High Waters

Today’s rainy weather must have been sponsored by the Pacific Northwest. Although this stretch of the Southern Appalachians receives the exact same annual precipitation as my hometown of Portland, Oregon, the method of delivery is drastically different. In North Carolina, “raining buckets” is no exaggeration. In Oregon, “raining until I want to shoot my face off” is no exaggeration, either. The former happens in a flash, the latter drags on for weeks. Sadly, people actually do kill themselves over the weather back home.
But here, I live at 4,200 feet on the face of Fork Mountain, a broad arm that descends from the higher, more-famed Roan Mountain (6,200 feet). As the crow flies, Roan High Bluff is just a mile and a half from my doorstep. Life near the top of this watershed is rich with sound on days like today, the springs and creeks tumbling their abundant songs down the mountain into raging broader creeks and even broader rivers. The rain hasn’t let up for 20 hours and counting and you can bet that tomorrow a handful of brave kayaker’s will hit the water at first light.
Heading out for a day of errands, I noticed that Little Rock Creek surged and spread across Old Hobson Road near my mailbox. Although the out-dated Mapquest data still directs my visitors to take this road, anyone who lives here knows that the only person to drive that stretch of Old Hobson Road is Penny, my trusty rural mail carrier. Come high water or high rocks, she guns her Jeep Ranger across Little Rock Creek every day because my mailbox waits on the far side at the creek’s northern-most point. Nevermind the fact that the road is where the creek is, or the creek is where the road is (depending on how you look at it)—mail must be delivered and if ever there was a mail carrier to do it, it was Penny.
One mile down the mountain, the creek spills into Big Rock Creek and flows west along the base of Fork Mountain. About the width of a double-wide trailer, Big Rock nearly burst its banks by mid-afternoon, the water a deep, chocolate brown with brightly-colored fall leaves for decoration. I didn’t make it down to the North Toe this afternoon, but I can venture a guess that the class 1’s are now class 3’s. If it weren’t for the cold spell (in the thirties tonight on Fork Mountain!), I might dip a paddle tomorrow myself just for the thrill of it.

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