Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Freeborne Party Animals

MST – 10/20/10 – Highway 16 to Highway 18 – Freeborne Hotel – 15.2 Miles

Let’s try a new twist on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail: an overnight backpacking trip with a motel stay. We’ll save some drive time and see how what’s happening in Laurel Springs, NC on a Wednesday night.

Danny and I accepted an invitation from B Townes, a board member of the Friends of the MST, to stay at his home before beginning our backpack. He is an avid hiker, completed an AT thru-hike with his son, and is a trail builder for the MST. B is a mover and shaker with a myriad of connections in his town of Wilkesboro and far beyond. He proudly showed us Camp Harrison, a very impressive YMCA resident camp facility, which he was instrumental in creating and continues to support. We enjoyed a delicious venison dinner that he prepared as we talked about hiking adventures near and far.

I fretted over whether to stuff my usual daypack for the overnighter or carry my weekend pack loosely filled (but heavier). Finally I went with overstuffing the smaller one and it worked out well. You can’t always assume that your pack will be lighter after a day or two – it may be heavier because everything has gotten wet.

And so…we woke to a rainy morning and a dark drizzly drive thru the town’s school rush hour and up Highway 16 to our trailhead. I parked my car on the shoulder of the Blue Ridge Parkway for the next two days (we had placed Danny’s at the far end the day before) and hoped no one would bother it. And yet again we set foot on the MST.

View from Jumpinoff Rock Overlook - not much to see this morning
Scot’s pages were essential today as we changed frequently from trail to old road to open fields, crisscrossing the Parkway. The distance between white blazes was varied but mostly adequate. We passed the Northwest Trading Post via a rather silly roundabout route. We could have easily walked through the parking lot. Danny made an observation that I had not thought of - we don’t know what political workings go into trail routing. There must have been a reason for the trail to go the way it did to avoid the store’s property boundaries.
Creatures great
And small
By mid-day the rain was a memory and blue sky took over, lighting up the changing leaves. People drive on the Parkway and stop at overlooks to peer down at the leaves (from their car windows) but we are walking in the colors.
At our feet
By our sides
Over our heads
Spectacular countryside emerges
Frasier magnolias are my favorites because of their color variations – light green to yellow-green to pale yellow to light brown tobacco-colored leaves.
We passed the Sheets Cemetery but didn't go in
A highlight of the walk was the Jesse Sheets cabin, easily missed when traveling by car
The trail bypasses this bridge rather than going across it

At the end of the long last mile we reached Highway 18 and walked down to our home for the night, the Freeborne Hotel in Laurel Springs. I admit that my expectations were low (a roadside motel that caters to motorcycles so I did not anticipate a quiet night). BUT my skepticism was proven wrong. We had a nice simple room, good beds, hot water and a good shower, and ample space to dry out our wet clothing. Our reservation was unnecessary – I think we were the only guests.

Very disappointing, however, to find that the breakfast restaurant promised on the website was no longer operating. We had not counted on that, so we went in search of food. There was little to offer at the store across the street: Lance crackers, Slim Jims, a banana nut muffin that I snagged, and Danny spotted biscotti. These finds were enough to supplement what we were carrying so we would not starve. Don’t count this as a good resupply point, though.

Redemption: the bar/restaurant did serve dinner and it was amazingly good – homemade tomato basil soup, zucchini and squash, garlic mashed potatoes and smothered chicken. I could not eat it all, even knowing I would wish for it the next day. The staff was gracious and smiling.

And imagine our luck - live music on Wednesdays nights! Somebody’s cousin, I think, played guitar and sang for the hometown folks at the bar. There were rounds of applause for Folsom Prison Blues and other favorites. Danny, a country music fan, was grinning from ear to ear. I sat like a fully stuffed bear while she roamed around the bar, videotaping the crowd and plunking her last quarter into a game machine. At something like 8:30 I finally had to go to bed, leaving her to enjoy the party. We had a full day: rain and dripping trees, sunshine and beautiful fall colors, wild animals and socializing humans. And tomorrow is another day on the MST.
Here is Danny's story and she's sticking to it.

Even if something is left undone, everyone must take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn. ~Elizabeth Lawrence

1 comment:

Danny Bernstein said...

What wonderful memories you bring back as you write about the places we hiked.