Wild Waterrock Knob Trail

Ruby has had a love/hate relationship with Lake Junaluska. At the start, she LOVED it and begged me to go constantly. Then she hated it because she wanted to be out of her stroller. Then, I let her out of her stroller to start and let her run around until she crapped out to which I would put her back in the stroller. (This option would take approximately 146 hours). But as long as we went, in one way or another, this helped my sanity immensely. Well, campers, she hates it again and aside from me going by myself after Lliam gets out of work (which has it's own rundown of problems), I'm out of options.

To work out, I've been doing youtube videos but not getting out of the house drives me insane.

Me: "Rubes, you wanna go to the lake?"

Ruby: *screams bloody murder*

Me: "I didn't say we had to, I was asking if you'd like to."

Ruby: *still screaming*

Me: "Clearly not. Hey!!! You wanna go just do something FUN?! Wanna go for a drive? Wanna have an adventure???"

Ruby: *whimpering* No...

Me: "No?! You don't wanna go do something fun? Get out of the house?"

Ruby: "No."

Me: "You just want to stay in all day and watch TV?"

Ruby: "Yes."

Needless to say, my 2 & 1/2 year old has yet to learn her mother's sense of adventure, at least when she's distracted by dinosaurs on youtube. But so far I've talked her into blueberry picking, blackberry picking, going to Linville Falls, Triple Falls and the dog park in the River Arts District numerous times. And sometimes, I'll just throw-- what feels like-- our entire lives into the car and just DRIVE. Sometimes I know where we're going but oftentimes I don't. I just follow my intuition.

Last Tuesday, I chose the latter option. It turned into the best day-- the likes of which I haven't had in a very long time.

We got in the car and I started driving around. I had made a few trips to Asheville recently so I didn't feel like heading east. So I headed west. I was feeling the Blue Ridge Parkway. I know Lliam had taken Ruby up there before and had found various turnoffs and picnic spots to let her run around, so I figured, 'Why not?' I needed some nature. At the very least, it would be fresh air.

We start driving and driving, winding and winding. And fairly quickly I saw a sign for something that might have said 'Waterrock Knob Visitor Center.' 'CLOSED' was written on the sign. I thought, "Let's see what's up there. If it's supposedly closed, maybe it won't be overrun. And if it's really closed I can just turn around.

Well, 157,000 people had the same idea. This was a THING. It was a thing I didn't know about. Lots of people were up there spending the day, having lunch and taking in the views. Gorgeous, gorgeous views...

And before we go any further... let me just explain to you that THIS kind of green is just what you see in North Carolina. There's no saturation, no tint/hue fixing to any of these quick cell phone pics. As a photographer they're sooo saturated, I actually want to de-saturate them to look real- ha! But alas... This is what it really looks like and I didn't want to steal some of God's best work!

We do a lap around the parking lot. I notice there's an actual trailhead to 'Waterrock Knob.' It's only half a mile. With all these non-masked people, did I want to risk it?

Ruby decides she REALLY wants to go. (I guess she chooses adventure only when it's right in front of her). ;) So I grab our masks out of the car and we head onto the paved trail.

We've done a lot of hikes so I'm thinking half a mile is super quick and not a big deal. Hell, Lake Junaluska is 2.4 miles and she's completed the full loop on her own.

Then the pavement turns into a real path. And into some cool log and rock 'stairs.'

Me: "Oh, babe! This is like a real hike. It's pretty, huh? This is Momma's favorite when the rocks are all craggy."

Ruby: *grunting and climbing*

SUCH a champ... It was A JOY to watch her figure this stuff out. *swoon*

There were a lot of non-masked people on the trail. I wouldn't care in the outdoors except families/groups of 20 people kept barreling through and the path wasn't always wide enough to feel like you could find your own patch of air. I kept grabbing Ruby to make her put her mask on. She was great about it until she wasn't.

People would pass us coming down and exclaim, "Oh, wow! What a sweetheart! Is she really gonna make it all the way up there?!"

I would laugh and say, "Well, see!" But I'm thinking, 'It's only half a mile...right? Right? Bueller?'

The views were insane the entire way. It's just spectacular.

