We awoke to pouring rain. Not a good thing when you're supposed to pack up camp and hit the road right after breakfast. This being the third time it rained (it trickled for a few minutes on our first or second day at camp) I continued my running joke of saying the rain would stop by 9 o'clock. Well, it didn't stop until about 10am, unlike my previous predictions that came to fruition. But by around 9am being stuck in the tent (and Wilder having roused us all by 6:15am) we were ready to start doing something. With the rain still drizzling I made oatmeal and eggs with sausage; a hot meal makes all the difference on a cold, wet, disappointing morning. As we started organizing and packing up camp the rain lifted and by the time Brian hauled most of our things up the long trail to the truck the day was dry.
By noon we were set and ready to go -but before blast off...one last dip in the river. Brian had mastered easing into the frigid water so that he could spend a minute or so submerged (at least from the neck down.) I had yet to do more than stand waist deep and dunk in once or twice. After so many trips with all our stuff up and down that blasted hill, Brian was ready for a dunk in the stream. I stayed at the car with Wilder and Savannah, and eventually Brian came back thoroughly refreshed. Wilder was sick of sitting in his car seat and was already well past his nap time, but Brian offered for me to take a dip and -after short deliberation- I jumped at the chance. But, he said, I had to get in ALL THE WAY.
I gleefully skipped down the hill, slipped off my sandals and, well, everything else, and entered the river. Feet, Ankles, Knees. Out again. Feet, Ankles, Knees, Thighs. Out again. Gradually I worked myself up to my waist when Brian and Wilder joined me by the river. Great, I thought, now I REALLY have to get in all the way. My romantic ideas of swimming in the creek quickly fizzled when I entered up to my thighs. Oh, I thought, I can just rinse off -that'll be fine. But now with witnesses, the challenge had to be met.
Brian coached me as I made exclamations of the impossibility of actually making it in the water all the way. Tingling pins pierced my skin as I eased myself further in the water, bobbing in and out to gradually adjust. I kicked my legs and held my hands above the water in an effort to stay as warm as I could. It's funny how you feel warmer if your hands are out of the water. Kicking my legs helped me ensure my muscles were not cramping. Finally I managed to get in past my shoulders. I dunked down, the river rushing over my head, but the rocks easily in reach beneath my feet. The current was strong and I had to pull forward with my arms as I resurfaced to maintain my position. Held firmly in Brian's arms, Wilder paddled his feet just off the shore in the cool stream. I regained warmth as I stood waist deep and prepared for another full dunk. It was invigorating, painful, yet exciting -just like much of our trip. A fresh experience, not without its discomfort, but worth the struggle for such terrific gains. Hiking up and down those mountains, struggling with the packs on our backs, bushwacking through the wrong turns and forgotten trails brought such accomplishment and sense of adventure, as well as creating the bonding experiences that bring a family together. Packing up in the rain, having a car battery die in the wilderness, trying to cross a rushing river with a child on your back and nothing better than luck to get you from one rock to the other, getting an 18 month old to adjust to sleeping in new places -these are the things that create memories and family glue. Another hardship that Brian will not let me leave out is having to drive nearly an hour away to buy beer because, FYI, Graham County -where the National Forest is- is DRY.
So, I dunked three times and was able to bob submerged from the shoulders down. I met the challenge and I conquered. When Brian told me I had to go in all the way as I skipped down to the river, he shouted, "If you don't, you'll regret it!" I certainly would have. I am glad that I have a partner who encourages and challenges me -in so many positive ways. I have become a better woman for being with this wonderful man.
Finally all loaded up, we headed for a southern route back home. Brian -GOD BLESS HIM- hating to go the same way he came thought it would be fun to exit towards Alabama, head through Mississippi, dip in to Louisiana -CHECK OUT NEW ORLEANS- and head to Texas via Houston. Neither of us had ever been to New Orleans and I had so wanted to take a small trip with him there over his leave. With yet another one of my dreams about to come true, we headed southwest for home, though it was painful leaving our wilderness paradise.Soft Serve Run!!! Just oustide of Murphy, NC we had to stop for our McDonald's ice cream run. Right next door was this fabulously cute restaurant and ice cream shop. The No Name Cafe. It was so precious I had to snap a photo and share.
Guess who we were behind in the drive through at MickeyD's? Yep, the HickChic of North Carolina. Weren't we lucky!
And across the street, another example of the super thick Bible Belt we were in. I mean, churches EVERYWHERE. Little towns with barely 200 people had 8 churches. No wonder Graham County was dry.
We're still at the drive through waiting for our stuff. Wilder was being too cute -kicking his bare feet to the beat of old country songs from our "soundtrack" (see previous post Day 7) with his goofy hair-do.
I finally got a shot of this father and son as they were loading into the car. The little boy was waving the confederate flag around, wearing a race car shirt and playing in the back of the truck while the dad was standing around talking with a friend. Obviously, this McDonald's was THE PLACE to be.
We made it through Birmingham, AL and Brian pressed on. At nearly 10pm we arrived in Meridian, MS. We found a room at the Econolodge -amazingly nice for the price (we're typically Motel 6 folks) and the manager even waived the $10 pet fee since Brian was such a gentleman compared to the rascal who checked in before him. Besides, Savannah really isn't a pet, she's a personality. Why, she behaves better than Wilder! Anyway, we had our first real bathing experiences in over a week and that bed felt better than any we've ever slept in. And -pst- Wilder went to bed like an absolute prince and didn't wake up once in the night. That's what I call progress!