Hiking, Barbecue and Urban Cowboys

Last weekend while our boy was chilling at the beach Dana and I hit the trails, sort of. We did some pretty easy stuff in Dupont State Forest which maybe totaled 3 miles but we ended up at Hooker Falls where we played for about 3 hours and talked to a lady from Florida who had come to the area after googling “swimming holes.” She and her boys were having a blast right along with us. We stayed in Flat Rock and had some of the best Brick Oven Pizza money can buy at a little bakery in the back of “The Wrinkled Egg,” an odd little store right on Main St.. As I was heading in for my pizza I detected a mind-altering whiff of hickory and, not unlike Toucan Sam, was led by my nose to Hubba Hubba Barbecue which is basically in the Wrinkled Egg’s backyard. Good smoke, good char. Good stuff. I had the pulled pork, pulled chicken and the brisket. It was all delicious. Notice I made no mention of sauce. That’s because it doesn’t matter! If it’s really barbecue, the sauce is only a distraction and often the enemy of the real deal. (Stepping off of my soap-box)
Thursday, I made the 15 minute drive to the parking lot at Paris Mountain and spent my lunch break hiking the Brissey Ridge Loop. It was 2.4 miles of the best soul-therapy I’ve had in a while. It wasn’t rich in beautiful vistas, but what it lacked in views it more than made up for in peace and solitude. It’s amazing how clear Papa’s voice is when you remove the distractions, huh?
Friday, I decided to leave at 1pm and spend some time on the Sulphur Springs Loop at Paris Mountain. 3.5 miles is a lot longer than you might imagine, especially in the heat of the day. Still, a rough day hiking…better than a good day at work, right?
Friday night Jo and I enjoyed an exceptionally cool party at Newspring that was a thank you to those of us who host a small group. It was called Barbecue, Bluegrass and a Bunch of Bull. There was a mechanical bull. I’ve always wanted to try one of those things. I did. 24 seconds I held .. it completed a tilted, 400 mph spin that threw me about 5 feet into the side of the giant kiddy pool it sat in. What a rush! When I clumsily made my way back onto my feet I had bleeding ankles and some pretty intense discomfort in my groin area. After all that another guy beat my time, mercilessly, and received a $100 gift certificate as a prize. Still had a blast. A big thanks to Trevor, Matt, Andrea and all who helped out. I felt appreciated. Still wish I’d won…but I’m not bitter…really.
Sunday morning Josiah and I headed towards Raven Cliff Falls but on the way were led astray by the Gorgeous bald of Table Rock which towers majestically over 276. We decided to hike to the top. How hard could it be? Yeah, that hard. We followed the red blazes to the first bald and assumed it was the summit. After snapping a few pics, I looked behind me and saw a red blaze. “Jo, the trail keeps going.” So we kept going. We came to another bald and another beautiful view. This must be it. More pics, more rest…another look over my shoulder…more red blazes. “Jo, there’s another blaze.” We kept going. Yep, it happened again. Actually a total of 4 times. At one point Jo, said in frustration, “It’s all about the journey, my butt!” When we finally encountered the summit and overlooks it was breath-taking. It was also more than a little dizzying. I kept telling Jo to sit down. (He confessed on the way up that as a little boy he had recurring nightmares of falling off of Table Rock.) Yeah, sitting is good. After hanging for awhile with some fellow hikers Carl and John (more about these guys in a later blog) we started our descent. I usually let Jo lead but going down hill my feet sometimes get a mind of their own and I find myself in an all out run that resembles parkour. When this happens I can usually hear Jo yelling, “Wait up, Bambi!” (He says I look like a deer, bouncing off of rocks and trees.) Bambi. Come on. What was Bambi’s Dad’s name? Anyhow, after ending our 7.2 mile, 5 hour trek we made our way to the swimming area where we indulged in some low and high-dive antics for a couple of hours. Back on 276 we turned our gaze to that big rock we’d just summit-ed and were pretty intimidated by the sheer altitude. Hard to imagine that we were just sitting on top of that.
(Side note: Hiking has given me a monstrous appetite. My metabolism has yet to catch up so I’ve piled on about 6 pounds in the past 4 days. After a disgusting display of bingeing on crab legs last night I’m scared to get back on the scales.) Said all that to say this: When we came off the mountain we passed this roadside barbecue vendor on 276 who we’ve passed a half dozen times. This time temptation was just too great. I did, however, limit myself to a half-sandwich. Killer…killer barbecue. He also had whole chickens, cornish hens and baby-backs. So much meat…so little time. Killer, killer barbecue. I’ll be back.
Alright. let’s put this in perspective. Over the past 10 days I’ve hiked a total of probably 16 miles (My feet are killing me), give or take. The average AT thru-hiker hikes about the same…every day…for 5 months. A young woman, Jennifer Pharr Davis (Google her. She’s hiking with a purpose. Cool stuff.) from western NC is at present averaging about 33 miles per day on the AT…per day! That’s insane. If I’m ever going to have a shot at this AT thing I’d better get my flabby butt in shape. Wanna go hiking?

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