LIFE'S BETTER IN THE MOUNTAINS

Monday, October 20, 2014

Annual Tribute



Once again I will reprise this story about two marvelous people.  There is an update near the conclusion of the post.


They met on a blind date and took an instant liking to each other. Much of their courtship consisted of hiking in the mountains of western North Carolina. She was three years his senior, a fact that brought many laughs in years to come. They were married in 1949.

He became a lawyer. A lover of animal, she became a veterinarian, rather unusual for her time. Her continued quest for knowledge led her to take courses in forestry, icythyology, and she loved and studied all things living. She would later give up her veterninary practice to take college-level science courses full time.

They lived in Montana and in New York, but their passion was for western North Carolina where they always intended to retire. The couple were true lovers of the outdoors. When their children grew up they traveled extensively, hiking some of the most rugged mountains in the world. They always stayed in hostels or inexpensive lodging because, as he said, "You meet so many more interesting people that way."

When they were in their 50s he hiked the entire Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia. She joined him for parts of the hike and they celebrated with champagne at the end of the trail. Other hikers were delighted with her ability to identify every tree, every bush, and every flower along the trail.

In 1990 John and Irene Bryant moved to the North Carolina mountains they loved so much.


Both photographs from the Transylvania Times



She was an avid gardener and an award-winning quilter. Their passion was hiking, especially the lesser known trails in Pisgah National Forest. They were stewards of the land, purchasing land in their community and donating it to be a nature preserve.

After 58 years of marriage they were deeply committed to one another. The continued to hike together...she in her 80s and he almost 80. They hiked at least once a week, often on the trails of nearby State and National forests.


Their last Christas card.






On October 21, 2007 they went for a hike in Pisgah National Forest. Their son who lived out of State was concerned when he didn't hear from them. He contacted neighbors who also were concerned that they had not returned. The son called the local police.

The car was found near a trail head here in Transylvania County. On November 9, 2007, Irene's body was found near the trail, not buried but covered with leaves. Telephone records showed that she had made a "911" call from her cell phone on October 21 but the signal was insufficient to relay beyond the tower. Their bank card was used in nearby Tennessee.

Irene Bryant had died of blunt force trauma to the head. Her husband John was still missing.

In February 2008 the remains of John Bryant were discovered near a forest service road in upstate Georgia. He had been shot in the head.

Evidence linked the senseless killing of this wonderful and devoted couple to Gary Michael Hilton, although he was not immediately charged.  Following the deaths of Irene and John Bryant,  Hilton pleaded guilty to an equally senseless murder of 24-year-old Meredith Emerson in Georgia. Under the terms of a plea bargain he was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole in 30 years.  He was tried in Florida for the murder of Cheryl Dunlap, a 46-year-old nurse.  He was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death.  Hilton is considered a serial killer, having murdered at least four people in three different states.
[Update:   Hilton was extradited to Federal court in Asheville, NC and charged with murder, robbery, and kidnapping in the cases of John and Irene Bryant. He initially pleaded not guilty but in March, 2012 he changed his plea to guilty.  He was sentenced in Federal court to four additional life sentences for kidnapping and murder.  Hilton, now 67 years old is on death row in Georgia.]

But this post is not about Gary Michael Hilton. It's not even about justice. There is no justice here. There can be no justice for such heinous actions. This post is about two of my heroes...John and Irene Bryant.

They left behind a legacy of love. Love for each other, their children, their fellow man, and the future. Love of nature, love of the outdoors, and love of these wonderful North Carolina mountains. They are together once again and after seven years we still grieve for them. They left the world better than they found it. Let's all take a lesson from John and Irene Bryant. Live your life to the fullest and give back to nature and to humankind.

Friday, October 17, 2014

We Love Lucy


We had severe weather earlier in the week.  Extremely high winds and 7 inches of rain before the storms subsided.  Seeing our trees swaying back and forth like blades of grass was a bit scary.  Fallen leaves and tree limbs were everywhere as the storm blew away much of the colorful Autumn foliage.

