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THE MILE HIGH CLUB

R The following trip report has been rated "R" by whatever association rates trip reports. It is intended for mature audiences only. That and some of my friends who may or may not qualify as mature audiences. You know who you are.

On Sunday, Christy and I headed out for our first hike since we returned from Wyoming. We brought along Saucony, whose most vigorous exercise this summer has come from 10 minute games of Frisbee. Todd* also joined us, though he wasn't in much better shape. We were enticed by the promise of a perfect weather day. The forecast called for a sunny day with highs in the 60's. We were also motivated by the opportunity to pick blueberries from a secret location.

* Some names may have been changed to protect the guilty

We got off to a relaxed start, so we didn't actually start down the old toll road from the parkway until 11AM. We arrived in dense fog, and we could only hope that it would burn off by the afternoon so we could enjoy our perfect weather day. We hiked down the old road, which is actually the bed of the original railroad that ran from Black Mountain to Mount Mitchell.

Large sections of the road were flooded, and the rest was either rocky or muddy. In one muddy area Christy spotted a huge bear track. Earlier we had passed an impressive pile of bear scat. Ironically, both were within shouting distance of the bear hunter's camps that are along the toll road.

Aside from the bear sign, it was a fairly boring walk. However, the road was lined with a variety of wildflowers, which made the hike pretty. At one point we passed a large group of adults and teenagers backpacking towards the parkway. I think it was the first time I've seen people actually backpacking on the toll road. Later we saw them again, camped just off the old grade between the hunter's camps and the parkway.

We hiked into Montreat property and ascended the blue blazed trail towards Greybeard. We crossed a stream and climbed to the shelter near Walker Knob. We took the short side trip out to the cliffs for lunch. There is a fantastic view here on a clear day. It was rather cloudy and hazy, but at least there was no fog to the south.

After lunch we resumed the climb up Greybeard. It was a humid day, and we were all sweating profusely by the time we reached Seven Sisters Ridge. We found the ridge thickly covered with some type of white daisy. The birds were singing. The bees were buzzing. We pressed on towards the climax of the mountain, which is just short of 5400 feet in elevation.

Editors Note: This would be an excellent time for sensitive, easily embarrassed readers to skip ahead exactly nine paragraphs. Mature audiences may continue reading at their own risk.

I neared the summit but stopped short. An odd sound had caught my attention. At first I wasn't sure what it was, but it definitely wasn't a bear. Saucony barked, but fortunately I prevented her from investigating. Then I became aware of what I was hearing. At first I thought someone was on the summit, audibly struggling to recover from the climb. However, that could only account for part of what I was hearing. No, this was something entirely different. So, how do I describe what I heard? Clearly someone was very happy about something. Perhaps he (yes, what I heard was definitely a he) was thrilled with the fogged in view? No, I don't think that was it, either.

Christy and Todd reached the peak, having missed all the fun. I quickly filled Christy in, but left Todd in the dark. Then I heard feminine giggling. Well, that answered one of several questions that were bouncing around in my mind. We waited at a lower overlook for what I hoped was a sufficient amount of time before continuing to the summit.

We reached the top and found a couple there. They were a bit sweaty, but then, who wasn't? Like I said, it was a humid day. There wasn't much of a view (ha!) due to the fog, so we didn't linger. We found the badly overgrown path on the far side of the peak and descended into the jungle. At first I wasn't sure we'd make it through the undergrowth, but it opened up a bit below the summit. Still we had to fight our way through brush and thorns to reach the gap below the Rocky Knobs.

We stopped at the gap and I explained to Todd what he'd missed. This led to an amusing conversation that will be difficult to recount. Here's an excerpt:

Todd: Well, I thought she was hot.

Andy: No, I think she was just flushed.

Todd: I mean she was attractive.

Andy: I dunno. Her hair was messed up.

Todd: I mean she was rather attractive for being in her 40's.

Andy: Do you think she was that old? I thought she looked younger. Maybe that's just due to the glow.

Todd: The rosy glow of youth?

Andy: Something like that.

And so it went. Christy alternated between laughing and shaking her head, sometimes simultaneously. We even discussed starting a new club. We've already got South Beyond 6000, which recognizes hikers who climb all of the peaks in the southeast over 6000'. Now, almost anyone can climb a mountain. But to, uh, experience a mountain, to really get back to nature, now that would be an achievement. What we proposed was a club that recognized those that experienced the highest mountains in our region in a special way. After much debate, we decided to call our new club South Beyond 6".

I'm sure there was an equally amusing conversation going on back on Greybeard. It probably included something like, "I TOLD YOU someone would come up here!"

Editors Note: We now return you to the hike already in progress.

We climbed gradually towards Rocky Knobs. We found a few blueberries as well as some ripe blackberries along the way. We reached a path just below the summit, but skipped the peak thanks to the persistent fog. We followed a decent trail east down towards the toll road. At this point, Christy tried to accelerate the hike back to the car by flying.

The following excerpt was copied directly out of "Life, The Universe, And Everything", by Douglas Adams. God rest his soul.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has this to say on the subject of flying.
There is an art, it says, or, rather, a knack to flying.
The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.
Pick a nice day, it suggests, and try it.
The first part is easy.
All it requires is simply the ability to throw yourself forward with all your weight, and the willingness not to mind that it's going to hurt. That is, it's going to hurt if you fail to miss the ground.
Most people fail to miss the ground, and if they are really trying properly, the likelihood is that they will fail to miss it fairly hard.
Clearly it is the second part, the missing, which presents the difficulties.
One problem is that you have to miss the ground accidentally. It's no good deliberately intending to miss the ground because you won't. You have to have your attention suddenly distracted by something else when you're halfway there, so that you are no longer thinking about falling, or about the ground, or about how much it's going to hurt if you fail to miss it.
It is notoriously difficult to prize your attention away from these three things during the split second you have at your disposal. Hence, most people's failure, and their eventual disillusionment with this exhilarating and specatacular sport.

Christy got the first part right, as she launched herself and actually went airborne. Unfortunately she botched the second part and failed to miss the ground, landing rather badly in a pile of sticks. Later, when she regained the ability to speak, she claimed to have tripped. I'm pretty sure she was trying to fly though, or at least body surf down the mountain. Anyway, it's easy to joke about now, since she was able to stand and still had all of her limbs in the right places.

We returned to the old toll road and began the walk back. The less-than-perfect weather and Christy's bruises persuaded us to skip a visit to the top of the Pinnacle. Instead we hiked directly out and reached the car by 4pm. It had been, as usual, an interesting hike. On this occasion, we didn't see what we'd expected, but did encounter some things that we didn't. I guess that just part of the adventure. As always, we'll be looking forward to a return to Greybeard Mountain. Next time though, we'll approach the summit with caution.




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