As I've mentioned before in this blog, my mother and stepfather own a mountain cabin up in Ashe County, near Jefferson and West Jefferson, and Barry and I own a small adjacent, undeveloped property. We enjoy spending time up there, mostly unplugged (there's no internet or cell phone signal) breathing the mountain air, feeding and watching wildlife, hiking, and doing yard maintenance. Well, maybe that last part isn't quite so enjoyable, but we always feel good after it's done!
It had been a full year since anyone had gotten up there due to winter weather and spring/summer illnesses and injuries, so we were anxious to head up and check on things, plus enjoy some fall foliage along the way. My brother Adam always visits in October for this very reason, so once we knew that Dal was well enough to make the trip, it was a go.
Our trip was cut short by one day due to the freak storm-related power outage in Hickory (see my previous post), so a day later than planned, we packed the car to the brim with our luggage and the food Mom had prepared in advance, since we'd be arriving to an empty fridge, and drove on up.
Along the way we saw plenty of tree damage from the storm in Catawba and Alexander Counties; in fact, we had to take a detour and go through a couple of one-lane areas in Alexander County, where the damage was especially widespread. Crews were out in force cleaning up downed trees and branches and restoring power to those who had been without for a couple of days.
Once past all that, though, the mountains were unscathed, as they missed out on the severe storm, and the foliage, later than usual this year, started getting colorful.
We pulled over at Dal's favorite viewing spot way up high for some lovely views. Unfortunately the clouds kept it from being quite as magnificent as it could have been, but it was still very nice indeed. And chilly! The temperature had been falling steadily as we gained in altitude, and the wind was blowing. But the views were worth shivering for.
Here is "The Folly", nestled in the pines...
...with a lovely view of the New River. The image below looks out over the property Barry and I own, which is kept unmowed, providing the perfect habitat for wildlife, like the deer that hide in the brush.
Here's another view of our undeveloped lot, looking from the river back up towards the road, with the Folly on the very right side of the shot.
We would only be able to stay for two nights, so Adam and I made the most of our only full day by taking a hike up a very steep mountainside road to enjoy the serenity, views, and foliage. We were lucky enough to flush out a couple of deer as we ascended, but other than wildlife, we didn't see another soul. Bliss!
I also enjoyed a solo walk down the road to check out some of the other properties along the way. This has been one of my favorite cabins for quite some time. It's so charming with its rough-hewn beams and chinking and has a great view overlooking the river.
One of the neighbors had a nice garden and grew some amazing gourds this year.
The day was so beautiful I had to stop along the road for a selfie!
Back to Hickory.
All too soon it was time to pack back up and head back down the mountain to Hickory. Before leaving, I filled the many bird feeders to overflowing and put down field corn for the deer, so I am sure the wildlife were as happy as we were that we finally came back for a long-overdue visit.
Last but not least of our excellent adventures, on my final night in Hickory, we had such a fun time with good friends Karen and Carl. They are always a blast to be around.
We started with drinks at Mom and Dal's, then moved onto an Irish pub nearby for dinner. Lots of laughs and silliness ensued, and I found a new favorite brew, the hilariously named Ass Clown Orange Citrus IPA, made right in Cornelius, NC! I only wish Barry could have been there to join in on the fun.
It was a great visit and so good to see everyone! Mom outdid herself with the food, Dal was doing so much better, and it was excellent to catch up with Adam. But it was getting really chilly -- time for this winter wimp to hightail it back to the Sunshine State!
This past spring and summer, my stepfather experienced several health problems at the same time as I was going through oral surgery and recovery from my broken jaw, so I wanted to take a fall trip back to North Carolina to see how he was doing and to help my mother however I could. A nice side benefit of this trip would be seeing my brother, as he would also be visiting for part of the time.
Barry and Paisley stayed behind in the Florida RV park, and I flew for this visit, which ended up being less expensive (and quicker!) than renting a car and driving up.
The trip up was uneventful, and when I arrived, I was so relieved to see how much better Dal, my stepfather, was doing.
When we'd left NC this summer, he was in a nursing home rehab facility and wasn't even walking, although he was improving slowly but surely. By the time I came back for this visit, he had graduated from a wheelchair and even a walker and was now walking on his own, driving, and back on his computer! Although he is still receiving treatment for back pain, he is much better than I imagined he would be, and for that I am extremely thankful and relieved.