On the first nice day, we decided to take Lucy to the Biltmore Estate to walk the trail along the French Broad River.  It is such a lovely place and especially beautiful this time of year.  As we drove down the mountain the day became more gray and foggy.  We decided to go somewhere closer and ended up at the Pink Beds in Pisgah National Forest  (HERE).  The area was deserted except for us.  So we broke the rules and let Lucy run off lead in the large grassy picnic area.  We feel safe doing this because she immediately runs to us if she sees any other people and she is consistent at recalls.  She doesn't chase squirrels or other animals and the picnic area is sufficiently far away from the parking lot that we could see anyone approaching.  And we are always prepared for poop patrol.


She took off like a rocket, smiling all the way.
(If you enlarge the photos you can still see the shaved area from her hospital visit.  The hair is finally filling in)




 She kicked up her heels




 She stops every now and then to see where my husband is.




 We made her stop and rest, but she wasn't going to take it lying down.


We love the fact that Lucy is well-behaved enough to be allowed some freedom to run even if it is technically illegal.  One place we would never break the leash rule, no matter how empty the area, is at the Biltmore Estate.  When you arrive with a dog in the car, the staff will tell you very politely about keeping the dog on lead.  And then he/she gives an additional cautionary statement...that if you are caught with your dog off lead, they will confiscated your annual passes.  'Nuff said.

We are absolutely thrilled that Lucy has not had any seizure activity and nothing abnormal at all.  We are getting more content that it was an isolated occurrence and idiopathic in nature.

Our thought for today comes from our beloved friend, the late Fred Rogers:

We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility.  It's easy to say, "It's not my child, not my community, not my world, and not my problem."  Then there are those who see the need and respond.  I consider those people my heroes.

We all share this planet together.  What affects one area, affects us all.  We, here in the richest country on the planet owe our help to those less fortunate.  It IS our child, it IS our community, it IS our world, and it IS our problem.  Try to do something to help, no matter how small.  A lot of people doing small things becomes very large indeed.



HAVE A SAFE AND WONDERFUL WEEKEND EVERYONE!

 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Color in the Rain



I have three iPods.  One is very old and doesn't hold a charge.  So I keep it on the Bose Dock.  I have playlists for entertaining, for reading, for housekeeping, and easy listening.  I still have the playlist for exercise although I can't take this one for walks because the battery no longer holds a charge.

The second iPod is a newer generation.  It's USB plugs into my car and I can search and find through the sound system and keep the iPod in the center compartment.  I keep this one in the car all the time.

The third iPod is the newest generation and includes a camera.  I rarely use the camera and have only the basic camera program that came on the iPod.  Since today is rainy and misty, I decided to take some pictures with it and keep my regular camera dry.

There is a fair amount of color here already although there are also lots of brown leaves that a falling off in the wind and rain.

A view from the backyard




 Fog still lifting




 The oak is still green while other trees are yellow




 The sweet little Coral Bark Maple is getting dressed for Autumn

This is definitely a muted year for color around here.  Color may be more brilliant in other areas.  Still, the leaf peepers are flocking to the mountains in larger numbers than last year.  The Federal Government shutdown closed the National Parks and decreased the number of tourists visiting the mountains last season.

We are lucky to live where we do.  We can drive up or down a couple of thousand feet in elevation and see quite a difference in the Autumn leaves.  And our community insulates us from the tourists and we can enjoy some fantastic color and views right here.  During leaf season we don't venture beyond the gates during the weekends.




Friday, October 10, 2014

We Love Lucy


I take a lot of photographs of Lucy sleeping.  Like most active dogs, she also sleeps a lot.  And she often sleeps in strange positions that look rather uncomfortable.  She will use anything on the floor for a pillow.

A pair of shoes will do nicely


 And sometimes she actually hangs her head off the bed rather than a pillow.  One of her favorite sleeping positions is with her head completely under my husband's recliner.

 Snoozing away



 And sometimes she just stretches out in the sun


We've had a strange weather week with the heat on for a few days followed by a few days of air conditioning.  This morning was misty with heavy fog.  By ten o'clock the sun was shining brightly.  A common Autumn weather pattern here in the mountains.

