Cameron Shook

2014 Vacation Planning Season Starts Now

Cameron Shook
2014 Vacation Planning Season Starts Now

January 1st is important to me for several reasons. I get to see the first page of my new calendar. I will write 2013 at least 400 times and get angry that I’m forgetting what year it is. It’s also the day that my vacation resets for the year, giving me 10 days to go and do things not involving my job. Just like fresh water in the desert, now is the time to ration out the days to make sure I can get through the year without losing my sanity. Several goals stick out for what I want to do and see, and now the trick is to plan it so I can do it all in the allotted time.

The water in the desert analogy extends even more when those days are finally put in your time bank: like a man dying of thirst, it’s not a good idea to chug that canteen of water all at once. As tempting as it is to cash in both weeks of vacation and fly to Seattle for 2 weeks, the rest of the year is going to be dreary indeed. Short winter trips should hopefully get me through the worst of it though. I’m not much for skiing or snowboarding, but finding a place with plenty of snow and basecamping for several days sounds great. A trip to Cades Cove in February sounds good; maybe time it on MLK day and avoid the ski crowds by going to the valley instead. If the weather turns nasty in a hurry, it’s easy enough to bail out to Townsend TN just 20 minutes down the road.

While I’ve never been a fan of standing up and sliding down hills, I am a big fan of sitting down and sledding. Hawksnest is by far the biggest sledding park and I’ve been there before. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon, but the price of $35 for an hour and a half for one person is a little stiff. The old ways are often the best; just find a nice big hill and throw yourself down it. Moses Park off of the Blue Ridge Parkway has a great hill that locals have been sledding down for ages. I’m trying to figure out if I can time a snow storm perfectly and burn a few days snowed in at Mount Mitchell and just sled down any slope that looks somewhat steep. Motorcycle jackets and helmets will hopefully be purchased before then.

At the request of my wife, at least one trip to the beach needs to be put on the books but I really don’t want to go to the glitz and schlitz of Myrtle Beach. At the request of my dad, he wants to take his 4x4 Bronco out somewhere fun. So, why not both? Cape Lookout National Seashore has a ferry that will take you to one of several islands where you’re allowed to drive and camp on the beach. Wild horses roam the island, you can obviously kayak as much as you want, and casting a line seems more of an obligation than an option. It’s a 6 hour drive so I don’t want to spend just a weekend there; a weeklong spring break in late April/early May before the Memorial Day crowds might finally shake off the winter blues.

Summer time is when my vacations involve either elevation or air conditioning. The huge benefit of summer is all the extra hours of daylight and the fact you can get away with packing nothing more than shorts, a t-shirt, and a rain jacket. Sleeping bags are optional, and a hammock and tarp are all you need to sleep comfortably. Light weight and long days make it the perfect time to attempt a fast, high mileage backpacking trip. For years, I’ve talked about doing the 76 mile Foothills Trail around Jocacssee and maybe I’ll finally do that. Another option would be to “yo-yo” the 30 mile Art Loeb Trail in Pisgah; start at Davidson River Campground, go all the way to Cold Mountain, and hike back to Davidson River. With vacation days as valuable as they are, it’s in my best interest to do the hikes as quickly as possible. The plan would be a 3 or 4 day weekend; with the 4th of July falling on a Friday this year, that just might be the perfect opportunity. Finding somebody else crazy enough to do 20-30 miles a day is the real challenge though.

Fall comes next, and I’ve already planned out 7-8 of my 10 day allotment…oh wait! I have 2 floating holidays! That means I can take another full week off! I think the plan would be to go back to the Smokies so I can finally see the elk in rut in the Cataloochee valley. After a few days of elk de amour, maybe take the hour drive to Lake Santeetlah and make some trips around the surrounding area like Joyce Kilmer National Forest and Fort Loudon State Park. The fall foliage should be at its peak colors in mid to late October and I’ll probably still be recuperating from that summer hike so a laidback scenic tour sounds pretty good.

Finally, we’re back to winter…where I am right now. All of my vacation days are spent and all I can do is look at the calendar waiting for my vacation time to regenerate like a snapped arm off a starfish. There’s always my 2 days off for Christmas at least.

Have a Merry Christmas, and an Adventurous New Year.

Amish in the sense that, at one point, my family helped others raise barns.
Now I build websites to help others build their businesses.