The new year has started out pretty cold. We’ve had one day of 15° with a killer wind chill – about minus 10° – and another with a little less wind. It seems we are headed for a warming trend, which is welcome. It has been pretty. The sunsets have been very beautiful, as they often are with the winter colors in the sky.
If you are at all worried about your pipes freezing – we had one of those in our neighborhood this week – it’s a good idea to open up your sink cabinets, especially if they are on an outside wall. The upstairs bathroom is probably the number one cause of cabin floodings in my experience, because it can get pretty cold under the sink, even if the rest of the house is fairly warm. If you are at home, you can always run a thin stream of water at night, although I don’t worry about that at my place until we get low into the single digits.
There isn’t much wild excitement in town in January. In fact, the Chamber of Commerce doesn’t have a single event listed for the month. The next fun thing is the “Fire & Ice” festival, which the Downtown Business Association created last year as something to liven up the slow season. That weekend happened to be very mild, but I think everyone was amazed at the huge turnout. So it is scheduled again for this year on February 18. This event features a chili cook off, live music, ice sculptures, and a skating rink in the downtown park. Last year, the chili cook off tasting was great, even if there wasn’t enough prepared to satisfy the demand. I’m expecting there to be enough for everyone this year, so it should be an even better event.
My favorite thing to do at this time of year is winter hiking. We’ve made a little trip to Wayah Bald, which I’ve written up for my email newsletter. (It should go out next week.) And we’ve hit the Benton McKaye a couple of times. We visited the swinging bridge and the trail beyond with one of our Christmas guests, and we went out to the Blue Ridge WMA on FS 58 (off Doublehead Gap Road) the other day, and took the trail towards Springer Mountain. It has been years since I’ve been in there, perhaps because I had a very traumatic lost dog experience in that area. I was astonished at how beautiful the Three Forks area is today. That’s where the Benton McKaye and the Appalachian Trail run together, at the confluence of Chester, Stover, and Long creeks (they form the Noontootla Creek). I’m planning to get out there again as soon as possible to check out the trail north from Three Forks, where there is supposed to be a nice waterfall that I haven’t seen before.