This Saturday was a beautiful fall day filled with sunshine and mild temperatures. It was the kind of day that if you could string 120 of them back to back, hiking the Appalachian Trail would be glorious, comfortable, and ideal. I know that reality says that rain, heat, wind, thunder/lightning, and freezing cold will fill the days of the journey, but there will be days like yesterday that will sparkle like diamonds along the way.
I spent the morning in meetings – important meetings – exciting meetings but I was still anxious to be on the trail. I had plans – as soon as the discussions were over and the group closed with prayer I would be in my car and headed for the 14-mile loop around Caesar Creek. The final “Amen” led to a quick drive home and even quicker change into my stylish hiking threads and what I hoped would be a 25-minute zip down Rt. 73 to the state park. What I failed to realize was that a local community along that drive was holding their annual Sauerkraut Festival. This small local event began in 1970 and today is one of the premier craft festivals in the state. The planning committee selects over 450 vendors of handcrafted arts/crafts based on quality and variety. I think that 54% of the population from the surrounding 14 states decided to check out the festival, converging on Waynesville at the exact time of my drive to Caesar Creek. My 25-minute drive transformed into a 55-minute, parking-lot pace crawl. The trail was calling my name louder and louder as I sat in traffic ….I called back with patience and anticipation.
The wait was worth it. My later start (1:36 pm) limited my hike to one time around the loop but it was a beautiful walk. The early leaves are beginning to fall, covering the path with their natural carpet. The trees are still green for the most part but I look forward to the massive color change within the next few weeks. My least favorite section of the loop is crossing the lake via the highway. The four-lane bridge across the water forces the hiker to walk with his/her back to traffic. The 55 MPH speed limit for cars makes the crossing a little unnerving. On the other hand, the view of the lake is marvelous and the bridge itself is rather magnificent. I experienced a great hike on a great day. My drive home took an hour and 10 minutes! The festival was just picking up speed (or maybe slowing down speed would be more accurate) and then there was a car accident further up Rt 73 that backed traffic up for 3 miles. But I really wasn’t too frustrated – I had my trail fix for the day and I still had enough daylight to mow the grass when I got home.