Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Ever declared your love by carving initials into a tree? I don't believe I have, but judging by the poor tree at our campsite in Hot Springs this past weekend loads of people do. The poor tree! Not only was it carved up, but I'm guessing that at one time there was also a rope swing in it. The trunk curved over the river and someone had nailed long stakes into the tree as ladder rungs.

If you are one of those folks that has carved into a tree, have you ever wondered what happens to the carving as time goes on and the tree continues to grow? Check out the way this carving, made 18 years ago, has stretched as the tree trunk expanded and lengthened.

We spent the weekend in Hot Springs, NC, a sleepy little town on the banks of the French Broad River. Our friend Sandy lived here and guided commercial raft trips for many years so she was able to borrow a boat and take her husband Bill, their step/daughters, and our friends Mike and Caroline down the French Broad River. Lots of rain on Friday night brought the water flow up to 7000 cfs (cubic feet per second). That's alot of water for the French Broad and Jon and I opted not to kayak that day (he would have eagerly, but I was afraid for both of us).

Jon, Tucker, and I hiked up the railroad tracks to try and catch our friends at one of the last two rapids. I wish I had a picture of the railroad bridge that you must cross to get to this section of the river. The bridge is tall and long—about 100 feet from the river surface and about 300 feet in length--and the railroad trestles are six inches apart with nothing in between. That alone was enough to scare the pants off of me, but add in the potential for a train to come around the corner while you are (in my case) slowly picking your way across the bridge and it is just plain scary. Knowing that it was physically impossible for me to fall through the spaces provided little comfort as I peered through to the river depths below.

Having safely crossed the bridge, we ran up the tracks to Kayaker’s Ledge where our group spotted us. We then ran back to Frank Bell’s Rapid so as not to miss them running it.

We also dropped in at the Duckett House Inn and Farm,where Frank explained how each fall, they turn their acre of sorghum into molasses using an old mill on the property. Frank and I spent lots of time talking about their free range chickens and the nuances of rooster behavior, hen brooding, and genetic stock. I'm hoping to volunteer my farmhand services in October for the molasses cookoff.

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