WNC Travel Guide

I was in the Disney bubble for seven days straight, so it was rather depressing driving home with the daily grind looming up ahead. A blogger friend of mine coined this discombobulating experience “re-entry.” I’m sure you’ve experienced it yourself. An amazing vacation, a weekend music festival, a holiday vacation from work. “Re-entry” is when you leave that happy façade of a world and return to reality.

It’s birthday week for the Barbee boys. Our two boys are exactly three years and one day apart, one born Jan. 19, 2009 and the other Jan. 20, 2012. 

If you count back nine months, you hit April. During both pregnancies I was teaching full-time and my husband was a school administrator. We always joke that spring break finally allowed us to chill out and enjoy one another which resulted in January babies. 

My wife was stranded in Mississippi. She was supposed to get home late on Friday night, but then the big snowstorm came. We ended up with 4-6 inches, which in the North would be considered a flurry. In the South, it means we have to shut her down for a spell.

While I was in the Food Lion — which felt like Times Square on New Year’s Eve, except with people clutching gallons of milk instead of glasses of cheap champagne — my wife was getting the terrible news that her flight to Charlotte had been canceled and the kids were getting the awesome news that school was closing early.

Throughout my entire life, I’ve awoken on New Year’s Day energized to be more, do more, see more. This year was very different. I woke up wanting to do less, to simplify everything. I woke up feeling steadfast, reflective. 

My mom’s been by my side for 36 holiday seasons, so the first one without her felt strange and melancholy. Thinking back on the last couple of months, there are some bright spots like snuggling on the couch watching movies under the glow of the Christmas tree, making gingerbread houses with the whole family, and visiting my sister and niece in D.C. for a mommy and kid weekend. 

After three months of internal darkness and coping with grief, this past weekend offered some soothing reprieve. Over the years, I’ve realized I’m a person who desires to see the world but adores her small town. For me, a place like Waynesville is a perfect home base, a haven to recharge.

My 18-year-old son, Liam, departed the mountains for Charlotte two weeks ago when his fall break had ended. 

He’s our youngest, the last to fly the coop, and so my wife, Lori, and I had anxiously looked forward to his first visit from college. As one might expect from a growing boy, he wanted some of mom’s cooking, and that meant we would enjoy dinners together. We also spent mornings catching up and talking, visited relatives in Asheville, did some mountain biking, and caught a movie.

I recently wrote a blog post about September being the worst month of my life. One day seemed to awkwardly stumble over the next with no rhyme or reason emotionally or logistically. I was in a grief-induced fog, feeling a lot of anger and isolation, just basically trying to take each day in its singular form and not worry about what was to come.

Amanda James Shaw never expected she’d be back in her hometown of Franklin running the family business, especially a power tool business.

For a week I’ve been thinking about what to write in this week’s column, and very little clarity came until today. Traditionally, I love writing about anything. A new business in town, my son’s homemade Halloween costume, a great book I’m reading, the crispness of orchard apples, an upcoming trip.

When we got out of the car on Sunday at the parking area in Jackson County at the end of Fisher Creek Road, it was cool, perhaps high 60s or low 70s. Fall is coming, I thought. Despite the favorable temperatures, the walk up the trail toward Black Rock and Pinnacle Peak soon had all of us bathed in sweat, feeling winded and wonderful at the same time.

I’d been on the trail before. That was on a cold April morning a few years back as a pack of crazy trail runners took part in the annual Assault on Black Rock race. The sheer exhaustion I suffered during that run erased any real memory of the trail, and so this time it might as well have been my first time maneuvering up the rocky path.

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