Mom had, as usual, prepared a lengthy menu of home-cooked delicacies for us to enjoy during the visit, and we had fun baking a couple of desserts together after I arrived. Here's a pretty lemon bundt cake we made, just one of several goodies we enjoyed during my stay.
An Unexpected Storm.
The day my brother Adam was to arrive, a strong line of storms was forecast to push into North Carolina from the west. However, we had no idea how bad it would be. In the early afternoon we were under a tornado watch, which was later upgraded to a warning. The Emergency Alert System on the TV warned us to take shelter in a room with no windows, on the lowest floor, so Mom, Dal, and I heeded the warning, hunkering down in a room in their basement as the worst of the storm pushed through.
We had gathered together all the flashlights in the house, a fortunate thing, since the power went out while we were waiting the brief but furious storm out in the basement.
The sudden storm left a swath of damage in its aftermath that suggested a tornado or straight-line winds. When we crept up from the basement to survey the damage, we discovered that a large pine tree along the back fence line had snapped off midway up the trunk and now lay in the back yard. Here was the scene the next day.
We had no idea when the power would be back on, and with no internet or TV, we weren't able to get much information. We called the electric company's automated outage line, but they were only telling us how many people had no power (thousands) and no expectation of when things might be fixed.
My brother Adam arrived around dinnertime that night, having had a long and tedious drive through storm squalls, but at least he was safe. Since the power was out, instead of Mom's planned homemade chicken pot pie, we instead dined on cold sandwiches, chips, cole slaw, and brownies for dessert; and the evening's entertainment was limited to conversation. Not a terrible thing when one is with family for the first time in awhile, though!
It was a long night without power, but at least the weather was temperate, so the lack of air-conditioning or heating wasn't an issue. Adam missed his fan for white noise, and Mom her TV, but I lucked out by having my electronic tablet loaded with plenty of e-books so was able to read long after dark. If I'd had our Mifi box, I would have been able to get online, but it was back at Pearl with Barry.
The next morning dawned sunny and calm, thankfully, but the power was still out. On a whim I'd bought a quart of cold-brewed coffee the day before, before we knew the power was going to go out. A lucky break indeed! We were able to heat it up on the gas stove, after lighting the burner manually. Not wanting to open the fridge, we drank black coffee for our morning caffeine fix, accompanied by peanut butter on bread for breakfast. Not the best breakfast ever, but we weren't starving, at least!
Mid-morning, Mom and I decided to head to the closest grocery store, which we heard from a neighbor had power, and we bought a couple of bags of ice as well as some things for lunch to store in coolers since we couldn't open the fridge. We figured buying food for an extended outage would ensure that the power would come back on shortly -- and fortunately, we weren't that far off. We ate some of the food we'd brought for lunch, but the power came on just a few hours later -- for a total of 23 hours without power. There was much rejoicing throughout the house!
Nearly everyone in the neighborhood had at least one tree down from the storm, and the sound of chainsaws was all around us. Here is some of what I saw walking around the day after the storm. I'd already seen a lot of these sorts of piles this season after Hurricane Irma hit Florida.
In an adjacent new neighborhood with no tree damage but no electricity either, these folks had the right idea. They were running the generator in their motorhome so at least had some means of getting a little power! This reminded me how Pearl is much better prepared for a power outage than a standard house, with her generator and 12-volt appliances, plus a Mifi box for cellular internet.
We had planned to head up to the mountains to spend a few days at my folks' vacation cabin in Ashe County, where no one had been in a year due to weather and illness, but the power outage postponed our travel for a day. We didn't want to leave Hickory without knowing when the power came back on, and by the time it did, it was late enough in the day that we waited until the next day to get going.
In the next post I'll share photos from our little side trip to the mountains. The new header photo is a preview!
Emily & Barry
We're a long-married, early-retired couple who are currently traveling as nomads with no fixed home base. After years of living in North Carolina (Emily's home state), we spent 18 months living oceanfront on Ambergris Caye, Belize, a year road-tripping the US in a Honda CR-V, a year in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and are now roaming North America in our 32' motorhome, Pearl, following warm weather whenever possible.
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