Sunday, January 1, 2012

Ending 2011 in style...

Sunrise Jan 1, 2012 just below Mt Mitchell.

What a wild year it has been...2011 started, for myself, being in Afghanistan. Since the start of 2011 I have returned from Afghanistan, got out of the Army, traveled what seemed like half the US in search of a job, got a job, moved, bought a house, Linds got a job, met many many awesome friends and have spent as much time as possible since moving to Asheville immersed in the woods, soaking up the sunshine, breathing mountain air, and enjoying the excitement of mountain running, which in and of itself has quite the extensive list. We have ran Shut In, a few times, experienced Dupont waterfalls, Pisgah, Mitchell, Roan Highlands, Big Hump, Big Bald, Max Patch, Graybeard, Linville Gorge, Art Loeb in entirety, and the list goes one. Having spent just about every free moment we have in the mountains and running we decided there was absolutely no other way to end the year than reminiscing about the years events while doing what we love in the sunshine and being in the mountains.
Friday night Linds and I hiked up the Shut In Ridge in search of a campsite that would allow us to watch the sunrise of the Buncombe/Henderson County Valley. Success!! We found a great spot on the ridge. As the night got darker the glow of lights in the city below grew brighter. The air was brisk and the night was quiet. We built a little fire and enjoyed the woods to ourselves. We spent the night listening to the quiet howl of the wind as the night came alive. Being in the woods as night is a whole new world. Not only do things appear different, but they sounds, feel, and smell different as the nocturnal wild comes alive. We woke just before dawn and watch the rest of the world slowly wake from our little spot in the woods. We spent the morning trail running and then descended back to town. Not more than 2 hours later we were packing our packs with the intent to spend the night on Commissary Ridge just below Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi. What better way to end 2011 and bring in another amazing year. Not the mention the sunrise from the top of the world there was going to be epic.
We parked at the ranger station and met Melissa, later to be joined by Jon, Charlie and Lauren and unbeknownst to us another friend. We again hiked into the night as the sun set behind us the glow of the town and world below glistened. There is nothing particularly beautiful about seeing lights but when you up on a ridge with no light seeing the glow of a town below gives one the feeling of complete peace and solitude as the dark woods surrounding come alive. As we began our hike the ranger let us know we may have some visitors as some hunting dogs were running wild chasing bears. As we approached our camp we were greeted by a new friend, Hank, well that's what we called him anyway. Good ole Hank, a bear hunting hound dog, looked as if he had been on the trail for quite some time, a week maybe longer. With every bone in his body showing from malnutrition and a nasty wound from maybe a bear or a bad fall, Hank was more than thrilled with the idea of sharing the night with some guests to bring in the new year.
We quickly set up camp, built a fire and relaxed as the dogs ran around like a couple of kids in a candy shop. After giving Hank a good meal and enjoying some ourselves we counted down the year. There were no regrets in the countdown that night. With plenty of great memories and the anticipation of yet another year filled with many many more, 2011 was ended in proper fashion. As we climbed into our tents and warm bags we lured Hank to our tent to let him share the warmth. As he curled in a ball on a towel underneath the rain fly overhang we covered him in our jackets. I couldn't help but think of all the many gifts, blessings and wonderful comforts of life we so frequently neglect. This very night Hank, though just a dog, was so thrilled just to have cover from the howling mountain wind for just a few hours.
Again, waking just before the sun we enjoyed one of the best sunrises I have yet to experience. As the sun rose from beyond Charlotte and what seemed like the edge of the world we welcomed 2012. Another day, another year, and in the moment another amazing time in the sunshine!

Hank, our New Years Eve companion.

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