong turn somewhere in northern Georgia. Mistake #1.  I corrected it after about 20 miles or so but still....  From there the drive was pretty uneventful and we eventually approached the junction of SC 11 and US 178 in South Carolina about 10 miles south of our goal.

Mistake #2.... even though I had less than a quarter tank of gas I chose not to stop at the station that was right there.  I figured I had plenty.  Instead I plowed forward.  The next 10 miles ended up being very steep and loaded with very sharp turns which had to effects (a) low fuel efficiency and (b) Sy complaining of some car sickness.  

Mistake #3 occurred when I shot past the turn off to Sassafras Mountain ending up a few miles into North Carolina before turning around.... all the while, burning up the little fuel we had.  Not a huge mistake under normal circumstances but under these conditions (i.e. low fuel, sick kid, increasingly frustrated spouse) it was a dangerous cocktail.  This all leads me to my mistake of omission....

Mistake #4 - I should have just pulled over!  Look... when I am out on my little adventures, I get a little bit crazy with achieving the goal (exhibit A - Mt. Datun, Taiwan  and exhibit B - Taum Sauk MT, Missouri)

I know it can be stupid but the adrenaline rush of route finding, problem solving and sometimes just pushing through can be exhilarating.  That is fine and dandy when I am flying solo or when I am with a like minded crazy person but is whole other matter when I drag the family into it.  Anyway, needless to say, Sy eventually threw up into his blanket just under a mile from the summit.  Of course, then it was time to clean up. Anne is not happy with me. We are still low on gas (like getting past the E).

After doing some damage control, we reached the parking lot on top, finished the short walk to the summit, in a swarm of mosquitoes, and Anne graciously gave me about 30 seconds to snap a picture or two before she started heading down.  I didn't deserve more than that!  We happily made it the 7 or so miles north into North Carolina and a gas station.  I am also glad to report that Anne has decided to stay married to me!

All is well that ends well..... errrrr, right?!

Brasstown Bald (Georgia Highpoint)

Memorial Day weekend with the Hansen family was awesome.  We hung out, had Sy & Kate's birthday party, attended Kate's baptism, went to a Braves game, and had fun swimming.  The Hansen & Anderson grandparents were both there and we all enjoyed the mini-family reunion.  

On Tuesday, it was time to continue our trek to New York.... with a few highpoints along the way, of course!

Our first stop was Brasstown Bald in Georgia.  Like many of the highpoints in the southeast, this one is also a state park/national forest with maintained facilities so driving close to the top is possible.  After taking a short shuttle from the parking lot to the peak, we paused to take a few pictures and explore.  After unsuccessfully looking for a benchmark, I finally asked a ranger for some help.  It turns out the benchmark is just behind a locked door which doubles as an entryway to private quarters for some of the park staff.  He was nice enough to let me have a look.

It was a beautiful day and the boys and I opted to hike down from the peak to the parking lot instead of jumping on the return shuttle.  It was fun to stretch our legs and enjoy a beautiful day before jumping back in the car!