North Carolina Re-Do

No injuries, chaos or near death experiences on our return to North Carolina! Just peak fall foliage, mountains, waterfalls, and a wealth of food n alcohol.

Us n the Wall, Bugle witch fingers

Graveyard Fields

Horse camp!

Camp feast! Chicken jalapeno hot dogs, salmon dip, berries, fancy cheeses, local bread and roasted veggies

Schoolhouse Falls. We had to wade through the icy water to get to the falls which was bracing but fun!

So pretty, omggg

Looking Glass Falls

Hidden River Cave

Ah, another pretty window cave opening. This was really different from the other caves we saw. It’s gotten flooded so many formations are covered in mud. The tour guide told us it’ll be a beautiful cave in a few thousand years. Hahaaa. It was very dark and we went in with flashlights- the lights are being restored from the back forward. This was really cool cuz we went over the longest underground swinging bridge in the dark with the water running beneath us. I was surprised to learn about all the life down there- schools of blind fish, blind crawfish, eels, rats. Cave crickets- who we were told love peanut butter.

Onyx Cave

Another gorgeous limestone show cave! This is a vertically formed cave with intricate cave corals. The main attraction for me was the “waterfall wall,” I loved thinking of it as having a “melted candle look.” Lots of tight spaces and steps in this one- I got a bit of vertigo and felt my stomach turn. Hahaa, is it still a fear of heights when you’re looking down but beneath the earth’s surface? Also, kinda love that there is a cave nativity scene, WUT!

Crystal Onyx Cave

Another stunning, privately-owned show cave. I am a huge fan of mashups between natural wonder and man-made kitsch so I was all about the fiberglass animals, aliens and dinosaurs. I loved “cave coral” being called “popcorn,” and a flowstone described as “butterscotch pudding.” We also had a moment at the end where we sat with the lights off in complete darkness. Loved it

Diamond Caverns

Our first wet cave! As opposed to a dry cave system like Mammoth, Diamond Caverns had all the shimmering, snotty, drippy, intricate formations I always imagined in caves. There are no diamonds down there; the name comes from glittery calcite. I loved the names for different stalactites- “curtains” or “drapery” for wavy, fabric-fold-like formations resulting from the water running down the cave’s ceiling or wall, “cave bacon,” the cutest and most perfect description. We also learned about the Cave Wars- Diamond’s gift shop was burned down and a bunch of formations were busted up in 1945. I also loved that there was a chapel where weddings used to be held. I know humans ruin everything (the oils from our hands have halted formations) but what a perfect venue!!

Mammoth Cave

Jessica and I got to see six caves in one and a half days. This was our first and the name is no lie! Mammoth Cave National Park is about 80 square miles, with more than 365 miles mapped (so far) of a five-level cave system. I’d love to go back and see more when the park can fully open again.

Because of the pandemic, there are no tours and visitor access is very limited. So Jess and I booked a time slot for their only option at the moment, a self guided historic tour. Historically significant as it is, I was not terribly interested in the Saltpetre Works as an operation (slave labor for gunpowder), but it was really something to walk among the ruins. They even have a display for an 1800s cave toilet down there! Every cave we visited was so unique and what I’d say about this one is it truly is MAMMOTH, so much space around you as you walk thru. It is also the only “dry” cave we visited with a sandstone ceiling. I’d hoped to see bats on this trip and was heartbroken to learn that 70-90% of their bat population has died from white nose syndrome since 2006. Even in “normal” times, no tours enter areas with bay colonies, and you walk thru a biocleaning mat to avoid transmitting the fungus.

Highlands Waterfalls

I was planning to relax by a couple waterfalls over two days. Instead, I ended up doing a whirlwind tour of five falls in three hours, then I almost drowned. Hahaaaa- a fitting cap to this strange summer.

Glen Falls

Sequoyah Falls

Bridal Veil Falls

Dry Falls (the most stunning of these falls for sure)

Aaaand Bust Your Butt Falls

What a day! Jason had cracked a rib awhile ago, then his back got messed up. Jen had to take care of some things before heading up. Thunderstorms were predicted. I headed up early to get in Glen Falls before the rain. That waterfall is like something out of a fairytale. I took my time heading down to the bottom and dipped my toes in a freezing cold pool. The way back up was brutal! Jason and Jen drove up later, with Jason barely able to get out of the car. We met at the Will Henry Stevens covered bridge and took off up 64 to see Sequoyah Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Dry Falls and Bust Your Butt Falls. For the window of clear skies and Jason’s extraordinary pain, these were good falls to see. Very close together and you could just drive up to most of them. At Bust Your Butt, I slipped down a dry, but very steep rock into some surprisingly deep rushing water. There was a drowning-not-waving moment where Jason thought I’d jumped in and was goofing off, before he realized this dip was UNINTENTIONAL. I hilariously prioritized my phone and chucked it at him, then flailed wildly, gasping for air when my head was above water. A burly vet came down and tried to reach out to grab me, he then slipped on the same spot I had. Amidst the churning water, he was able to toss me up onto land like I weighed nothing (wow!) and I had a second of clear-headed freak strength where I was able to reach back for him, then up to Jen and strangers in a human chain where we were both pulled up onto a steady surface. I’m so thankful for the help of these strangers, and that I wasn’t alone on this trip. Everytime I watch suffering in the news, or a dire survival situation in movie/book fiction, I think to myself, ‘not worth the struggle. I’d rather die on the spot,’ but I have to admit, survival mode kicked in here. I was really shook up and had to calm down and dry out on Rabun beach before driving home.

Hausu Makeover

I got to participate in the Halloween art show at Cine in 2017 and decided to do Nobuhiko Obayashi’s psychedelic delight House (1977). It’s one of my all-time favorite movies- just wonderful and bonkers imagination on display. Re-watched recently and decided to re-do my original piece. Used a mish-mash of watercolor, colored pencils and glitter gel pens this time- tidied it up in photoshop. I sent it to Kris and his response was, “Looks like something I’d find in my daughter’s notebook that would make me concerned about her.” Hahaaa!