“Nothing Could Be Finer …

… than to be in Carolina in the morning” (as the song goes).

“Be prepared.” I used to be a Boy Scout. My family went camping Sunday afternoon through Tuesday afternoon at a place called Bear Den in Spruce Pine, North Carolina. We usually camp in a tent. But since the forecast, thanks to Hurricane Jeanne, was calling for rain on Monday and Tuesday, we opted for a little rustic cabin. It was basically two rooms, with a full sized bed in the front room and a set of bunks in the back. No facilities/utilities — save it did have electricity! Being a camping purist, I was a little disappointed with the electricity part, but I acquiesced.

Sunday was beautiful and the camping grounds were basically deserted except for a family from Raleigh with kids the same ages as our own. We grilled out BBQ chicken on the Coleman, as the fire pit was not suited for cooking. Enjoyed watching the clouds race past an almost full moon as the effects of the tropical storm headed our way. It was supposed to begin raining on Sunday evening.

Nope.

When I awoke to the quiet sounds of no rain, again being a camping purist, I told my wife, “Now that we’re in this cabin … it had better rain!” We cooked bacon, eggs, grits, and toast on the Coleman. It was sprinkling during meal prep — which allowed me to play chef in my new poncho. After breakfast it began to rain in earnest. Yeah!

We headed toward Linville Caverns only to find the road was washed out and impassable thanks to the past couple hurricanes. Turned back and our alternative route was also impassable. Called the Caverns and they got us there via another way. The kids really enjoyed being in the caverns. Thanks to the road mess, we were the only folks there and got our own private tour! We’d also hoped to visit Linville Falls or Linville Gorge, but road blockage would have made for long detours.

After grabbing lunch in downtown Spruce Pine and grocery shopping, we headed back to our cabin in the rain. (Purist or no, it sure is nice to walk into a dry cabin versus a damp tent on such a rainy day!) We had a few hours before dinner and Helen, the two year old, was napping in the back. What to do? Well, twelve years ago, my wife and I went to Paris. We’d heard there were McDonald’s restaurants in Paris and, perish the thought, had vowed not to eat there! We did … on three different occasions. In the same vein, I never thought I’d do this, I popped a DVD into my laptop for the two older kids to watch … and me and the missuz retired to the porch to read and enjoy the rain in the forest.

Thank God for Coleman burners & stoves! Hotdogs for dinner. We’d actually planned to have Brats — which, like they do in Wisconsin, we prep by simmering in beer with onions. Guess what? The counties we were in were dry (no alcohol). Being a Nashotah grad and thus Brat purists, we opted for hotdogs. With it pouring rain, we were all in bed by 9:30 pm.

On Tuesday morning the sky cleared up and it was beautiful and windy. Plan A had been to visit & hike around Grandfather Mountain. The rain invited Plan B: To travel to Blowing Rock and eat at Woodlands BBQ & Picking Parlor. This was a favorite restaurant of ours when my wife and I were dating. In fact, they catered our rehearsal dinner. From there, we’d planned to go to the Candy Barrel — which is near the original Mast General Store in Valle Crucis.

The Northern Mountains are stunning this time of year — even when rainy, windy, and foggy. But we got to the Candy Barrel … and it was closed. The parking lot was nothing but mud and debris. The sign said, “Closed due to flooding. Hope to reopen Oct 1st” — seems the damage from hurricanes is omnipresent in Western North Carolina. The kids, especially Mary Catherine (age 10), were very disappointed. We rode by the church where we were married (Nov.28.1997), Holy Cross Episcopal, and headed out of Valle Crucis toward home.

Thanks be to God — safe travel (and no news anchors)!

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