Looking Glass Rock

on 02 August 2010

And, the moral of this story is Always Plan in Advance.  Also, maybe tell your spouse about any existing family curses.

We had climbed Chimney Rock on Wednesday so Thursday we just sort of futzed around.  We drove out to Cherokee in the hopes of some living history but what we found was lots of cheese and expensive cheese at that.  So, somewhat bummed but not out of the ball game, we headed back to the camper to think about Friday.

Now, before we ever got to the mountains we had talked about what we were interested in seeing.   Chris wanted to see waterfalls, I love me an old growth forest.  So on Friday, not really having a plan, we drove out to the Pisgah National Forest ranger station to browse some trials.

Chris had wanted to hike to Looking Glass Falls, but it's really just a sidewalk by the side of the road down to the falls area.  It's easy-peasy and a little boring.  So in looking around I came across a postcard for Looking Glass Rock.  It's a big beautiful rock in the middle of NOWHERE.   Perfect!  So I may have sort of talked him into hiking it.

I will admit that the hike was listed as moderately difficult.  I will admit that I took note of the distance (a little over 3 miles one way--not very long) out and BACK.  But in my defense, I saw the POSTCARD.  I thought for sure the hike would take us through the woods and into a nice little clearing where we could SEE Looking Glass Rock, in the far DISTANCE.


That thought is not quite what we experienced.  And in some respects that's a good thing because at one point Chris said that if we came out the trail head and all we saw was a big ROCK he was going to be very mad at me.  And that's NOT what we saw, so by rights he shouldn't have been upset.

Of course, at another point he said that if the view didn't make fireworks shoot out of his eyes he was going to be really upset and that didn't happen either.

But perhaps I should begin with the hike.

We parked at the trail head, and I shall admit that we were getting started a bit late for the Boy.  The Boy usually has lunch at 11:30 and naps at 12.  And even when traveling we try, try, TRY to maintain this schedule.  But when we left the trail head it was 10:30.  Now, delusional me, I'm thinking, I can walk 3 miles in an hour--no problem!  What I hadn't banked on was the out AND back.  Also, the fact that my wonderful husband, normally Christopher the Inert, is patiently schlepping the 30 pound wonder.

We start out and it's beautiful, it's lovely!  It's a walk in the woods!  It's shady and green and charming.  Look, honey!  It's a pretty little waterfall!  And then we hit the switchbacks.  And I'm thinking, "Hey!  Switchbacks!  I've missed these!"  And Chris is lagging behind, so I perkily call back encouragement.

(Encouragement that wasn't so much working as annoying the crap out of him.)

We hadn't made it to the half-way point, but had gone up many mighty fine switchbacks when my dear, dear husband calls from 20 feet behind me:


We pause for water and I try another form of encouragement:

"We have to be close to the top, look how short the switchbacks are!"

That didn't work either.  And the Boy had had quite enough.  After lunching on a granola bar he slept in a fit of displeasure.

What he's really thinking is, "My Mama is crazy."

So we soldiered on.  And on.  And on.  And at one point I said..."I may have found the trail that just never ends."

And I'm pretty sure that Chris was cursing me from down the trail, but he persevered too.  And I'm quite proud of him actually, because, as you are about to witness, he totally saved the day.

We had met a few people heading up the trail.  They passed us and then we passed them and then they passed us and we just never caught up with them again.

Until they headed back DOWN and we hadn't even reached the end of the trail yet.

It was actually a lovely metaphor for our marriage.  I'm much better with the day-to-day doldrums of life.  And poor Chris, he gets bogged down in a deathmarch.  But when there's a crisis.  My man, he pulls through in spades.

We finally did get to the top.  Fireworks didn't shoot out his eyes or anything, but he was really pleased, and for good reason.

We were both STUNNED by the view.  Instead of hiking to a hill or a meadow and looking directly at the rock, we had climbed up the south face of it and were standing ON the rock.  It was amazing.  It was vertigo inspiring.  The trail comes out onto a rock that isn't quite flat.  It slopes gradually down about 12 feet from the trail head and then it just drops into nothing.  In fact, the only other people up there were a couple of rock climbers who had climbed UP the north face and another small group of hikers who had passed us on the trail.

