A Different World

Another cold front blew in Saturday morning with 3-5” of snow predicted for the high country. I left Celo early for the house on Fork Mountain, hoping to hike up and open the taps to keep the pipes from freezing. I didn’t even make it to Bakersville before I had to turn around, tailgating salt trucks all the way back to my parent’s house.
With temperatures in the single digits and highs in the teens, this week on Fork Mountain promises to be bone-chilling. The gusts up to 50 mph drop the temperature to well below zero. Determined to get up the mountain, I set out today at the peak of warmth (20 degrees) under sunny skies. The salt trucks in Mitchell County long ago finished their work and I made it to my driveway without flinching.
Half a mile later, I professed my love to my new L.L. Bean snow boots (rated to 30 below), which kept my toes warm during the hike. I couldn’t say as much for my frigid fingers, but they eventually thawed out. Despite all my anxieties about the house during these weeks of winter upheaval, I was pleased to find it still attached to the side of the mountain, with all doors and windows in place. The porch has not yet collapsed, no gutters have come down in the snow, and the trees—creaking and cracking as they were—all stood upright against the mountain.
Slowly opening the cold water tap on the kitchen sink, I waited…first air, then a cough, then slowly but surely a trickle of water. Ten seconds later, the trickle was a gush, and twenty seconds later the water flowed at full force. I switched it to hot, then repeated this routine throughout the house. The biggest surprise was perhaps the toilet, which flushed fine after I removed the layer of ice which had formed a perfect seal across the water in the bowl.
It’s a different world up there at 4,200 feet in such weather. A different world with no neighbors and no high tech connections. A different world with trees an arm’s length from most walls of the house, with wildlife poking around doorways (leaving their tracks as proof), and rodents nesting anyplace they can fit. It’s a world I’ve chosen to leave behind, though Fork Mountain seemed to want to keep me and all my worldly possessions for as long as possible. A few more hours and the pipes would have surely frozen, the porcelain on the toilet might have cracked and burst, and then, once and for all, that mighty mountain might have swallowed that house whole.

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