Fire on the Mountain

Most people locally have been hearing about the fire on Pilot Mountain, NC, and how it’s ravaged over 900 acres and still going. I have a solid connection to that mountain with my family. When I heard what was happening there, my heart fell to the ground. If you’ve never had the opportunity to experience the “Knob,” it was gorgeous with the fresh rhododendrons and other vital plants and trees surrounding the forests. On a clear day, you could see at least three different views of different cities from the lookout. Since my grandfather was one of the owners before the state took over the park, I’ve always felt his presence there. I remember getting lost on the mountain when I was younger, and I could hear him tell me which way to go to find my way back. It might sound a little crazy to some folks, but to me, he was like a guardian angel leading me through unknown terrain. There’s a massive rock on the side of the mountain that looks like a natural chair. I’ve always been able to rest in that cornerstone and feel the coolness from the rock as I cooled down from a long walk. You can always smell when the rain is about to come because the mountain will give you a crisp, clean scent if you don’t dwell on all your problems but rather let nature talk to you. Maybe that’s why when the alert on my phone came in on Saturday, November 27th, that Pilot Mountain was facing a vast wildfire, my heart felt like it came out of my chest.

Many people have heard of Pilot Mountain because of the Andy Griffith show and referred to it as Mount Pilot. Reverse the words, and you’ve got the real place. Since Andy Griffith was from North Carolina, he never forgot the areas that impacted him most. Some folks would say that the mountain wasn’t that special. I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder because many people love that mountain. It’s not gone by any means, but it will need time to heal. The reasons it’s special to me are not the reasons other people have, but when you see anything succumb in a sweltering blaze, it tends to leave a spot in your heart that’s difficult to explain. You know in your gut that the fire is giving you a chance to get rid of one environment while creating a new one. Yet, it’s not easy to admit that, nor is it easy to imagine what the mountain will be as it heals. When the news reports are blaring about how the fire has already spread over 900 acres, it becomes difficult to know when it will finally cease. The winds have not been kind to that area. They refuse to settle down so that rescue teams can contain the fire.

So why is the mountain so vital to me? I’ve mentioned that my grandfather owned it at one point. There is so much more to the story because my grandparents had an unconventional love story. My grandfather was forty years older than my grandmother, and his name was William Luther Spoon. He knew my grandmother from the local market. He and his wife spent time conversing with her, and he was friends with my grandmother’s father. When his first wife died of cancer, he and my grandmother had a friendship for several years before the relationship blossomed. My grandmother needed an emergency appendectomy. She couldn’t afford it and would have died had he not intervened. My grandfather walked into the medical facility, paid the bill in total, and ensured she got the best care possible. My grandmother paid him back every red cent. She refused to be indebted to him. She did things on her terms and didn’t depend on a man. Maybe that’s why the women in my family are fiercely independent and headstrong. Eventually, he convinced her to marry him, and they were happy for two years. They found out that my grandmother was pregnant with my mom, and he was over the moon with happiness. Not long after he found out, my grandfather suffered a massive heart attack and died while he was out feeding the hogs. When he died, my grandmother had to sell things from his estate.

Because he had heirs from his earlier marriage, my grandmother did everything she could to not take away anything from his children or grandchildren from his first marriage. She refused to be a gold digger. Pride is exceptionally high in my family. During their marriage, she learned about his love for Pilot Mountain and why that mountain was so unique to him. In short, it was a gateway for him to heaven. He always felt like it got him closer to God. I get it. Sometimes, the higher I go on the mountain, the more I embrace the presence of the heavens. It may sound dumb, but it gets me a little closer to the sky.

Throughout the years, I’ve explored many different trails leading to the knob. I watched as rock climbers scaled the mountain and explored the beauty and secrets that the rocks hold. I’ve seen various kinds of birds fly over the knob and all around the terrain. Every once in a while, I’d see a butterfly land on the rocks as if they were dancing. They were so happy to be among the unique terrain. When the alert first came on my phone that a wildfire was on the property, I had thought of disbelief. I couldn’t believe it, nor could I comprehend the damage that it would create. When the first report said that it consumed over 200 acres, I thought it would not last this long. I didn’t count on the high winds and how dry everything was. The conditions are ripe for this fire to spread. It grew to over 500 acres the next thing I knew, and the last count I heard was over 900 acres. I’ve listened to reports say that this fire stemmed from a campfire.

So while I hope that this fire will cease, I recognize that fires happen every day. Some of them are accidental, and others are by arson. The fire can be beautiful and deadly all at the same time. But the thing about beauty is that it never lasts. Even fires at their hottest point eventually lose their momentum and die down. I struggle to remember that they could have prevented the fire on the mountain, but there are lessons that people can take from it since it’s occurred. Whatever you do, enjoy the beauty that is around you. Nature can take it from you at any point. But life is too short to worry about what might happen. Take the time to embrace the scenery and accept it for what it is. The mountains and oceans are a part of a landscape that can be damaged and can take decades to fix. Men and women are working around the clock to contain the fire. They dedicate their time and resources to ensuring that the land and people remain as safe and protected as possible. Safety is their top concern, as it should be.

I hope that none of you ever need to deal with wildfires in your lifetime. They are scary, emotionally and physically draining, and very deadly. But if the fire on the mountain is doing anything for me, it’s making me appreciate life more than ever. Have a great day, everyone.

2 thoughts on “Fire on the Mountain

  1. Oh wow, this is horrible! Where is the rain when you really need it? This reminds me of those California fires that burn acres for months EVERY YEAR! It’s just weird. I’ve seen these fires in Alaska and Oregon as well. Based on all the stories here I can see why you have such a connection with Pilot Mountain. This definitely needs to be preserved – I’d love to visit even if only to see the rock that looks like a chair. Wow, I hope this fire stops raging soon.

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  2. I hope you can get a chance to experience it after the fire goes away and nature has a chance to regenerate. The natural chair is on the medium trail. I hope that it rains soon. My folks used to live in California and said that the fires there are horrible too. Last I heard on the news, it’s now ravaged over 1000 acres. It’s a really sad and sickening feeling that there is little that can be done until weather conditions improve.

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