Highway 276 is a relatively short highway that twists and turns its way across the mountains between Transylvania County and Haywood County in North Carolina. When traveling on it you pass through the Cradle of Forestry by Looking Glass Falls and Looking Glass Mountain itself. I had not driven that route in a little over 16 months. I last drove through there at the end of June 2011 right before my son died.
This day in November 2012, I had been to Brevard to provide a watercolor painting demonstration for a group of artists there. I drove there by way of the interstate. As I began my drive home I decided to turn North on 276 and follow the ribbon of road draped over the shoulders of the mountains. It is a road where it is important to pay attention.
Most of the leaves were down and there were not many people traveling that route at this time of year. Here and there cars parked by the side of the road indicated people who were probably out hiking. It was a cool overcast day with the sun trying to peek through. I almost turned around and headed back but somewhere in my head I heard my son make fun of me. I passed Looking Glass Falls to the right and a view of Looking Glass itself off above me to the left. My son loved to climb that mountain.
One day a few years ago our whole family had taken a day trip to Dupont State Park and on the way back we took 276 turning on the road around the base of Looking Glass. My son pointed out the trail to the base so we stopped and walked back in. He explained the different places where people climbed and that after a climb you could “walk-off” the back of Looking Glass. Back in the car continuing on our route we came across a large rattle snake warming itself in the dirt road. We stopped and waited for it to continue on its way.
There is a picture that was taken that day of the four of us on the trail to Triple Falls at Dupont. A couple kindly offered to take our picture together. We stand together shoulder to shoulder, a family. It was a great day together.
The day in June of 2011 was spent with a friend taking pictures for reference for paintings. My friend and I hop-scotched our way along 276 towards Brevard as the trees were beginning to leaf out. I have those pictures on a flash drive somewhere. About the same time my son was sending me photos he was taking on his back deck. Three garter snakes had emerged, two were ready to shed and all wanted to sun themselves on his deck. He was so excited. He sent the messages to me and his sister and we discussed them via instant messaging.
I still have those pictures.
I am so grateful to have these memories. There are so many places to which I would never have ventured had he not have been in my life.
I was proud of myself for driving that route the other day by my self winding my way on Highway 276. It was more than miles.
We gather tomorrow as a family for the Thanksgiving holiday. The missing man is always going to be a part of the formula for us. I dreamed he called the other night and said he would be home for Thanksgiving. He will be.