Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Grandfather and his Chimney Rock

After a long hiatus, here's a blog about an old man smoking a rock. I'm teasing. Grandfather and Chimney Rock are mountains in the Blue Ridge Range of the Southern Appalachians, which is where I was over the long weekend (and week) in May.

Every Memorial Day weekend, we get itchy feet. Spring semester's almost at an end. Winter's over even in Seattle, though wet gray days won't be over until after the Fourth of July. So we flee to warmer, sunnier climes. Along with the natural beauty, Charlotte and Blue Ridge promised a chance to meet dear friends from college and a dear, dear friend I would be meeting for the first time.

First the mountains...

Blue Ridge RangeGrandfather has the distinction of being home to a privately-owned biosphere and a swinging bridge that's more than a mile above sea level. Imagine yourself standing on swaying, creaking wooden slats, like a boat at sea, with spaces in between the slats and merely two horizontal bars on the sides. Blue Ridge RangeNow, imagine the bridge suspended between two rocks. Finally, imagine looking down and seeing the tops of fir trees 100 feet below. The experience is surreal, as is the view of the slate gray-blue lines of the Blue Ridge mountain range. For 65 years old (if one human year is akin to one million mountain years), Grandfather sure is a spry host. Sixteen different natural communities, seventy rare and endangered species, 200 types of birds, and 12 miles of backcountry trails ensure that visitors are suitably entertained.

Chimney RockChimney Rock was privately-held by the Morse family until two years ago. "Chimney Top," "Groundhog Slide," "Inspiration Point," Nature's Showerbath," and "Exclamation Point" are some of the places along the Skyline Cliff Trail that you would recognize, if you'd seen Daniel Day Lewis (ooh!) in The Last of the Mohicans. First, we had a chance to ride in a 26-story elevator blasted through the center of a solid granite mountain. Then we stumbled from rock to rock, panted over steep steps, and squeezed through the Wild Cat Trap. Phew! for ice-cream that turns your tongue electric blue.Chimney Rock

Sierra Club founder John Muir wrote to his daughter Helen about his summit climb of Grandfather: "I couldn't hold in, and began to jump about and sing and glory in it all." Fear of starting an avalanche kept me from acting in kind though I sure wanted to.

[Chimney Rock, NC Hwy 64 Exit 71-A, www.chimneyrockpark.com
Grandfather Mountain, NC Hwy 221 & Blue Ridge Pkwy, www.grandfather.com]

Now on to the reason for this post...

Our heroes and heroines always have friends. It's through these friends that, as readers and writers, we get to know our main characters better. In doing so, we also explore the nature of friendships and their essential importance to our very being.

I enjoy corresponding with friends, be it hand-written letters, postcards, blogging, texting, or twittering. My first pen-pal (a rather anachronistic word, isn't it?) is now a 27-year-old friendship. I'm still in e-mail contact with my kindergarten friends. I'm just (ouch, Diane) so not a phone person!

I have made some of the most wonderful friends in the romance community since my first entrée via Squawk Radio in 2005-ish. Most of these people I haven't even met yet.

PJ and her famous chocolatesPJ and her famous chocolatesSo, when a chance came up to meet one such amazing friend in person on our trip to Charlotte, I jumped at it. She's PJ. She drove across state lines. She hand-crafted chocolate that's far superior to Godiva's and brought it with her. And the three hours that I spent in her company were over in an instant. I have missed her ever since...


Diane Gaston said...

Isn't the Blue Ridge beautiful? My step-nephew walked the Appalachian Trail last year - the whole trail. Took him 5 mos.

I am amazed at how close I can feel to someone I never met in person. The internet has certainly enriched my life. You, Keira, are one of the ones who have enriched my life!

Keira Soleore said...

WOW!! I once edited a book, when I was interning for The Mountaineers Books, written by a person who talked in detail about the hike with tips, but also used that as a jumping off point for a memoir. Such true stories by mountaineers and climbers is truly, truly inspirational. They change their lives and in doing so, change ours through their writings.

Diane, words will always fail me to describe the depth of what I feel for your friendship. You're precious and rare.

Gannon Carr said...

OMG, Keira! I live less than half an hour from Grandfather--I see his profile almost every day! In fact, we were just there this weekend at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games.

If your travels ever bring you this way again, I'd love to meet you.

Trish Milburn said...

I LOVE Chimney Rock Mountain, partly because it's beautiful and partly because Last of the Mohicans is one of my favorite movies. We've been there twice and look forward to going back again. Unfortunately, I haven't made it to Grandfather Mountain. I want to go when they're having the Scottish Highland Games.

Keira Soleore said...

Gannon! I had no idea you gaze upon Grandfather's face every day. Winters must be tough, but to live in that beauty every day...WOW!! Next time, Gannon!

Trish: LotM has to be DDL's best movie, imo, too. I adore him, particularly the scenes that have him running up mountainsides, and the romance. He's one actor who doesn't overact. After panting over the trail, I have new respect for the marvelous physical condition those three men must've been in to be able to scamper up and down with nary a break.

Gannon: How were this year's Highland games? I can well imagine the mists and the wail of the bagpipe rising above it, so very much like the Scottish mountains.

PJ said...

Hi Keira! I've missed you too! It was wonderful meeting you, and your daughter, in Charlotte. I enjoyed our time together. There wasn't a second of awkwardness. It really did feel as if we had been friends forever. I'm sorry I won't be in SF to see you this year but I'm looking forward to DC next summer.

p.s. Glad you enjoyed the chocolates!

Gannon Carr said...

Keira, the Games were spectacular as always. With the mist and the bagpipes, it is indeed reminiscent of Scotland. You should try to come one year. It is an experience not to be missed.

Keira Soleore said...

PJ: I'm so looking forward to seeing you next year in DC.

p.s. Glad you enjoyed the chocolates!

Does the sun rise in the west? :) They were delicious!! I have never enjoyed white chocolate before. You've won me over with your talent. Thank you for that delicious treat.

Gannon: Yes!! It's a date. I would love to see The Games in the right atmospheric setting.