The mountains, snow, and me.

This weekend I spent some time in the mountains. I love the mountains. Being from the coastal-ish region of South Carolina, I don’t get to see mountains very often. The highest elevation I usually get to see is around 500 feet above sea level, and that’s on the interstate going to Columbia. But two years ago my father (who lives in Florida) decided it would be good to get everyone together in the mountains so we could do the winter holiday in one place. The result was less than ideal. Great place to be, good food, enjoyable times, and a foot of snow.

We weren’t prepared for a foot of snow. So unprepared for a foot of snow we wound up being helped down the mountain driveway by a Bobcat and a tow strap. Helped to not slide off the cliff, mind you.

So this year, when it was suggested we go to a different section of the mountains, it was with a little trepidation that we agreed. Thankfully, the weather looked cooperative. Last winter was so exceptionally mild, it didn’t seem like winter at all. Hoping this would at least be the case through Christmas, we made the drive to Brevard, NC. Across the lake

Across the lake

    What we found this time was slightly disturbing. Great location, but it was up a winding twisted drive that would make even a rough tough mountain man a little skeered, if there was to be snow and ice. What was a little MORE concerning was the forecast. That night it was supposed to be around 20 degrees, with maybe some snow. Oh – and it had been raining all day.

Thankfully, we had two days ahead of us, and the temperature on Saturday was supposed to be 54 degrees, so any ice and snow may have had the chance to melt.

It turns out we didn’t need it, as despite the all day rain, the roads were pretty much dry the next morning. And the snow they promised us? While it DID snow, it never really stuck. So we woke to this:

The car is almost buried...
The car is almost buried…

That was our snow. It blew around all day, and was pretty in the air, but it behaved itself and never did concern us.

The bad thing was, I had promised my daughter a trip to the top of Pisgah mountain, or even to Dupont Forest where they filmed “The Hunger Games”. Unfortunately Friday was very cold and windy even where we were. The top of Mount Pisgah was supposed to have a high of 19 degrees, with 70mph wind gusts and a wind chill of -6. No thanks! I’ll stick to the lower elevations. I don’t think I have ever felt six degrees below zero in my life. The coldest night I remember in the last ten years was around 17, and that was overnight with me inside the house at 70 degrees.

I want this porch at home.
I want this porch at home.
Inside the cabin
Inside the cabin
Kaylee and her cousin watch TV
Kaylee and her cousin watch TV
Our Neighbors
Our Neighbors

I don’t give free ads to anyone, but I WILL say this was on Eagle Lake Drive in Brevard, NC. It is a nice little place, if you want an out-of-the-way place to spend a few days.

My original plan was to bring my hiking stuff and test out my sleeping system in 20 degree weather. My wife had other ideas, however, and I wound up inside. It was just as well, with the rain and the fact I have been sick and coughing up green slime for a few weeks, being out in the cold would probably not have been in my best interest.

I did get to hunt for a geocache in the mountains, and got to see a waterfall along highway 276, and even got to go into a couple of hiking stores (yay!). We returned to looking Glass falls one afternoon, while the snow was blowing. That was nice to do, as in the summer and fall the place is packed, but in freezing weather we had the falls to ourselves.

cabin12 (Medium)
Canostee falls? I still cant remember the name.
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Kaylee by the falls.
Me by Looking Glass Falls (thanks Angie!)
Me by Looking Glass Falls (thanks Angie!)

What really grinds my gears…

By now we’ve all seen the news about the school shooting in Connecticut. Before I go into my tirade I want to say first that it is an awful tragedy and at the same time it ended as well as it could. The bad guy is dead. There will be no trial, no defense attorney trying to blame abusive parents, violent video games, developmental disorders due to forced vaccinations, or any other Defense Du Jour. The cops can check the little box on the report that says “Case Ex-Clear: Offender Death”. Done, Over. We don’t have to watch him having continued days of glory and see the trial on court TV or listen to Nancy Grace blather on about what might be going through the jury members’ heads, or suffer a shock when the verdict doesn’t match with the court of public opinion. But the lives of those people in Newtown will be forever changed for the worse. They will never forget it.

