Cameron Shook

Living Your Best Fall

Cameron Shook
Living Your Best Fall

We did it! We lived through another summer! Escaping flocks of mosquitos, swimming through 90% humidity, and shriveling up like charred pieces of bacon from the heat is all behind us. Now we look forward to cool mornings, cooler nights, colors starting to turn, and for me, getting back outside and actually enjoying it. Fall is my favorite season and I have a list of adventures that need to get done before the trees are bare and we settle into the colorless winter.

Since there are still days where the temp climbs higher than I’d like, my first trip in September has me climbing as high as I can east of the Mississippi to try and beat the heat. Starting at Mount Mitchell State Park, I’m going to do an overnight backpacking trip to Deep Gap which traverses 5 peaks over 6500’. On average, you lose 1 degree of temperature with every 300’ of elevation you gain so Mount Mitchell and its surrounding peaks are 20+ degrees cooler than we are in York County. As I write this, the high today in Rock Hill is 88 degrees and the high at Mitchell is 66.

It’s a tough hike, with lots of elevation gain and loss, and longtime readers may remember me describing this same trail before when I talked about the time the group I was hiking with had several people fall out halfway; let’s just say it wasn’t the best way to find our friend to find out they were diabetic. This time though, I’m going with people in better shape than I am which is great news for me because I’ll quietly sneak things into their packs to slow their pace.

Two months ago, my article was about planning your dream trip and this fall I’m finally going on mine. I’ll be spending 10 days in Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, hiking, backpacking, and doing all of the normal tourist things. The hike at Mitchell is for a self-assessment of my fitness as well because while I’ll be hiking up to 6600’ here, my airplane will be landing at 7000’ and I’ll only be hiking higher out west. I have a feeling my October article will be all about my trip out west, so I’ll move on to a few things closer to home.

As a Christmas present last year, my mom had the brilliant idea of getting me a SC State Parks gift card worth about 3 nights at any campground. I’ve been saving it all year for a trip to the beach, but between my lack of desire to fight the crowds and the overbooked campgrounds it just hasn’t happened yet. That will probably change with a late October trip to either Edisto Beach or Hunting Island State Parks. Both parks are fairly close to one another but it’s amazing the difference between the two.

Edisto State Park is a great option if you want to be near restaurants in a sleepy little beach town and also be next to one of the greatest natural beaches left in South Carolina. While there’s nothing wrong with the beach at the state park, driving a few miles down and paying a few dollars to walk through the Botany Bay Plantation and beaches is well worth it. The shoreline had never been developed, so the woods creep all the way to the edge of the shore just like you would have seen hundreds of years ago. Nearly 7 miles of uninterrupted shoreline is nothing like the Myrtle Beach most people saw this summer.

While only 11 miles as the crow flies or the kayak floats, it’s 82 miles by car from Edisto to Hunting Island State Park. Most famous for the lighthouse, which is the second oldest in the state and only one of 6 in South Carolina, Hunting Island is even further away from the insanity of the beaches further north. Miles of intercoastal waterways and an enclosed bay are great spots for kayaking and fishing, with the marshland on the lee side of the island being a great spot for birdwatching.

If anyone has fallen asleep while listening to me talk about quiet beaches, lonely paddles, and *yawn* birdwatching, sit up and grab a Red Bull because the first Saturday in November I better see you in Saluda NC. The 20th Annual Green River Narrows Race is taking place, where the highest levels of whitewater kayakers race down some of the toughest Class V whitewater in the southeast. Much like Nascar, some people could care less for the race and only come to watch the carnage that takes place on the toughest rapid Gorilla. Just a warning – this isn’t a road side race, with comfy bleachers and food vendors. Prepare for a tough hike down to the rapids and the same back out, carrying all of the food and water you’re going to need for a full day of spectating the greatest kayak race in North Carolina.

While I’ve talked about it in the past, if you’ve never taken the time to go and watch the elk during rut in the Great Smokey Mountain National Park you’re doing yourself a disservice. The drive into Cataloochee valley where the majority of elk are is steep and winding, and during peak season you’re definitely not going to be alone but quite simply there aren’t any other places in a 4 hour drive that you can see 700lb elk bugle and fight to get a females attention; there are less majestic options like several bars in York County on a Friday night, but just trust me when I say it’s worth the time in the car to see the elk instead. If you can’t get a campsite in Cataloochee Valley, you have several options as long as you don’t mind a bit of a drive and a strong resistance to car sickness.

Most visitors take the entrance road from I-40 which is the shortest and most direct route. If you are willing to drive on some forest service roads that twist and turn through the mountains, the Old Cataloochee Turnpike goes from Cataloochee Valley, across the Mt. Sterling Gap, and down to the Big Creek campground and ranger station. When I say twists and turns, I mean that literally so I would expect needing to stop at least a few times to stop anyone from losing their lunch but the good news is there is several interesting hikes in the area including some old historic buildings off the beaten path. Jim Hannahs cabin is off the Little Catalooche trail, a few miles from the trailhead on the road. Beyond that, is the old Baptist church and cemetery as well, all that remains of what was a busy and populated valley less than a hundred years ago.

 I haven’t spent a single vacation day all year, but I plan on every single one being spent before Thanksgiving. I’m always interested in hearing about new places to go, so if you’ve got a trip planned this fall to somewhere new send me an email! I still have a few days that aren’t spent yet.

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