In particular, a favorite place of mine is a particular tunnel of purple rhododendron on the eastern slope of the mountain. In my memory, I can envision the gently curving twisting trunks supporting a riot of deep purple blossoms. To walk through is to be enveloped by beauty.
Heavy rains fell during the long drive to the trailhead. It has rained every single day since I’ve been back East, so this was nothing new.
|A roaring Kinsey Creek overflowing its banks.|
|Some parts were deeper.|
|No view, no flowers.|
A check of the weather indicated more thunderstorms on the way. An alert revealed that subtropical storm Alberto was passing through. That explained everything!
I hurried off the summit, still anticipating the purple rhododendron grove.
Instead I found blackened trunks of the rhododendrons and the bare branches. Fire had killed this grove. How could I not have known this? I was totally shaken and flooded by waves of homesickness, not for any place in particular, but rather for a sense of belonging. It felt like I was utterly alone. What was I doing out here anyway, shivering in the horrible rain, far away from everyone I have ever loved?
|Turns out a fire raged through here in 2016.|
Part of me wanted to go see if I could find a way across, but then I caught the eyes of a father and looked at his limping daughter. Automatically, I offered all four of them rides to whereever they needed to go.
I’d remembered the hike down the Lower Ridge Trail as taking only two hours. But it took us nearly four, with much slipping and sliding.
|The young daughter spotted two salamendars! How cool!|
Amazingly, we squeezed all five of us plus backpacks into my tiny car! Not the trip I'd expected, but exactly what I needed.
|Making it all fit!|