I kept thinking... 'This can't be that much father.' I was out of breath at parts, I couldn't believe Ruby was doing this! A nice family came down and I finally had the cahones to ask nonchalantly, "About how much further, would ya say?"

"Oh, I'd say you're a little over half way? A little steep in places but worth it when you get to the top!"

I thanked him and said, 'HOLY BALLS' under my breath. A little over HALF WAY??? This was the longest half mile hike I'd ever been on!!! The trail started to get more intense. Ruby started grunting her way up stone steps. She was in it to win it. I was really grateful cause Momma needed this!!

AND SHE WAS SUCH A BOSS!! She was using problem solving skills to get up these steps... I was SO PROUD.

Surprise, surprise, the little stinker would not let me take her photo. The only way I could get her to even look at the camera was to say, "Hold on, babe, you gotta wait for Momma.' She would turn around to see where I was and HA! I'd get her. SUCKA!!! She'd whine, "No picture! No!" Muahahaha!!!

This tree is SOOOO magical!! There must be fairies living in it!! :)

She just kept going!!!

She was using all her muscles-- legs, abs, hands... my little rock climber!! We were passing adults that were really struggling. She just blew me away!

Random tourist hiker: "Ugh, this is a lot more than I though it was gonna be!"

Me: "Right?" lol

I could tell she was starting to get tired but she wanted to keep going.

Me: "Rubes, do you need to stop, babe? Or are you okay to go to the top?"

Ruby: "To the top."

Me: "You want to go to the top, you sure?"

Ruby: "To the top."

Okay, kid! I mean.. She did all this!!

And by golly, 46 hours later, we made it!! At this point she was very tired. And me thinking this was a quickie half mile out and back, I had nothing with me. No water, no snacks, no nothing. She really wanted a fruit pack- meep! I felt terrible. But with the desperation of Ross 'on a break:'


Me: "Sorry, babe, Momma didn't know it was all of this. We'll have to head down for water and snacks. We can do it, though, right?! That water will taste soooo good!"


She was excited to be at the top though and who needs water when there's a doggie behind us?

This is the view from the top. Due to cloud cover a lot was hidden. But honestly, the views the whole way up were worth the journey alone! (And while she looks like she could back off the cliff, she was actually totally okay where she was. I'm not THAT momtographer, geez...) ;)

But smiles were not happening, lol.

I'm a champ but I'm tired, Momma.

This looks like the movie poster to a really horrible 1990's indie film.

'A Walk Among the Clouds' or 'Letters to Heaven'.... Hahaha!

As I'm typing this, I've learned that Waterrock is considered a moderate hike that tops at 6,292 feet. You climb 412' in elevation. I'm sure it felt longer cause I had Ruby with me but damn... So proud of my girl!!

It's really interesting... That morning when I pulled my oracle cards (my 'Elle Qui' Oracle Deck), the card I pulled was 'Sauvage.' Sauvage is all about being untamed, wild and mysterious.

"The message of this card is to examine what makes you feel tame and predictable. Now, commit to doing one unexpected act each day. Think of it as random acts of authenticity."

What makes me feel tame and predictable? Being a housewife. Oh, I hate it. I hate it for the exact reason the card is asking me to step outside of it. It makes me feel tamed, in a box, small, constrained, in my head, without any choices. I don't thrive in this environment. I love the hell out of my daughter but she does not get the best version of her mother when she's folding laundry and doing dishes. I knew the answer to that, no problem.

But what makes me feel wild and untamed? Whooo... THAT was hard. What does being 'wild' even mean to me? Uninhibited, maybe? But how? What on earth could I do that felt wild? Alive? What would a wild Mandi look like? lol An interesting question, right?

Well, this is the question I'm going to leave YOU with... What does a wild <insert your name here> look like? What does that mean to you?? I'd LOVE to hear your thoughts on the idea and I really hope it's something you let marinate in your own day to day.

As for me, the day turned out extremely wild. The unknown, the willingness to persevere, to be grounded in the lusciousness of beauty, exploring with my daughter... It was the closest I've felt to crying tears of joy on an elephant in India. I recognize myself in this picture... One day when we hike like this, Ruby and I will be in Switzerland. Maybe Peru. :)

We're just getting started, kiddo... xoxox

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