Friday, August 16, 2013

Respite in the High Hinterlands

Backlit maple off Blue Ridge Parkway.
Back home on Wild Haggis after a two week hiatus in the mountains. Although the mountains were cooler than the coast, the humidity was similar as it rained every day. Not a lot, but every day.  Still, better than the 100+ heat index that the coast suffered for a few days in our absence.

A mountain seep where rivers begin.
For the fourth time this year, we left salt water behind and sojourned in the mountains, this time in rural Madison County north of Asheville, an area that still has active family farms and barns, cows, corn, beans and some Burley tobacco. Our friends, the Stevensons, have a home above Big Ivy River (or creek depending on map source), a wide and shallow stream unless swelled to a roaring muddy torrent by heavy rains. Deep enough for a good cooling soak in places.

Along the path beside the Big Ivy.
Instead of flounder, shrimp and blue crabs, the mountain waters have trout, crawfish and mussels, the latter two generally too small and in insufficient quantities to feed more than a family of meandering raccoons or the occasional heron. This late in a rainy summer, the woods are as lush and dense as subtropical rainforests should be. Hidden in the darkest corners are wet black seeps dripping pearls of the newest and freshest water over boulders into rivulets that merge into small streams feeding into the creeks and rivers that eventually find the ocean. Much life begins there. As with our life on (salt) water, much of the magic is the music of moving water, water tumbling over rocks, the song of water spilling into small deep pools before whispering across gravel bars.

Fast, fresh and green water in Big Ivy.
The contrasts between fresh and salt are many. Fast vs. slow. Green vs. brown and blue. Boulders vs. sandy shores. Whitewater vs. whitecaps. Stone cliffs vs. flat coastal plain. The narrow sky vs. open vistas over miles of open water. Each has its own character and allure. Each can be peaceful and settling or angry and threatening.

In the clouds.
Now we are back to the life of long walks down the dock to the clubhouse, long walks down the dock to feed Scout, long walks down the dock to go anywhere we go if not on the boat. But it is good to have our home moving beneath our feet to the roll and sway of wind and sea. Even the aroma of stale bilge water welcomed us back. Due to the brisk northerly wind and cold front temps, the air was not sour with the scent of dog or sweating humans.

There has been another cat invasion with two new catamarans at dock and a mastless monohull to boot. Mel is reportedly on the hard with an undefined “bottom problem”. Barry and Michele of Idle Queen embarked on a grand adventure, not knowing exactly where life will take them as they sail initially northward. Butch caught a good week at Cape Lookout, then got hammered in heavy winds and seas heading back to the inlet.  He snagged a lot of sandsharks and only a couple of keepers (Spanish mackerel too small as were the few drum). Keith stopped by and updated me on the fisheries. Worst year for blue crabs on the east coast in decades. Shrimping was bad when we left and may end entirely this coming week.  A big stinking fish kill upriver due to hypoxia, partly natural as a result of heavy rain, and partly manmade due to farm run-off and other pollutants. Fortunately, Keith has had a good year for flounder.

As much as we enjoyed our respite from boat life, we are happy to be back aboard, surrounded by salt water, gently rocking, just in time to follow the progress of Tropical Storm Erin as she moves across the Atlantic from Africa. The time of the hurricanes is nearing its peak; the slow start to the season is no assurance that we will avoid a big storm.


Creeper vine near Blue Ridge Parkway.

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