Our trip to the Nantahala has been just what both Dan and I needed. There is something about these wise old mountains that heals us in so many ways. We come here to recharge our bodies and our spirits, often stretching ourselves with new adventures, big and small. Last year we did the ‘Mega Zip’, which ended with a half mile Zip over the canopy of the Nantahala National Forest. Both Dan and I have a fear of heights, and stepping off of that last platform high in the air when we couldn’t even see our destination….well, we faced our fear with that one (and the views were amazing).
This year we have opted for less death -defying activities. We brought our mountain bikes to explore and get in some exercise, something we love to do. Yesterday, we took a two hour horseback ride through the Nantahala National Forest. I have loved horses since I was a little girl, always dreaming of owning one (at thirteen, I begged my mother for an Apaloosa named Sprite), and I just knew that I would get one for Christmas. The blissful ignorance of youth…
The stables were just up the road from our cabin, so we biked there and met with the guides and the family of three who would be joining us. David was amazing, and he told us that he had run the family business for thirty-eight years, and his father and grandfather had before that. These good and simple people had found their slice of heaven, living and working with the horses. I looked over at the stables and could feel my excitement building. Dan, always teasing, told David to make sure and give me a horse named Lightning or Thunderbolt (I had already explained that I had not ridden a horse in over twenty years.)
I had no need to worry, as my partner for the ride was a Quarter Horse named Shirley, the slowest horse in the group. The guides rolled their eyes and shrugged their shoulders, telling us that Shirley was always slow- she was just out for a stroll. No matter, she was beautiful and sure-footed through the often rocky terrain…with a sharp drop-off either into Lake Fontana or down ravines into the forest. Dan’s horse was a feisty and handsome boy named Blaze. Blaze had a mind of his own and wanted to eat snacks from the blackberry plants all along our walk, no matter how Dan tried to stop him.
I loved the feel of the horse underneath me, and I couldn’t help but think about how man and horse have worked together for so long…especially when my backside began to get sore. How did people make those long rides traveling great distances? Ouch. No matter, I loved riding Shirley, loved the wisdom in her big, soulful eyes. I loved listening to the sounds they made as they blew air loudly through their noses and mouths, making their lips buzz, all while swishing their long tails and stamping their feet. What amazing creatures. I felt so blessed to be able to experience this ride- and in such a pristine and beautiful place.
As we made our way through the beautiful forest, the lead guide told us stories of how moonshine was made, including special tips he had gleaned from his great granddaddy. He told us that he had worked in Colorado at a horse ranch for several months, but had to come back to the Nantahala- he missed it too much…I certainly could understand that. The ride ended way too soon, and I patted Shirley and thanked her for doing such a great job. She looked at me, and then quickly headed to the barn with the rest of the horses.
Today’s adventure was whitewater rafting with our dear friends, Bev and Darla, who came to join us for two days at the cabin. We had a wonderful raft guide this time, which allowed us to experience the beauty of the Nantahala and have fun riding the rapids, too. We enjoyed the majesty of the mountains surrounding us and the call of my favorite bird, the Mountain Warbler. The weather couldn’t have been anymore perfect, and it was extra special knowing that my mother was now a part of this gorgeous river.
Two days of adventure left….I plan to soak up every single moment.