The next morning of our Robbinsville trip dawned grey and very rainy. We'd expected to hike, so a change of plans was in order. We hunted up a great little bookstore/cafe/wine store (yes, really!) in Andrews, North Carolina, and spent the morning browsing books before enjoying a delicious cafe lunch. By the time we'd finished, the weather had cleared up enough that we decided to go for a hike after all.
We drove up to Huckleberry Knob on the Cherohala Skyway in the Unicoi Mountains. Huckleberry Knob is the highest point in the Cheoah Ranger District, at 5560 ft elevation. It's a nice easy hike with a stunning panorama at the top.
We set out for the first bald, Oak Knob. The views there were already gorgeous, but we noticed some threatening rain clouds moving in. Billy and I decided to press on anyway- we wanted to get to the top!
We hurried to Huckleberry Knob, but prudently decided to skirt the summit and remain closer to the treeline. Lightning can be unpredictable and quite dangerous in that area! We stopped for a quick snack.
Just seconds after this photo was taken, I turned to Billy as we were packing up. "Do you hear that?", I asked. We listened intently for a moment with a dawning realization. "Is that wind in the trees, or is it. . .", and POW! We were slammed with the approaching wall of rain.
We scrambled to get the boys into ponchos and rain jackets as fast as we could. We did pretty well, except we were one jacket short. So I grabbed Billy's BC Australian hat to keep the rain out of my face, and swam through the atmosphere in my jeans and shirt. I was soaked, but it was a blast!
By the time we'd slogged back to Oak Knob, the rain was already leaving us. One horizon sported billowy clouds breaking apart to reveal blue sky behind, and the other revealed a full arch of rainbow, stunning against the retreating grey storm.
We stopped, reluctant to end our outing if the weather was going to dry out.
Soon enough, the rain ended altogether and the afternoon sun transformed the wet grass into a stunning display of scattered diamonds. We dried out for awhile in the sun and mountain breeze, and then decided to try again for Huckleberry Knob's summit.
The view was appropriately stunning. 360 degrees of mountains greeted us, complete with rich cream clouds running over the peaks and puddling into the valleys. Everywhere around we could see the weather changing before our eyes.
We settled in to enjoy ourselves, admiring the views, running and playing, communing with the wind, taking pictures, relaxing and (for Billy and I) making a toast to a fabulous couple of days.
It was absolutely a transformative experience, a time that I will never forget.
Finally, reluctantly, we packed up and hiked out, tired and fulfilled.
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The next day would bring a drive home, and a meetup with Billy's Mom and two Aunts for dinner. It was a wonderful little visit. It would be the last time we saw Nora alive. This trip turned out to be an essential repairing and rejuvenating tonic for our souls that helped us to weather the storm ahead.
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18 hours ago