Looking Glass Rock, NC
It’s pitch black; every exhalation is followed by a cloud of smoke in the crisp cool night air. Although the illumination is immaculate, stars scattered across the midnight sky- very fitting since we have embarked on our trek at about 12:05am. Fewer things for us could be more serendipitous than to follow an evening of Asheville adventures than with a hike to the top of a mountain. Completely unprepared by most people’s accounts we grabbed the emergency sleeping bags kept in the truck- one was a minutes before closing REI glorified mummy bag: a myriad of mixed gloves, hats, snacks, and beer – all carelessly thrown into a day trip North Face bag. It’s 12 degrees of cold out, but the excitement and vigorous pace warm our eager hearts and minds. The woods are filled with laughter and slaughtered tunes bellowed out into the otherwise heavy empty air. It’s a slippery, uneasy, fast paced 6 miler up to the top of the trail rewarding our hollow breathing and pounding hearts with a view of iced rocks and a black hole of a jungle. We don’t know much other than there’s a cliff to the right, ice in front of us, and some descent looking vegetation just beyond our headlamps glow- an ideal spot for a few end-of the line Walmart sleeping bags and two easy going, adventure seeking, slightly buzzed friends. The only thing that slept well that night were my toes and frozen hands- the rest of me spent the few hours between darkness and light questioning the in-between darkness and light. An unrelenting shiver and shake did little more than persuade me I earned a breakfast of champions which is a staple in our adventures- food, coffee, beer, adventure- repeat. “Pretty much the Hilton” She captioned in her offline, saved for later, snapchat capturing our incredible, luxurious spread of sleeping bags laid out on a patch of dirt between some trees- a healthy line between large sheering drop off and possible bear den. After, what felt like an eternity of time stuck in a cold vastness portal awaiting absolute, certain death the sun began to show face just beyond the ridge of ice- saving, if nothing else, my sanity. The glow of light began to illuminate a serene, insurmountably different scene- the tree’s exploded in color; hues of orange, red, and yellow brightened the forest all around us. The slick, smooth rock showed its reason for reputation as it dropped off into the horizon peering down a couple hundred feet…Looking glass rock..the morning dew creating an icy haze aggrandizing its crystalized coating- diamond sparkles sheering through the suns rays.
**The Chronicle of the Looking Glass Friendship**
I’m fighting an epic afternoon battle in which the hot classroom air is winning; it’s a Thursday afternoon and my mind is riddled with radio frequency wave propagation – the only thing emitting from my mind is my plans for the weekend. There’s four of us in the crew. Kai and I are the CrossFit junkies seeking lifts and foods; he’s easily the best friend I’ve ever known. He’s always kind, thoughtful, and game for my looney adventures. Alex and Drew are a little less work-out suffering oriented but share our advocation for beer and adventure -contributing unquestionable humor. The group text suggests Charlotte, NC this weekend; we have already identified a CrossFit gym, some bars, skydiving, and foodies to check out. I’m mindlessly swiping away at our generation’s newest addition to the dating scene: Tinder. I’m not proud to be excavating the dating realm on an internet-based platform, but don’t we all want to meet someone? Then there she was… a go pro photo showcasing a full-face helmeted girl with long brown hair flowing out- a dangerous selfie unquestionably, as you see the highway yellow strips spaced between the tires in the curved from the sky look of the photo. Followed by a classic woman’s best friend photo of her and her dog and I’m sold, right. I open with a classic do you like dogs and coffee? – who doesn’t? and after a little well-articulated banter and flirtatious humor we agree to meet for Coffee- the Starbucks by Target. I’m a romantic at heart- skeptical but certainly hopeful and set out for an afternoon I’ll always remember. I anxiously sit at the weathered, sun worn metal table with my phone out staring at the screen, scrolling for comfort. The minutes seem to pass and soon I feel the drop in my stomach of having been stood up- when she shoots over a message asking where I’m at. Unbeknownst to us, there in Augusta stands two Starbucks next to Targets and fortunately for us we each occupied seats at opposing venues. We never met for a cup of coffee or even messaged again. Fast forward two years I’m siting on top of my ruck sack waiting for the bus to pick us up for our tenure in the field. I spent the last two years in Alaska and am now training at Ft. Benning. Her uncanny memorable action shot pops up on my suggested friends and without hesitation I thought to myself, “why not”. Turns out I had gone on an earlier Sushi date with her then roommate- small world. I relive a memory through a Facebook post of Zion National Park- I’m standing in the glowing desert sun, towered by orange-red cliffs protruding out over the skyline and my feet hidden in the narrow river, “one of my most treasured memories- Zion National Park.” She shoots me a message asking about the park – it’s on her list of places to go- and there begins a series of messages. The start of what I would consider to be a truly cherished friendship with a genuinely incredible human being.
