After three weeks of travelling between America's sprawling southern cities - Austin, New Orleans, Jackson, Memphis, Nashville and Chattanooga - we finally escaped into the wild, travelling up into the North Carolina mountains. Wesser Creek is a totally different world, the kind of place that Davy Crockett might have lived and just over the hill from where Cold Mountain was set.
We were late to the rendezvous point, but no matter, for our hillbilly chum was happily entertaining the passing Jehovah Witnesses with his banjo playing. Loaded up with our Couchsurfing host's tie-die, the roads started to narrow, the rivers started to proliferate and the scenery turned to trees and mountains. Fresh air!
Isaac and Tanis, befriended over run and banjos on a Belize beach, live in an 1850's wood cabin high up on a hillside in a forest next to a creek. It was the warmest day of the year here, so far, and spring fever was in the air. The earth was warming, taking a relieved breath and letting the melting snow gently seep in and transpire out. Daffodils were budding and wood anemones were blooming. The red cardinals were chirruping and the wild turkeys gobbling (while remaining mysteriously hidden).
Infected by nature's stirrings - everything was waking up - we quickly packed up the car and went camping. Lake Fontana's dammed water level provided a sandy campsite on the lake bottom. We paddled out to our secret cove and spent a night under the spring sky around a campfire listening to some of the world's finest banjo music. The Freight Hoppers reside in North Carolina and keep the spirit of old time music alive.
An hour's canoe paddle across the lake, in the company of a beaver slapping his flat tail on the water's surface, is Hazel Creek. This former thriving timber town was evacuated in the 1940's in preparation for a reservoir for which the waters never rose. The trees have now grown back and all that remains are a few stone walls and almost a thousand graves. It's a spooky negative of a bygone era.
Back at the cabin, tired and dirty, we set a fire burning underneath a large metal horse-trough filled with spring water. Within a couple of hours the water was hot and we could sit outside underneath a star spangled sky and soak in this hillbilly hot tub, taking in the mountain air and calls of the tree frogs.
We were treated to a mountain feast of fresh river-caught fish, corn bread, fried potatoes and ramps. The latter are potent roots of wild onions that have been known to get children sent home from school for the lingering odour they leave on the diner's breath and pores. They taste damn good though.
It's a mighty fine life in the mountains. The purpose of being is to have fun and appreciate the natural world. People go slow and enjoy. Suits World in Slow Motion travellers just fine! So the rest of our stay revolved around sampling local ales, walking up mountains and through forests, listening to the banjo and looking out for the evasive wild turkeys.
Tom couldn't have been happier, jamming with a local banjo ace and being presented with his hat as a memento. And I couldn't have been happier when we finally spotted a rafter of wild turkeys and howled at the moon.
The rain and the cold were about to set in when we left Wesser Creek, so we left with our magical memories intact. It'll be another few weeks before the folk of North Carolina will be able to camp out under the stars and howl at the moon again. I do believe that the turkeys have set in for the season though.