If you are feeling the need to immerse yourself in clean, natural beauty, head to the North Carolina mountains. It was in 2002 that I first took up residence in NC, trying every few years to move away. Somehow the Raleigh/Durham Triangle area always pulled me back like a magnet. Embarrassingly, I hadn’t made the effort to visit Asheville and the nearby mountains until this fall. I’ve always known that I’d love it, but I didn’t realize just how much I’d love it. In my less-rooted years, I might have been tempted to move there, so I kept myself quarantined in the Triangle area, allowing myself occasional trips to the beach. Only now, with a fiancé, grad school, and plenty of things to keep me rooted, was I ready to make the trip.
John, Machi and I packed into the car on Friday at the end of October and drove into the night to my friend Liz’s house. Liz Niemeyer is an amazing painter, and her boyfriend, David, is a talented woodworker. With Liz’s two dachshunds, David’s German shepherd, and our mutt, it was a dog-party weekend overloaded with cuteness.
Saturday morning we went to the farmer’s market on the UNC-Asheville campus to load up on greens, veggies and chicken. Then we headed to David’s house in a valley outside of Asheville. Outside his door is a beautiful mountain peak covered in autumn leaf colors. I can only dream of to always be cradled by ancient hills that were great towering mountains millennia ago.
After driving back and forth a hundred times to the top of the ridge line, we emerged from the trees to find a rock face covered in gigantic icicles. These sharp weapons could have been used by Norse warriors to fight epic ice battles. We pulled over to get a closer look, and I had a strange revelation that I identify deeply with the crystalline, cold beauty of the icicles. Perhaps this kinship stems from my Danish heritage.
Back on the road, we cruised on the Blue Ridge Parkway until we reached Skinny Dip Falls. Machi was a brave little mutt as he carefully calculated his first leaps from rock to rock down the falls. He is a pro hiker now. John and Liz took the falls all the way down, but Machi and I wove in and out of the rocks and forest. I found a clearing that looked like a place where witches might gather on a full moon to call down the spirits. Rhododendrons made low tunnels that we had to wiggle through, only to come out on pathways carpeted in red by freshly fallen maple leaves.
After our hike we wound around the mountain peaks looking for sunset views. At last we found the perfect spot in the perfect light with a view of Looking Glass rock. We bathed in the golden light and absorbed the mountaintop air until our bellies started making a fuss. Fortunately dinner was nearly ready and waiting for us, as a chicken had been simmering in the slow cooker all this time. Back home we threw our broth in a pot with some ginger, garlic, spices, tatsoi and fish sauce for a simple, Asian chicken soup to warm our bones from the coldness that night had brought.
Sunday morning came too quickly, and I didn’t want to leave. Machi and I took a big walk around west Asheville, and then we headed home to make it in time for an evening party in Raleigh. Now that we’ve fallen in love with the mountains, we’ll be visiting again as soon as we can. I hope to see them in all seasons, and to venture down more magical waterfalls! I’d really love to come offer fertility management advice and take soil samples with an organic mountain farmer, taking 100s of pictures of the farm, of course, to share with all who wish to escape into the natural beauty of western NC for a moment.
Where are your favorite mountain or weekend escapes?Follow Natalie:by