Serendipitously she was stationed in Korea whiles I was in training environment which has no bearing accept that with the time differences we just both happened to be on shifts at similar times. Our conversations became highlights and energy infusers during long shifts of late-night details. Talks of alien life forms, meaning of life, ramen recipes, and relationship criticisms- me for my failing long-distance engagement, and her for her simply long-distance relationship. It’s amazing the impact of having someone to talk to through hard times- specifically someone with whom you’ve never met. It almost feels like this inconsequential, unbiased person to talk with and I absolutely needed it at that time in my life. Not to mention laughter has a remedy to all ailments and she certainly had a way of riveting plenty of that. Facebook Messaging becomes a daily activity for me and a welcomed friendship. A couple months pass, I’m in Augusta, GA- the original swiping place- and she’s on her way back to the states from Korea; stopping in GA for her car. We agree that we must meet. I’m just leaving my parents home in FL; it’s a six-hour drive but the time seems to fly by with the excitement of meeting this human being that’s had such a strange but meaningful impact in my gut bellowing laughter for the past few months. I pull up to her buddy’s place and walk to the door- my hands shaking just enough to rattle the door with each knock. A smile answers the door and immediately throws out a welcome hug- “duuuude”. I’ am immediately at ease, overwhelmed with this sense of inexplicable calmness and just pure joy- she’s exactly how I thought she’d be, just plain cool. We set off to grab some beer and share some snacks; she has a way of bringing in the world around her- her smile and friendliness is someone that everyone is drawn too. She shares her food and stories with the world and the entire bar is warmed by her light. One bar turns to two and I’m doing my classic robot – I have been clutching my abdomen and wincing my eyes in absolute laughter since the night began. We wind up where every wide eyed, drink encouraged group of people end up- Waffle House, a true Southern classic. We ask for our check and instead are handed a receipt with a cryptographic mysterious passage, “you have been chosen, go to these grid coordinates by Sunday night”. A random act of kindness- or a plot to murder two unsuspecting Waffle House goers? Our curiosity won and armed with our iPhones head to the grid coordinates- a patch of woods behind some questionable apartment buildings. 20m ahead- we walk into some brush and she spots a capsule in front of an otherwise unremarkable oak tree. Another note read, “Congrats, you’re as awesome as we thought you were. Meet us at Mellow Mushroom Tuesday Night at 7pm”. The murder ploy continues! Amazed at our fortunate and allure of such a finding- what kismet circumstances. We continue with our plans of kayaking, mud slinging in the jeep, and beer bonfires. I’m completely captivated by such an adventurous soul and am whole heartedly bummed to see her drive off just 48 hours later to continue with her road trip ultimately down to her follow-on assignment in Texas. Facebook friendship for months followed by 48 hours of Augusta adventures, but certainly someone I knew I’d thereafter always want to know. But as chance would have it- that wouldn’t be the end of our adventures. Her jeep breaks down- differential brake, radiator…something. She’s stuck in Spartanburg, SC- right between Asheville, NC and Augusta, GA- just where I happened to be headed just a day later to meet some friends for a weekend of snowboarding. I enthusiastically offer to entertain her for a beer whiles she waits for her jeep to be completed – kind of our trademark activity. A small hole- in the wall brewery starts the late afternoon off and after finding out her Jeep won’t be done that night I half-jokingly suggest we drive the hour to Asheville for dinner, beer (of course), and her pup. She’s easily the most agreeable and up-for-living person I have ever met and within two minutes we’re off to the city.
We find ourselves warming our shivering bodies with a beer in a downtown bar before exploring the infamous art store fronts and amazing food. She gives the full tour- at this point she was more versed on the ins and outs of the city that has since become one of my favorites. Somewhere in between Mexican food, buddha beer, and hot chocolate we receive two free tickets to a concert up the street- once again I’m amazed on the world that seems to come together in her presence. Mid beer, she asks how far the rest of my drive is to my friends cabin and what I’m planning on doing – I was just going to drop her off at her friends place with her dog, when I half- serious, half- joking suggest that I’m just going to find a spot to park the truck and do a little tailgate camping- a term I have proudly since coined. Next thing we know we’re racing out to the mountains driving around under the night sky the stars almost as bright as her smile; a few wrong and u-turns later the trailhead reads under the glow of the truck headlights, “Looking Glass Rock”….
Extra Notes About the Trip...
Biscuit Head- no surprise here this is an absolute cult classic. We waited in line for over an hour playing Heads Up with our foot neighbors for the most delicious biscuit pairings and Maple Latte to date. Talk about warming up some cold spirits this place was amazing. Truthfully, Asheville is home to so many wonderful bars and restaurants I couldn't begin to name them all and I was a bit tipysy to remember where we went- so you'll just need to check them all out!
There have since this adventure been one more outing to which I have had the privilege of exploring with this stellar human being that will surface in an Adventure Journal: Kings Landing Springs, FL!