It was almost 10 o’clock on Saturday morning. The sky was a deep turquoise-blue, practically cloudless, and the golden-red leaves on the trees rustled in the gentle autumn wind.

I’d just pulled into Snowshoe Mountain Ski Resort for their Freefall Festival, a three-day event celebrating mountain biking, craft beer, and good music. In addition to representing the magazine at the festival, I would also be joining forces with Snowshoe employee Melissa Dobbins to host a 5-mile hike for one of the Live Outside and Play meet-ups.

For those of you that were unaware, I have been hosting a meet-up at least once a month since I hit the road in May. These meet-ups are designed to be free and open to the public with the aim of introducing new people to the magazine, the project, our sponsors, and the local businesses I work with to host the event.

In the past five months my meet-ups have included an 8-mile trail run in Damascus, Va., a 5-mile sunset/night hike outside of Brevard, N.C., a SUP float in Folly Beach, S.C., a yoga session in Fayetteville, W.Va., a SylvanSport Go demo in Floyd, Va., an ENO slackline competition in Ocoee, Tenn., and most recently this 5-mile hike up to Snowshoe’s Cheat Ridge fire tower.

I’m always a little nervous before these meet-ups, mainly because I fear the worst: no one shows.

IMG_9879Per one of last week‘s blogs, you’re well aware that my time on the road has been speckled with flaky friends. That’s totally fine – occasionally, I’m the flaky friend. But the point of these meet-ups is to meet new faces. I can’t do that if no one shows. Granted, this is the first year the magazine has started hosting events like this, so I haven’t been expecting large turnouts. In my eyes, a successful meet-up can be as few as two people.

Which, is precisely the number of folks that showed up on Saturday morning.

On the lift down to the lake depot though, I couldn’t care less who or how many people showed up. The fall foliage was in full-swing and the day was proving to be a perfect combination of cool and sunny. It’d be a perfect morning for a fire tower hike, even if it was just Melissa and I.

A friendly couple who owns a vacation house over the valley were the only folks who came at first. While I was relieved that they had heard about the hike via social media and had actually followed through with it, a part of me was still bummed. Really? Only two people out of the 155,000+ online fans we had between Snowshoe and Blue Ridge Outdoors? What gives?

As I was walking down to the beach though, a man in a bucket hat came up to me asking where the geocaching trail was. I quickly steered him away from partaking in the short trail, telling him that he should join us, instead, for a 3-hour hike up the ridge. He and his wife agreed and before long, the 7 of us began our trek up the mountain.

It was awesome to simply go for a walk in the woods. Sometimes (maybe due to my total dislike of hiking) I get caught up in adrenaline sports like kayaking and mountain biking and climbing. I live for that rush, for feeling borderline entirely out of control. But hiking is very methodical, very grounding. I should do more of it. Still, there were times during our hike when I looked on in envy as riders came flying down the trails we were slowly trudging up. By the time I was standing atop the fire tower, soaking in the 360-degree view of the surrounding mountains, it didn’t matter how I got there. All I cared about was that I was there.

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Waves of red, gold, and green greeted our eyes. We could see the runs of Snowshoe, the lake, a puff of gray smoke in the distance from the Cass Scenic Railroad. It finally felt like fall, and I was glad that I could share that beautiful day with people who were as amped to go outside and play as I was.

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To cap off the day, we headed back down the mountain to watch an awesome live performance by G. Love and Special Sauce and Slightly Stoopid. Thanks to Melissa and the folks over at Snowshoe for hosting us this weekend and to all of the other locals and businesses that have helped me to put on these meet-ups in the past!

If you haven’t already, stay connected with the project by following the Live Outside and Play Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter feeds. That way, you’ll know when and where the next meet-up is happening.

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