I did something really strange and out of character for me the other day. I went for a hike. I spend a lot of time in the woods, mostly mountain biking, sometimes running, occasionally backpacking, but rarely am I just hiking. And yet there I was, in the Nantahala Gorge knocking out a brutal piece of the Bartram Trail that climbs roughly 80,000 feet in 2.5 miles. Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But the trail was steep, weaving in and out of a narrow gulch cut by Ledbetter Creek. Supposedly, there’s good canyoneering on that creek, but I was solo so I stuck to the trail. I get spooked easily when I hike alone—my mind mulling over all of the different ways that I could die alone in the woods.
Morbid, I know, but that’s the way my mind works, always visualizing the worst-case scenario. The fact that I saw two snakes on the trail within about 100 yards didn’t put me at ease. Okay, one of them was a baby snake, but the other snake was definitely…well, looking back on it, the other snake was probably just a really long centipede. But I was in a heightened emotional state, so I gave that vicious centipede a wide berth on the trail. Then I started thinking about snake bites, and whether or not I’d have the skills it takes to capture a poisonous snake after it bites me. Then I started thinking about poisonous spiders. And the return of the mountain lion to the Southern Appalachians. And packs of coyotes. And freak lightning storms. And bears. Shit, bears.
Other than the bloody internal monologue that accompanied me the entire day, it was a beautiful hike. I took a picture of Bartram Falls, then booked it back down the trail, a thunderstorm chasing me the entire descent.
Back in civilization (aka River’s End pub next to the N.O.C.) I comforted myself with the Sherpa Rice, a kitchen sink kind of dish, and a Dirty Girl Blonde from Nantahala Brewing Company. NBC has been around for a while now, operating out of a cool warehouse-like space next to the train tracks in downtown Bryson City. Their distribution must be small though, because I rarely see their beers up in Asheville. But I’m always happy to order a pint when I have the chance.
Dirty Girl is a blonde ale that drinks as easy as those canned lagers you grew up with, but tastes way, way better. It’s crisp, but has a buttery kind of mouthfeel and comes in at an almost sessionable 5.75% ABV. In other words, it’s the perfect beer to settle the nerves after getting attacked by a nest of centipedes, er, poisonous snakes.