Oh, the luxury! The Tiny Room Tour finished up the summer dates in spectacular style. Monday afternoon we loaded up and headed out to Banner Elk, NC to stay at the Mast Farm Inn. Along the way, I was making phone calls and recording interviews for my article due to the community paper the next day. I tell myself that I work best under pressure. By the time we rolled through Boone, then along the back roads of Banner Elk I was thrilled to see the green roof of the inn. We walk in and meet Danielle, the innkeeper. I instantly love her. She’s loud and friendly and laughs a lot. When we asked about local restaurants for dinner, she enthusiastically told us about her favorites. She won my heart when she kept saying, “they specialize in local, organic food.” She asked what we wanted to do while we were there. I said, “We — oh,” and looked over at Zef. “OK, well, I used ‘we’ loosely, because I haven’t asked Zef, but ‘we’ want to hike and kayak.” Z cocked his head to the side and look at me as if he hasn’t had a say about anything since five minutes into our first date. Danielle howled. She took us up to the Aunt Leona Room, a third floor dormer room without a TV and directed us to Vidalia for dinner. Danielle promised the onion rings were amazing and they were. Z had spaghetti with lamb meatballs and I had a tomato and goat cheese salad. Z loved the lamb. I told him to enjoy it, because I was never, ever making it at home.
The next morning we woke to our 8 o’clock coffee delivery. Breakfast was at 8:30 in the dining room. It was a vast and amazing plate of homemade yogurt with granola, vegetable quiche. ham and biscuits. I was stuffed and the forecast said it may rain, so we opted to go for a hike and put off kayaking until better weather the next day. My idea was to wander down some paths, maybe take in a waterfall or two, then head back to town for some shopping. Z had other plans. He looked at the list of trails and immediately zeroed in on Grandfather Trail, where you access part of the trail by climbing up wooden ladders on the mountain face. I thought he was insane, and luckily so did the park service, because they closed the trail for the day because of high winds. We were told we could go to the west side of the mountain and take the Profile Trail. I suppose because we were still full from breakfast, we didn’t pack very much water or food for the hike. I suspect we also thought Profile Trail would be easy. And the first mile was easy. We passed a rocky stream where we played in the cool water. We marched up the inclines past Foscoe View, Profile Campsite and Profile View. Once we reached Shanty Springs, I was starting to think this wasn’t much fun anymore. This is where the climb became technically strenuous. I had already finished most of my water and it was starting to get hot. We passed a couple on the way down. The man, probably in his late 20’s with a bandana wrapped around his head and a professional camera hanging from his neck, was invigorated! He told us to keep going, it was totally worth it. A girl about his age came down the rocks a few minutes after he did. She nodded meekly to his enthusiasm. I looked her in the eye. We exchanged an all-knowing glance that all men are deranged. The couple moved pasted us and kept descending as Z and I started up the rocks. The path is a series of rock formations that we had to navigate. At some parts I found it easier to climb up on my hands and knees. Other parts, I slid on my butt. I asked Z how far we were going. He wanted to make it to the west side head of the Grandfather Trail. “It’s about three miles. Actually, 3.1,” he yelled back at me. It was like a 5K to the sky. I could do that, I told myself. When we reached Calloway Gap, Z decided we should go a little longer. “We’re almost to the peak,” he pleaded. I dragged behind him. My big breakfast had fueled the way up but was now gone. I didn’t have any water left. My legs were shaking. We had the option of going to the Watagua View or Calloway Peak and the elusive Grandfather Trail. Watagua View was closer. “I’m not going the long way,” I told Z. That climb was the hardest thing I had done in a while and I was done. But first I had to get back down. Where going up the trail was physically challenging, going down was mentally challenging. I turned my left ankle three times since I lost the ability to land my foot squarely. I slid down rocks. I was slightly concerned about falling off the trail and down the mountain. When we reached the bottom, I chugged a hot Coke and downed a snack pack of walnuts from the truck. My hands were shaking and I had no strength in my legs. Z, on the other hand, was fine. He leaned against the back of the truck and stretched his legs while I debated going into diabetic shock. When he hopped into the driver’s seat, I informed him that we were going straight to Mellow Mushroom Pizza — despite dusty ankles, despite reeking of bug spray and sunblock and despite the wild look in my eyes. When we got back to the inn, I was still feeling pretty down on myself for having such a hard time on the trail. We met Danielle’s husband, Ken, in the hallway. We told him about our day. He seemed genuinely impressed that we finished the trail in four hours. I used the burst of confidence to will my tired legs up to our third floor room.
The next morning I had to roll myself out of bed because all of my muscles were locked into position. I winced going down the stairs. My upper thigh muscles were unforgiving. I tried to convince Z that antiquing would be a fun alternative to kayaking. He scowled at me and asked for the nearest outfitter. As I ate my fruit danish and drank my OJ, I was grateful that you sit while kayaking. We were the only kayakers on the river with a few tubers and fishermen. And why were we the only kayakers? Because everyone else had the sense to know that it was too shallow to kayak. The mountains, it seems, are also suffering through a drought. At points in the river, we had to get out and drag our kayaks through ankle deep water. Other times, I just reached out and pushed off of the river bed. Z christened our outfitter Rocky Bottom Kayaks. I hate this was Z’s first kayaking trip because it wasn’t as fun as it should have been. Luckily we have a knack for coming away with stories even in the dullest of circumstances.
Currently Reading: Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby
Finished Reading and Loved: The Help by Kathryn Stockett