The leaves are changing but a lot of them a simply dropping off.  It doesn't look like a great year for color.  But even a bad year for color is a gorgeous time.  And we love it.

Today's quote is from Sara Teasdale and seems to bring me tranquility no matter how angry I am at the recent SCOTUS ruling re-instating our new suppression voter laws by overruling the Appeals Court:


The leaves fall patiently
Nothing remembers or grieves
The river takes to the sea
The yellow drift of leaves


HAVE A WONDERFUL AUTUMN WEEKEND, EVERYONE!

  

Monday, October 6, 2014

One Tree for Each Veteran



Over the course of three years (1941-1943), The United Daughters of the Confederacy planted 125,000 Red Spruce trees along the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The trees were meant to be a living reminder of the Confederate soldiers North Carolina sent to the Civil War.  Among those are 40,000 who died during the war.



The North Carolina Confederate Veterans Memorial Forest



 Marker along the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 422
near Devil's Courthouse (click to enlarge and read)



The forest was dedicated in July of 1942 by Josephus Daniels, well-known publisher and former Secretary of the Navy.  He seems almost to have compared the South in the Civil War to Europe under the Nazis.  But you can judge that for yourself.  He said, in part, "The Southern people, aided by noble patriots in the North, overcame military rule and regained control of their affairs.  They have no doubt the suffering European nations will throw off rule by force and once again order their own way of life."  Remember this was 1942.  The forest was re-dedicated in 1956.

People outside our state may not think North Carolina played much of a role in the Civil War.  It is not truly the "deep South" and did not border the Mason-Dixon line.  However, battles were indeed fought here and almost every small town square has a large statue of the Confederate Soldier.  The statue in front of the old court house building in Morganton, NC, lists the names of many of my ancestors who fought and died in the war.

Confederate statue in Morganton, NC
(photograph by h perez)


Among the casualties at the Battle of Gettysburg, one in FOUR who died were from the army of North Carolina.

There are continuing arguments about the political correctness of honoring Confederate veterans.  My beliefs are relatively simple.  The Confederate flag, rightly or wrongly, has become a symbol of extreme racism and its presence (except in historical museums) is offensive.  It should not be displayed.  Monuments, however are to honor men who died in service.  They are part of our heritage and should not be ignored.



Friday, October 3, 2014

We Love Lucy


Our Lucy loves to have a pillow.  A shoe on the floor will do.  And if there is nothing on the floor, she often uses a chair rung.  Or even the hearth.  It looks quite uncomfortable, but she seems to like it.


Is your head really resting on the hearth, Lucy?




 That is silly, even for you.




 Your point being???



Today is a very blustery day.  Weather predictions for this evening were so dire that many high schools held their Friday night games last night.  We shall see what Nature has in store for us.  As  Winnie-the-Pooh warns, we'll have to watch out for heffalumps and woozles and beware.

Our world is still fraught with evil and so many are suffering at the hands of terrorists.  Please join me in positive thoughts for peace.

 Eleanor Roosevelt said:
"It isn't enough to talk about peace, one must believe it.
And it isn't enough to believe it, one must work for it."



HAVE A SAFE AND WONDERFUL WEEKEND, EVERYONE!


 



Monday, September 29, 2014

The Birds Make a Difference


We have two great vantage points for bird watching.  One is on our deck and the other is the screened porch beneath the deck.  For the most part the birds ignore us even when we are sitting on the deck and they don't seem to see us at all when we are on the porch.  Occasionally a bird will "scream" at us to go inside so they can eat in peace.  Gazing into the woods gives us a peace that helps us overcome our Nation's woes and the cares of the world.

Red-bellied Woodpecker




 Abruptly taking flight, seeming to push off with her feet




 Backlit Tufted Titmouse is losing its tuft
Parasites can cause the feathers on the head to come out, leaving the bird almost bald.
They seem to recover each time.


We're having rain here like most of the Southeast.  We are enjoying the steady drizzle.  Today will be a good day for knitting or reading.  Or maybe a walk in the rain.