When I want to take time away and get lost in my surroundings, I usually head to the Blue Ridge Parkway, Waynesville, and/or the Appalachian Trail (AT) in North Carolina. I realize there are closer places but there’s something about these dear, dark woods and thundering mountains that bring contentment and wonder to the forefront of my soul. Do you have a place like this?

This part of the AT heads up to the Albert Mountain Fire Tower and though we have hiked it before, there is always a new sense of wonder waiting for us. This time the trail was just as beautiful but had a different feel because it was somewhat abandoned. So, for the most part, we hiked alone probably due to Covid-19. we passed places where hikers normally would pitch their tents and ready camp fires.

Though it was late in the afternoon, we didn’t really see anyone except two hikers; and in the beginning, a older guy, who claimed to be a member of a rescue team for an Iron Man event. He tried to tell us about a fallen biker, who was seriously hurt on the trail.

He had some military gear and I asked him if he had served in the army. “No the Marines,” he answer quickly.  More than likely had PTSD because he kept talking into his phone and told us he was radioing a helicopter in to help the fallen biker.

I thanked him for his service for our country. There is so much in-fighting in our nation today that we totally forget those, who gave everything so we could have freedom. Freedom, folks, comes with a serious price tag.

As we walked away, he shouted out to us that over 200 bikers were headed our way; and honestly, we would have believed him had it not been for this pandemic moment, the need for social distancing, and the obvious fact that no one was “mountain-bike” experienced enough to ride this straight up stretch of trail. We just moved on.

And we enjoyed the greens surrounding us with a touch of  pink added. In this time of stress and confinement—get out and see green with some pink, if nothing else!

We reached the Albert Mountain Fire Tower in record time just in case the 200-plus bikers overtook us. I still have this thing for climbing these towers. I can’t shake the desire! They take my breath away.

The Albert Mountain towers sets squarely on the 100 mile point of the AT—that is if you start hiking from Springer Mountain in Georgia. It doesn’t look that formidable from this point, but when you climb to the top, the view drastically changes.

Anne has a different story to tell. She hates heights, Really, I do, too, but once I climbed one tower, I was hooked. 🙂 This was the first time, Anne climbed a tower with me. She usually stays below and watches the “stuff.” We actually thought she would stop on the first level but guess what!

She kept going. How did I get her to climb higher and higher? I shouted down about the view, the bragging rights she will have, and how you can see Waterrock from the top. That did it! Up she came.

Pat and I were there already and behind us are the North Carolina mountains. It was at that point that I noticed we were all wearing red shirts! We were and are flags for freedom and hope and . . . adventure. America stay as free as long as you can! Do you remember where you were in 1976—the 100th anniversary of our country? I do and I won’t forget that moment of celebration.

Anne made it to the highest point! The cab on the top of this tower stays locked, so we had to be satisfied with the high steps view. But there remain hundreds of these old towers in Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina. There is even a hidden one located just off the Blue Ridge Parkway and I have my mind’s eye on it.

When you are this high, you can easily see the pattern of the clouds on the land below. I never want to leave the high places. Like Peter in the New Testament, I want to tell Jesus that I will pitch tents for him and the others with us and we’ll stay right here. We all know the answer to that—no pitching tents and staying. The call was to go—not stay.

So, at this point, we realized that we needed to get back down so we could meet Beth for dinner in Franklin. Also two hikers were approaching and they shouted up about needing water. I was very proud of myself that I had noticed a water source near by and ended up giving the poor guys the wrong direction! Could I survive on the AT alone? Probably not. I knew they would find water though because those who hike the AT usually know how to find water to drink and cook with. They filter everything.

Hey, the rhododendron is still blooming!

along with wild Bee Balm!

Finally, we made it back down, but there had been activity in the “low lands.”  While we were up on the tower, we notice bursts of wind but thought nothing of it. The wind felt good on a hot summer day.

Down below trees where coming down and one came down squarely across the only road out of the area. When we arrived no one was doing anything about it! Alarm! Rushing to meet Beth for dinner was not going to happen.

We got out of our SUV, surveyed the situation, and talked with some “I don’t know” folks. Nothing was happening or going to happen unless we made it happen. We turned the SUV around and headed back to a primitive camp ground where we found a huge family tent camping and cooking out. It was a place just ripe for guys, who wanted to test their wilderness skills.

Amazingly, one had a work truck with a trusty wench attached to the front and the rest is history. We got out but missed dinner with Beth at the Lazy Hiker. (Sad)

Click here to get the direction to Albert Mountain Fire Tower via the AT and Mooney Gap. It is an easy hike up to the last half mile, then it is straight up, but if I can do it (a cancer survivor), you can do it! Blessings!