Sunday, July 17, 2016

Back to Swan Cabin

A double rainbow at Swan Cabin.  It rained several times during our four day stay.  This was taken on Thursday evening when nature gave us a rare treat after the thunderstorm.
Clint, me, and Brian in the wildflower field near the cabin. Phlox and Black-Eyed Susans were prolific as always in the high summer. Brian's doberman. Carma, can be seen with us.
Mountain-laurel was also in full bloom everywhere in the woods near the waterfall and the creek banks.
This is a page from a journal left in the cabin for visitors to record their experiences and memories at the cabin.  This particular entry was from a member of the Swan family.
For many years the Cumberland Island Armadillos traveled annually to Swan Cabin near the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest in North Carolina.  We had already gone in 2008 before I began this blog. Our trips there in 2009 and 2010 can be read in past posts.  After 2010, however, we decided to do other things, mostly go to Dreamlake instead.  But, this year it seemed right to return to this rustic place in the high mountains for rest and relaxation.  
Clint rode up with Jennifer and I on Thursday, July 7, in our cramped SUV with a Sherpa pack on top borrowed from Mark.  We arrived in the early afternoon and enjoyed the space to ourselves, unloading promptly but setting up our tents casually.  We used tarps over our tents because we knew there was a good chance of rain most every day.  One thing you definitely want to be on a camping trip is as dry as possible.

But Thursday afternoon was sunny and mild.  It felt refreshing to be in the cool mountain air after so many weeks of intense heat at our homes. Brian and Diane arrived later. We helped them unload and I assisted Brian in putting up this huge new tent he brought.  As he and Diane were water proofing the tent while I returned to the slow pace of the cabin's porch, Brian was stung on both ankles by yellow jackets.

He and I had noticed the varmints after initially setting up his tent.  It soon became obvious we had placed the tent on top of their entry hole in the ground.  So, we moved the tent to a safer location. I'm not sure how I managed to help him set it up without being stung myself.  And it was only after we moved it that they decided to attack Brian. Anyway, some benadryl cream soon fixed that and that was the last we saw of the jackets during the trip.

To speed his recovery, Brian made slushy vodka drinks with a portable blender he brought.  It clamped to the corner of the picnic table.  It was a wonderful luxury.

Soon after this, Diane realized that they did not have a working pump to blow up their air mattresses.  So, she hopped back in the car and returned to Robbinsville, NC in search of a working pump.  She ended up being gone 4 hours as she had difficulty returning to the cabin on the windy, often steep, mountain road.  A tree had fallen across the road and she was lucky to find some campers nearby who had a chainsaw with them to hack the tree out of the way.

That tree had fallen as a result of a thunderstorm that hit the cabin while she was away.  It rained hard with a lot of wind for about 20-30 minutes, sending those of us who remained at the cabin to the shelter of the porch and the interior of the cabin, which is inhabitable but full of spiders, mice, and even bats.  'Dillos usually use the cabin just for dry storage, preferring to pitch tents instead.

After the storm we spotted a gorgeous rainbow of which Jennifer, Clint, and Brian all busied themselves taking photos.  A second rainbow soon joined the first and we were all in awe of the splendid event.  I had lit my small Weber grill prior to the storm and it was still burning strong despite the brief heavy rain.  I cooked a couple of small pork tenderloins on the the grill, which everyone was served sizzling from the grill for dinner as it started to get dark.

My number one priority for the trip was sleep.  I wanted to sleep soundly and take naps as well, which I did for the most part.  I also read a lot, seemed to munch on something constantly, took walks to the waterfall and into the large wildflower meadow, and generally became fashionably worthless. 

We spent time in the meadow on Friday.  Once again the overcast burned off and gave us several hours of sunshine. In the late afternoon we experienced a hail storm, one of the strongest rains I have ever camped in.  I retreated into the cabin again and hoped our tent/tarp setup kept our sleeping bags, clothing, and everything dry - which it did for the most part despite the fiercely blowing rain.

That night we started what would end up being a large camp fire. Technically, the fire was brought forth from the simmering coals of whoever started it before us.  All that rain still didn't completely put out the fire. A few pieces of trash and a handful of small to mid-sized kindling brought a blaze that we fed with the ample fire wood all around.

Fire was another luxury of this year's trip.  Since our last visit to Swan Cabin the last of two large ancient oak trees, which shaded us in our early visits there, had recently fallen.  The forest service apparently came up and sawed up the large branches of the huge tree into several rather massive piles of ready-made firewood.  The firemeister for this trip turned out to be Brian, who did not shy away from burning stacks of wood. 

We cooked over the fire on Friday night. Our friends Stacy and Michelle joined us later in the evening with their daughter and her friend, bringing our total to eight for the camp site, one of our smaller gatherings at Swan.  They reported that all the mountain roads were clear for their trip up, despite the massive hail storm.

On Saturday, Clint, Michelle, and Stacy took off for Stratton Bald.  The rest of us were in more of do-nothing mode so we spent the day in camp.  No rain on Saturday so it was a beautiful day for short hikes and reading and sleep while resting in the mountainous beauty.  After everyone was back in camp we enjoyed another feeding frenzy.  That evenings entertainment consisted of great music by Clint featuring Brothers and Sisters by the Allman Brothers as well as fine music by Cat Stevens, someone I haven't listened to in years.  

Meanwhile, Stacy and the two girls began to play with the Rocket Copters toy they brought for the trip.  It was a lot of fun and I soon joined in, shooting the lighted "copters" with a sling shot up into the night sky and watching them deploy and propeller downward slowly with their blue and orange and red glows.  Stacy also brought out some sparklers which were fun.

As with each morning at the cabin, Brian arose early enough on Sunday to fix a very satisfying breakfast for everyone. This is something of a camping specialty of his and we definitely got to reap the rewards of his cooking passion.  Clint had to be back in Atlanta by late afternoon, so Jennifer and I broke camp late morning and we were on our way back to the summer heat and civilization.

It was a very relaxing trip to find an old friendly space again. I can't say that I saw the cabin and surrounding space, as T.S. Eliot wrote, as if for "the first time" but everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and it was a perfect change of venue for this hot summer. 

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