On a side note, as I get older, I realize more and more that things people told me when I was younger were bullshit. Santa was just the beginning. As far back as my first car rental, I can remember being told that rental car insurance was a scam, that I didn't need it. "Well son, the funny thing about rental car insurance is that you just don't need it." "Why's that?" "Because your regular insurance will cover any damages." "Ok. I'll believe you since you said it so matter-of-factly." "Good. One day you will be wise too." "Oh boy! I can't wait!" "Well, you're just going to have to. Time moves in a straight line with constant velocity. Your only chance of speeding it up is a coma, and nobody wants that." "Aw, shucks! I'll never be wise!"
For the past ten years, I don't think I've ever gotten the rental insurance. Then just a few weeks back,
My only extended stop between NC and MS was Looking Glass Rock, over 35 miles from where I'd been crashing in Asheville. See? The good hikes were not that close to Asheville. How was I supposed to ride down, do a hike, and ride back? Unpossible.
I didn't know anything about Looking Glass, but internet said it was "impressive" and that was good enough for me. Who doesn't like to be impressed? When I arrived, my first stop was to Looking Glass Falls, a bit before the Rock's trailhead. I wasn't planning on stopping, but there were cars lining the road into the park, so I decided to park and see what the story was. The story was a beautiful waterfall that crashed into a large, shallow pool of water that was packed entirely full with families. There were so many people that I promptly turned around and headed back to my car. I'd been to a swimming hole the day prior, I didn't need one today too. Especially not one that was full of kids peeing everywhere. It probably had a urine ppm comparable to a public pool on a Saturday in Philly.
The trailhead was less than a mile away, and when I arrived, I stopped only for a moment to change my clothes before heading up the dirt path. It was a beautiful hike through thick forest, and was entirely uphill all the way to Looking Glass Rock, with 1700' of elevation gain over 3.25 miles. The only reason I'm telling you any of this is because I want to show you the pictures from the top.
Ooooh! Aaaah! Right??? Looking Glass is a big bald knob that, while very gritty, gives the appearance of an easy fall. I walked as close to the pour over as I dared, which wasn't that close because I'm not that daring when it comes to heights. Off to my left was a storm system that appeared to be moving my direction, so I didn't stay at the top very long. Also, I still had a lot of driving to do, with another 560 miles separating me from Jackson. I mostly just wanted to get a nice hike in as well as see what all the hubbub was about these mountains. Having a birds eye view made me more than ever want to ride the Blue Ridge Parkway in the autumn.
With the 560 miles on my mind, I double-timed it back down the trail. I was making great time, so I'm not sure why I decided to try to shave less than one hundred feet off the hike by skipping a switchback and heading straight down the side of the mountain. I regretted it instantly, as the mushy earth gave way, leaving my back half covered in mud after a long slide. This leads to three important lessons for everyone:
- Always stay on switchbacks. They're there for your safety as well as erosion control.
- It rains everyday in Asheville. All dirt is mud at some point in the day.
- "There are no shortcuts in life." Which I just found out has the follow-up of "- only those we imagine." I like that full quote more.
Once I reached my rental, I changed back into my driving clothes and headed to the nearest convenience store for a coffee. I had a lot of driving to do in a short time if I wanted to drop the car off before I was charged for a second day.