Surely you’ve heard about the “bucket list” – all those things you want to do before you “kick the bucket.” This week I checked two items off my list, not to mention a third I didn’t know I had! (Riding with the Hell’s Angles wasn’t on the list.)
My girl friends and I made plans back in June to go white-water rafting and hike a portion of the 2500-mile Appalachian Trail which runs all the way up to Maine. We rented a wonderful cabin on the top of a mountain in North Carolina near the entrance to the infamous trail and launched a new chapter in our lives.
Of course, things didn’t fall into place the way we expected – they never do. But this time, our expectations were far too low and our vacation from everyday life was transforming.
On Thursday, about dark-thirty, we finally arrived at our destination near Bryson City, N.C. It was dark since we had been detained by a pack of cute Hell’s Angels back in Georgia. They let us ride their bikes and we were still dizzy from the experience.
No one told us we would be traveling straight up the side of a mountain and on the second turn we began to slide back down. We gunned the engine, but only slid back further, dangerously close to a drop off as steep as the Grand Canyon.
That’s when our guardian angel showed up in the form of a mountain man driving a four-wheel drive vehicle. Not only did he take us up to our cabin, but he gave us his truck to use for the duration of our vacation! We instantly fell in love with North Carolina, not to mention Chester, our white knight.
On Friday we began the hike to Maine. I think we made it two miles – all straight up the side of a mountain. Exhausted, we came to a clearing and learned that we were going the wrong way and were back in Georgia.
Undaunted, we slid back down the mountain to rent our gear for the white water rafting trip, our original mission.
On Saturday, we showed up at the Nantahala River dressed in redneck rafting attire which included Wal-Mart bags tied around our shoes. (We would be soaked to our eyebrows, but our feet would be dry.) Our fellow rafters were wearing sleek water proof suits while we wore two layers of mismatched clothing. When we topped off our ensemble with life vests and helmets, we felt like Weebles that Wobble, but can’t fall down.
At the end of the day, we were hooked. Our raft stayed afloat thanks to the talents of our guide, Jennifer. She toyed with us a bit by running us up the side of enormous boulders and doing twirlies in the middle of the rushing river.
I’m thinking she hates her mother and decided to take it out on us!
Oh, but what a thrilling day! Now, we’re making plans for our next trip down the more difficult Ocoee River where the summer Olympics were conducted.
Best of all, we didn’t see a vegetable for four days. We lived on pimento cheese, corn chips and S’Mores. Oh, and a little Moonshine. We met a group of campers who served us Moonshine from a gallon jug.
My eyesight is still a bit fuzzy, but my bucket list is shorter.
Emily Jones is a retired journalist who lives in Starkville. She edits a website for bouncing baby boomers facing retirement and welcomes comments at www.deludeddiva.com .