After pausing to soak up the view and feel the open air on our very much sweat soaked faces, we headed back down the trail to a campsite that wasn't far from the top.  We let the Boy walk around for a bit and we all snacked and hydrated.  I apologized for having coerced my forbearing husband unwittingly up the side of a mountain.  And so we peaceably packed up and headed back down the mountain.

At this point I take a moment to observe to Chris how unearthly quiet it is up here.  There weren't even any birds about.  It was sort of eery and disconcerting.  But Chris thought it lovely so I shrugged it off and followed him down the trail.  We hadn't gone a quarter of a mile before I observe that there seem to be some ominous looking clouds above us and do we think that we'll make it back to the car before the rain?

At which point big fat drops begin to plop onto our heads.  Chris cheerfully calls back, "Nope.  I don't think we'll make it back to the car before the rain."

When I say the heavens opened and a deluge, the like of which I have not seen in several years began to descend, I am not exaggerating.

After 5 minutes or so, we were all soaked to the skin, the boy is bellowing in protest so loudly his cries echoed off the mountain and I realize that I have failed to inform Chris of something important.

See.  My family is CURSED.

I thought it was maybe just my Dad.  The incidents only ever seemed to happen with HIM.  But in this moment, I am feeling the full weight of a genealogical CURSE.  Every time we would go camping.  Or hiking.  Or do anything remotely related to the outdoors, it would RAIN.  Every. Single. Time.

So whilst we're both hurrying as quickly as we can down the mountain and the Boy is still bellowing at the top of his lungs, I say, "I may have neglected to mention that my family is cursed!"

At which point Chris asks for clarification and when I explain to him the nature of the familial curse he says, "NOW YOU MENTION IT!"  I try to explain that I thought it was maybe just my DAD!  We had beautiful weather for Chimney Rock!  But to no avail.

The Boy is still screaming.

It's still, STILL pouring rain.  It's also thundering.  The trail is now running freely with water, the waterfalls have acheived the measure of their creation and are indeed falling fully into greater widths and depths than we had to cross on our way up.  We are all soaking wet.  I am beginning to feel awash in all manner of parental guilt.

After all, the Boy has now missed, lunch, and his nap and he's soaking wet.  In his short life, he's never known such deplorable childhood conditions.

I attempt to soothe him how my father would have soothed me.  By reminding him of all the impoverished children in the Phillipines who spend months of the year soaking wet during monsoon season.

It doesn't work.

We are nearer to the end of the trail, we're all soaking wet, muddy, I've managed to slip and fall on a rock splitting my knee open and I have an open wound on the back of my ankle because wet shoes rub very differently than dry ones.

And all through this, Chris was absolutely amazing.  He was cheerful and optimistic and tried to soothe and comfort the Boy, all while walking as quickly as possible down the trail to get him into dry clothes and into the car.  I can't tell you enough how Chris totally saved the day.  What humor he was utterly lacking on the way up, he more than made up for on the way down.  And more than once he stopped to remind me of how beautiful it was.

And it really was.

Just as we caught sight of the car, the rain stopped and we both started to chuckle about it. 

I had packed dry shirts for us in the backpack but they--and everything else in BOTH packs--were absolutely soaking wet.  We dry off as best we can and I ask Chris if he thinks the reason it was so quiet on top of the mountain was maybe because the birds had all taken cover from that lovely little piece of dampness.

And he says, "I think that might be a reasonable deduction."

The Boy was just grand.  Once he got dried off and was comforted by his beloved binkit he was good as gold.

I'll need someone to remind me to tell him about the family curse, when he gets a little older.


Cel and JP said...

I would love to send you hiking in New Mexico. Just to test the cures. Because you know they could use the rain :) :)

p.s. sorry about your knee!

the MuLLinS said...

Too funny!!!

Brett said...

What a great story! LOVED reading about this particular adventure.

Also, have you ever seen the movie "Penelope?"

Jill said...

MISS!! i HAVE to go to bed and can't, i'm so compelled by all your great stories - you HAVE to publish this at some point, really! i love your hike, the summit, the rain....russ and i tried a campout during our first year of marriage...you know what? it rained. it rained HARD. and so we packed up that tent and went back home and didn't camp for YEARS. love ya! miss ya! see you in a couple weeks :)