Monday, July 6, 2009

Hi Doll- Mt. Mitchell Transfer

Mt. Mitchell 6,684ft
Highest Point East of the M-i crick a letta, crick a letta-i, crick a letta, crick a letta-i, hump back, hump back-i River.
That's Mississippi to all y'all city folk.

This high place has had a significant pastoral meaning to me since I first saw it in 1993. Since then I have been may times including plenty of day hikes and camps to both the north and south trails which are some of the steepest and most technically varied in the east. I have walked up in the winter from Burnsville NC, the north approach with Timmy, Domras(who convinced me to go winter climb Mt Washington in NH two Februaries ago) and Wilkes. I have even ridden my road bike from here in the Jar(Charlotte NC)138miles there with tons of climb 3 times since 2000, once solo and twice with friends who thought it was a great ride indeed. The way this mountain and its ridge feels is unique to anything I have experienced in North America. The geological make up can only be found in the Canadian Rockies which I do hope to see and experience one day. All the reasons above are why I asked Hi Doll and St. Lissa to go up this past Friday for a day trip. Meet Hi Doll, also known by her birth name as Alma Keck. Hi Doll was born in April of 1918 in Little Rock Arkansas and is St. Lissa's Grandmother as well Ms. Arcen's Great. She has told me some interesting stories about living on a farm as a young kid in Pascagoula during the Great Depression. Till this day straight through the now Hi Doll who is 91 years something just short of a crack out still works 30-40hrs a week depending on the schedule. If you are wondering what her livity consists of she is the bread lady at a local branch of a regional cafeteria style restaurant. So, compared to me or anyone else I know she is a complete bad ass who stands on her feet in 8hr shifts while serving the masses what they desire with her stainless tongs that she treats with a silk wrap daily.
Alma 'Go' Keck was ready relatively early and the three of us plus Zoo Zoo the Crayon Eater headed out west and north. The car drive was mundane until we exited I-40 into the little town of Old Fort NC. Through the classic downtown style main street USA and then left onto Curtis Creek Road for the climb up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. For those of you unfamiliar Curtis Creek Rd starts as asphalt then turns into crushed gravel fire road for 9 twisty miles all the way up through the rhododendrons to the parkway. It may have been awhile since Hi Doll in the shot gun position had seen such a road, she kept giggling and asking me if I was sure I knew where we were. "Ohhhh Lordy...", with a high pitched laugh that sounded like, "Hoo, hoooo, heeee, hooo" as we rounded the corner on a narrow little bridge over the clean creek. We stopped at the spring and filled a bottle with mountain water that tasted clear and very cold. Just at the last pitch before reaching the BRP we passed a 'solo' mountain biker who was wearing green, I yelled happiness to him through the open window. Left on the Park Way. We stopped at one overlook to make some pictures where Nathan and Jordy hung out with the hippies on a Heartbreak Ridge Mountain Ride past. Continue on the BRP south to the Mt. Mitchell State Park entrance which is a splendid climb indeed. Hi Doll was blown away by the vistas and the way that the 59F air felt on her face. It was 89F when we left the Jar some 3hrs plus ago.
After parking the car St. Lissa took Hi Doll to freshen up in the State Park accessible facilities. I took Zula for a walk around the cone and met some fine folks including Mr. & Mrs. Santa Clause in the saturated blue sky. The climb to the summit is 286 yards upwards which is easy from here if you are less than lets say 91 years old but if you are then you need all the help you can get to see the panorama. As crazy as this sounds but as true as it is my intuition had me stop a State Ranger who walked by while I was chatting with with Santa and his wife as I held Zoo on lead. As soon as I looked into his mustache, I mean eyes I realized that I recognized him as the State Ranger who called the Federal one on Jordy, Nathan and I on the same Heart Break ride as I mentioned above. Anyways, he recognized me not as I looked straight into his soul and asked, "Do you have a wheel chair that I can use to push a 91 year old woman up to the tower?" He said, "No" but in a friendly tone let me know that park associate Mike would be happy to drive her up in 'The Mule' if I were willing to sign a waiver for her.

As they came back from freshening up Hi Doll sat on a little bench next to a little old lady that was 26 years younger than she was. St. Lissa came over and let me know that she did not think it was a good idea to take Hi-Doll up to the summit tower. I smiled real big and said, "I have hooked her up with a mule ride from the Ranger", "That woman is not getting on a mule", St. Lissa retorted. No, no, not that kind of Mule, a Kawasaki Mule. I signed the waiver and the two ladies mounted the Mule while I ran ahead to get in a good spot for picture making. Mike brilliantly maneuvered the Mule to the base of Dr. Mitchell's grave. That left a 20m sloping path to the summit tower, a chip shot for this lady who has been through more than we could ever understand. Amazing to see, not the view for me which I have taken in all seasons but the way that I saw Hi-Doll accept the panoramic view. Some of the clouds were even with our altitude giving them a linear appearance and some passed over just a few hundred feet above our heads. We spent about 25minutes on top of this High Place and then Mike drove the ladies down. I once again ran ahead trying to document what was really happening amongst all the other toon folk.
Hi Doll and St. Lissa on the marker.
Cattail Peak
Headed down on the mule.
The day ended with a beautiful Blue Ridge Drive up to NC80 and the drop down to Marion and eventually the flat lands of Charlotte. What a magnificent day indeed. Not much physical transfer that I am used to when going to the mountains but plenty of inner body emotional real to keep me paying attention. Hi Doll told me that she wants to go again soon, I may have to give her the full on Wilson Creek, Mortimer, Yancey Ridge and Roseboro Rd Transfer before the end of the summer.

Hi Doll & Mike sharing a grin.


Courtney Thompson said...

so beauty-full.

rachelvanslyke said...

That sounds like a fabulous day trip. What a strong and beautiful lady, naturally with the other gals in the family!

Billy Fehr said...


Anonymous said...

Great post. Thanks for sharing.