So what have I been up to during that month-long break?
Well, a lot of thinking. And a lot of walking. Like the hike I took with a group on Labor Day up to Mt. LeConte. We went by Grotto Falls, the only waterfall in the Smokies you can walk behind.
The opposite of our pace. Fast up Trillium Gap trail, almost 7 miles one way, a steep trail rated "strenuous." We walked past piles of berry-filled bear poop.
Never actually saw bears, though - just deer.
And llamas, returning from carrying supplies up to the Lodge. Supplies which included the boxes of wine for the bottomless glass of cheap wine, which is topped off every time you took a couple of sips. I can tell you two things about that: That it's very hard to monitor how much you are drinking when the wine glass stays magically full and that if all the wine is consumed in the space of less than an hour, you will not feel it at all until later.
A raucous game of Boggle before dinner (where I was loudly challenged and voted down for my use of the "fap," until it's meaning was confirmed by the young guys in the lodge's kitchen) and then a hike up to the overlook after to watch the sunset.
After dark, we returned to the lodge's rustic cabins and I went straight to bed. When I woke in the middle of the night to make the walk to the bathroom, my phone died part-way there. My phone which I was using as a flashlight. There I stood on the uneven dirt and stone path in my undies and a camisole, in the pitch black, waiting for the intermittent flashes of lightning from the brewing storm to light the way for me to take a few more steps forward. When you are in the dark, alone, in an area with signs warning of increased bear activity, you notice every rustle and crack around you.
Obviously, I was not killed by a bear. But the trail down the next morning was wet from the torrential rains the night before. I was not hungry at breakfast, and thought I'd be eating lunch on the return hike. So, my hypoglycemic light-headedness, the weight of the pack on my back, and the unexpected speed of our descent all made for some impressive momentum when I hit a tree root with the toe of my hiking boot.
Bloody bruises on my knees, thigh, arm, and palm, and a wrenched shoulder. The last couple of miles after that spill were less than fun for me. After I'd driven home, I eased myself into a tub of warm water and was glad to crawl into my soft bed that night.