Monday, April 27, 2015

Little Pisgah - Part 3: Peak Experience

This is part 3 in my series of stories about rambling on Little Pisgah Mountain.
Part 1 is at:
Part 2 is at: 

 Rime ice on the lower slope of Little Pisgah.  You can see the top of the mountain, with its hated tower, peeking out from behind the ridge.

I think it was 1975.  My parents had driven their camper to Mexico for the Winter, and I was staying in their house on Garren Creek.  I had a a second dog named Pearl to keep Fonzie company, and we had spent many days together exploring and enjoying Little Pisgah.  It still hadn't been developed much, and there was no tower on top.  It was a hiker's Paradise!

On this Saturday morning it was cold and damp, with clouds hanging down over the mountain, and I was staying inside.  Later in the day I went outside and realized that things had changed!  The wind had come up, the sky was bright blue, and the top of the ridge was covered in rime ice.  It took me about two seconds to get motivated.  I had to get up on the mountain to see that rime ice, and I knew that as bright as the sun was shining it would melt soon.  Time to get moving!  I ran inside and threw on my cold weather hiking clothes & boots.

When I came back out the dogs were excited and frisking around, they knew we were going somewhere.  We were soon down the driveway and hit that ridge hard.  I took every shortcut I knew, (not the near disastrous ones from my last story!) and made the best speed I could.  I wasn't going to miss this chance if I could help it!  When I topped the 1000 foot ridge the ice I had seen from the house was already gone.  Now I really had to pour it on.  I had one more good shortcut left, a steep ridge-line that cut off a big loop of the logging road.  It was too overgrown to use in Summer but was clear enough in Winter.  Where it came out into the open I could look across at Craggy and Mitchel, and they had ice on them.  That encouraged me, and I made a push for the top.  To my relief as I got closer I came into the rime ice - I was going to make it in time!  When I got to the top I glanced at my watch.  I had made the 1800 foot climb in exactly one hour, a personal record.  Later when I told my Mother this story she believed it all except the time.  She had hiked that mountain, and didn't think I could do it that fast!

I didn't waste much time looking at my watch, there was too much else to see.  There was several inches of snow on the ground.  Every twig of every tree and shrub was thickly coated in rime ice, which to me is one of the most beautiful things in the world.  The sky was deep cobalt blue and the intense sunlight made all the snow and ice sparkle like diamonds,  It looked magical!

And then there was the wind...  Coming up the mountain I had been sheltered from it, but no more.  It was blowing out of the Southeast, which is unusual to start with.  And this was the strongest steady wind I have experienced to this day.  A monster cold front must have been coming through, and the wind was roaring!.  I was standing on the highest point around and was exposed to the full blast.  I couldn't stand straight up, but had to lean forward and brace myself to keep from being knocked over!  I was being shaken and buffeted, and looking around in amazement at the sparkling wonderland and the gorgeous view.

Then I took a good look at the horizon.  Always, even on the clearest days, when you look towards the horizon the view fades into the haze at some point, however far away.  Not this time!  The wind had blown all the haze away, and the line of the horizon was razor sharp.  For the only time in my life I was looking at the true horizon, and I could clearly see the curve.  I can testify - the earth is round, and I saw it!

I stood there entranced for a long time, but the wind was cutting through my clothes, and it was cold!  I had to get back into the relative shelter of the North side of the mountain.  I was too pumped up to go home yet, and ended up exploring over to Blue Rock Knob, where I hadn't been before.  I had to slip past a couple of houses once I got there, but found a rock outcrop with a view back down the Garren Creek valley from its head.  I could see where it cut between Little Pisgah and Garren Mountain, and it looked more like a canyon than a valley.  One more beautiful vista to cap the day!  From there I went back over to Little Pisgah and down to the house.  I think I was floating all the way home!

For your sake I wish I'd had a camera to capture images of what I saw, I know my words can't do it justice.  But I don't think pictures could even come close to capturing the experience.  As for myself, I treasure the memory of the most memorable day I ever spent in the mountains.

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