But then immediately people start clamoring for gun control. I’m no expert in gun control, nor am I paid by lobbyists to say one thing or another. Banning guns doesn’t make sense to stop gun deaths any more than banning cars makes sense to end DUI deaths. Guns can be used for good in the hands of good people. Guns will always be used for bad in the hands of bad people. I can cut my steak with a knife, or I can stick it in your kidney at the ATM machine and take the $100 you just withdrew. Should we ban knives? I heard on the news where someone wants to bring back the ban on assault rifles. As far as I have heard, the guy had two pistols, not an assault rifle. Banning assault rifles would not have stopped the shooting.

Then on Facebook yesterday, this started spreading:

kneejerkI am all for religious freedom in this country. After all, this country was founded on the right to worship whoever you want, or no one at all. Jesus, Allah, Yahweh, Odin, Ra, or The Flying Spaghetti Monster. Pick your deity of choice and knock yourself out. America is awesome that way. In some places they shoot you for not believing what they tell you to.

So if someone wants to put God back in schools, which God should we pick? There are literally thousands. I don’t think any school restricts students’ rights to pray to whom they please. Sure, they may not be able to publish their ideas in the yearbook, but no one stops a child from bowing their head over their lunch, or whispering that silent “help me” before a calculus exam, and no one should stop this activity. But state sponsored religion? There are two big problems with this:

First, religion is a family choice. Would you want the school telling all third graders “There is no Santa Claus, get over it,”? No, that’s a family choice. Same with religion. It’s up to mom and dad to decide what the family will believe in, and when the kid gets older and wants to make a new choice, that’s up to the kid. But for the school to say, “Since 87% of you are Judeo-Christian, that’s the God we are going to pick, so bow your heads and repeat after me,” is fundamentally WRONG in this country. People flocked here in 1493 to escape that idea. The country was founded on freedom FROM religion, as much as it was founded on religious freedom.

Second, when you allow religion into schools (for that is what you are doing, in essence. a deity can go wherever it chooses, which is one advantage of being one, but people don’t bring God into school – they bring their beliefs about God into school), you have to allow ALL religions into school. So how do you choose? Do we have some sort of politically correct prayer that sounds something like the following Christmas wish a lawyer might write:

Please accept without obligation, express or implied, these best wishes for an environmentally safe, socially responsible, low stress, non addictive, and gender neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday as practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice (but with respect for the religious or secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or for their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all) and further for a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling, and medically uncomplicated onset of the generally accepted calendar year (including, but not limited to, the Christian calendar, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures). The preceding wishes are extended without regard to the race, creed, colour, age, physical ability, religious faith, choice of computer platform, or sexual preference of the wishee(s).

Or do we pick the God-of-the-Day? I can imagine some overly perky school employee reading the announcements, “Okay, I’m reaching into the hat now… Today’s God is Thor! Jimmy will read to us from the Poetic Edda, everyone bow your heads and think of the God of Thunder!”

Do we want kids bowing to Mecca between first and second periods, and again after Gym Class? Do we want images of seven different major world deities in each classroom? Do we want Covens dancing in circles in front of the office in their ritual robes on the Autumn Equinox?

Well – maybe that last one would be cool. But, no, those ceremonies and hundreds like them belong in church, or temple, or the woods… not in school where kids should be learning about division and the Underground Railroad and the state bird.

So – God can come to school anytime he wants. He just needs to tell his overzealous fan clubs to keep to themselves.

pillow (Small)In other less sensitive news – following the directions on a hiking board, using some cotton cloth and some climashield insulation I had left over from a previous project, I sewed a pillow today. Its not much of one, and frankly needs more stuffing, but it has a hang loop for my hammock, so when I get in the hammock I dont have to search for it somewhere under my butt, or on the ground.

I’ve already made plans to improve upon the basic head-laying-on article seen here. It needs to be slightly bigger, and puffier. It also needs a pocket in the back for my iphone and headphones. Because nothign sucks like snuggling down in the hammock ready to sleep, and wanting to listen to music, and having to search for the damn headphones and iphone, which have migrated somewhere under your butt. If you’re not familiar with hammock camping, pretty much anything not tied down (and some things that are), eventually migrates to under your butt, sometime during the night.

I’m thinking a second large back pocket on the pillow could be made, for stuffing in extra clothes and whatnots, to make it even thicker and warmer on cold nights. Because nothing helps you sleep on a cold night like a thick pillow stuffed with the smelly t-shirt and socks you wore all day.