I find myself home again after a fall spent traveling to Tuscaloosa, New York City, the Chesapeake Bay, and the Outer Banks. I’m a little road weary and glad to be back in Asheville for a while. So here is something I wrote back in the Spring of 2009 about coming home after a season of adventures.
As the trees opened up at the bend in the trail, the late afternoon sun striking out across the gorge washed the alternating bands of lush vegetation and jagged rock walls before me in a fiery glow that filled my mind and spirit with a profound sense of peace and wonder.
I was home again.
It was the late summer of 2003 at the end of a road trip that had taken me down rivers in the canyons of Utah, hiking in the magnificent forests of the Cascades, and sea kayaking in the salmon and berry filled fiords of southeast Alaska, but at that moment, I realized that nothing I had experienced on that journey had surpassed the beauty I was witnessing out my backdoor on the rim of the Linville Gorge Wilderness in North Carolina.
Growing up as a skateboarding, floppy banged, punk rock aficionado in 1980’s north Alabama, I spent my time waiting for the day I could leave the southeast behind for more majestic and progressive places. I had dreams of attending collage in a ski town out west where I would live in the big mountains and hit the steeps in between classes, but reality and my introverted nature set in and so I remained in the south for my collage years, still dreaming of the time I would escape to more exciting locales. A few twists and turns after college eventually led me to work full time as an instructor for the North Carolina Outward Bound School where I was able to create a lifestyle allowing me to travel and explore new places. My time in that role had me spending warm months hiking and sea kayaking the mountains of western North Carolina and the Outer Banks, then migrating down south during the winter to paddle the Florida Everglades and islands of the Bahamas. It was a grand adventure, allowing me ample time to travel in the time periods between migrations or when I chose to take a season off, as happened that summer of 2003.
Travel is a magical thing. It strips us down to a minimum of our precious possessions and puts us in places where we don’t know what to expect around the next bend or from the next conversation we’re about to have. It allows us a perspective on the places we’ve come from that is far more valuable than what it teaches us about the places we may be visiting at the time. Experiencing the different environments and cultures we travel through shines a light on ourselves, and helps to clarify who we are and what we truly value. When I was younger, I felt that one had to get as far away as possible to experience these things. The moment of clarity I had while looking in awe at the Linville Gorge taught me that adventure, natural wonder, and the insight they imbue can be found right at home.
I now consider myself fortunate to live in the southeast. Here one can explore rugged mountains, beautiful coastlines, and a fascinating cultural and natural history. In these times of economic uncertainty and global warming, what better way to save money, minimize our environmental impacts, and bolster our local economies than to seek our adventures close to home. For me lately, these might simply involve a long run on a local trail or a weekend bike tour. A week away might involve camping and paddling in the coastal areas of the Carolina’s, or a hike on a section of the Appalachian trail. Though the Linville Gorge is no longer my backyard, the Asheville Botanical Gardens are right down the street and the Blue Ridge Parkway is just a 20 minute bike ride away. Natural beauty, adventure, and all the benefits that come along with these phenomenon can be right outside your door if you open yourself up them.