Labor Day weekend 2008 was anything but ordinary and everything perfect. Of course, it holds extra special meaning because it was our last with Austin; however, even on that day, we commented on how wonderful it was. Just an average, lazy summer day that became so much more.
For whatever reason, we didn't have big plans approaching that holiday weekend. Often it is on those long weekends that we tackle household projects, like staining the deck, because we need the extra day off to accomplish it. I don't remember much about the weekend, but that morning of Labor Day, we woke up with no specific plans and ended up in a place where time stands still.
Somehow, I had learned about Pine Knob and we decided that the weather was a perfect day for a drive and picnic. The boys had no idea where we were going and they always loved surprise road trips. We hit the parkway heading toward Elizabethtown and they were both at a loss, for it was a route we didn't frequently take.
With today's technology, it was hard to keep many things secret, especially with Austin. If he got any hints that would lead to a clue, he'd text friends to find out answers. I don't think he ever figured out where we were going though as we weren't really sure either until we arrived.
The town of Pine Knob appeared to have been frozen in time. Maybe it was the time of day we arrived or because it was a holiday, but the town was empty. The picturesque white-washed homes, church, and school house lined the lonely gravel road as if created for a movie set and abandoned.
A wooden bridge that arched over the creek was the first place we pulled aside after eating. This bridge was unnecessary that day, as the water was so low in many areas you could just walk across the creek bed. We all took our shoes off and plunged into the crisp, cool water sliding our toes over smooth stones.
At the foot of the bridge was a dirt path that winded up, leading to natural steps made by large rocks jutting out of the hill. It is this location where we all stopped for photos. The picture of Austin below was taken on this day and is one of our favorites of him. He enjoyed the peacefulness of the place, the natural beauty, and the many different shapes and sizes of rocks found along the trip. This is also one of the photos that we chose for his monument. Tim and the boys ventured farther up the hill but didn't explore too much, afraid to leave Mom too far behind. With my knee, I don't get too adventurous in areas unknown, but I was perfectly content meandering through the creek and snapping photos. I remember how silent it was in that place; even nature seemed to be a little lazier that day, as if all the earth were at peace and resting.
Once they made their way back down the hill, we drove to the old school house and church and peeked inside windows. We tried to imagine how life would have been back then, with everyone in the same classroom, no matter the age. I later found out that my grandmother grew up in that area, which the boys and I found interesting. The boys wondered if grandma had walked those same paths on her way to school or played in the same creek.
The Pine Knob outdoor theatre is along the route and while snooping, we noticed the many picnic tables so it made an easy choice for our picnic spot. I remember the weather being unbelievably perfect that day, a cool breeze blowing through the shade trees. The smells of summer blending in with the early stages of fall mingled in the air. We shared simple sandwiches and chips, with a side of laughter and togetherness.
We loved viewing the creek that winded through the town and water trickle from the sides of hills, as it was reminiscent of the mountains. There was even a spout stuck into the side of one, where a natural spring spilled out water so clear and fresh. The boys were hesitant to taste it but surprised after doing so.
The entire morning was completely unscheduled and we lingered as long as we wanted at any given spot. Later that afternoon, while driving with no purpose, we ended up visiting Rough river, which the boys enjoyed. After a day of adventure and exploring, we were all ready for a refreshing plunge in the water. The afternoon was spent chasing each other at the beach and splashing around.
Our entire day was unplanned and unscheduled with new and exciting activities. Such a simple holiday, filled with precious memories. I imagined Pine Knob as a little piece of Heaven and like to think that Austin now lives among beauty and peace such as was found on that perfect summer day.