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Image may contain: 3 people, including Keith Kenel and Patricia Tierney Kenel, people smiling, people standing

Joy, exuberation, passion, youthful optimism; these were the qualities I exuded when last I visited Asheville. I encountered Asheville in spring of eighty-six; having just reached the quarter-century mark: At twenty-five I found it easy to be optimistic.

I graduated college that spring (Hey! Don’t judge me! I had been in no hurry to, “Get on with life,” and I paid as I went; working my way through school and graduating debt-free.) and was looking forward to a wonder-filled life with my bride-to-be in the warm and sunny South.

Optimistic? I was one-hundred-percent wagging puppy-dog tail.

Patricia, my wife-to-be, had fled the Great White North for the second time in her twenty-five-years after I had unintentionally sabotaged her first foray to Dixie when we were fresh faced teens: It had taken time and forgiveness to bring us to the edge of matrimony but there we sat, scant weeks from taking The Plunge.

At twenty-five-years of age she’d left the bustle of CIGNA’s Connecticut home office and taken a position in an Atlanta satellite where the sales team she’d joined had earned an exciting perk of an excursion to Asheville. The perk had included spouses and I was grandsoned, as opposed to grandfathered, in as husband-in-waiting.

Three decades allows a lot of water to flow under a lot of bridges. Our thirty-two-year wedded adventure has been blessed far more than it has been cursed. The lows had moved us in a large anti-clockwise ellipse, propelling us north and east to Indiana, skirting Chicago as we settled in Eastern Iowa, zooming south eastward to Florida where I suffered for two-and-a-half-years before moving to Raleigh five months back.

On our most recent “last move” we’d left something very precious in Florida; our younger son Sean. Sean the wanderer, Sean the adventurer, he who appears frequently in my stories either masked or uncloaked, had joined us in Florida two Thanksgivings back and lived under our roof until we had, after much pleading on my part, fled twenty-eight-point-two degrees north latitude by eighty-two-point-six degrees west longitude and settled at the keener tweener of 35.8° north by 78.7° west.

Five months separated, Sean decided a pilgrimage of reunification was in order and that, as he lacked the powers of the Prophet Muhammad to bring the mountains of North Carolina to the twenty-feet-above-sea-level elevation of Trinity, Florida, he would instead come to us in our new Mecca. The anniversary of my fifty-seventh circumnavigation around the sun was his proximate cause and he arrived the day after my birthday for a visit to our new homestead.

Sean arrived, coworker and love interest Lauren in tow, having informed us that during their stay we must travel with Lauren, who had never seen a waterfall, to Asheville, North Carolina, a location which Padawan Sean had visited twice previously. Friday afternoon my darling wife-goddess-soulmate Patricia picked up Sean and Lauren from RDU airport and brought them by the Cary bike-shop where I labor. After a quick hello she chauffeured them to our latest, freshest, fifth-successive new-home where they awaited my arrival from work. I cycled home, was told that we would be dining out and, after a quick shower that removed the sweat of bike-commute from my tired, old body, off we headed to dinner at local, employee-owned Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen for a late-for-me eight o’clock dinner. Dinner was fine, the company great and I was in bed late, up early in preparation of my Saturday bike-commute and busy work-shift.

Sean, Lauren and Patricia spent Saturday soaking up the landmarks of greater Raleigh until 5:15 when they arrived at the bike-shop where they cooled their heals for another half hour while I TKOB. Tired from work, I napped as Pat dutifully followed Horace Greely’s/ John Babsone Lane Soule’s advice and headed west.

Thirty-two years ago Asheville was the locale where Patricia and I experienced our first whitewater rafting trip; an activity we’ve since shared with both our younger son Sean and his elder brother Kevin. Thirty-two years ago, Patricia and I went horseback riding together during our stay at Asheville; an activity we repeated that June on our honeymoon. Thirty-two years ago, I had just slipped into the cloak of being twenty-five-years-old, a garment Sean will wear early in May. Thirty-two years ago, I had a life plan, boundless energy and eternal optimism. My life and life-plan diverted quickly, but my journey thus far has been worthy of my dewy-eyed, youthful optimism.

Saturday night was more late-night dining and we left Sean and Lauren in the hands of age-mate friends and went back to the hotel with a promise of getting an early start the next day. Sunday, the next day, dawned cool and dark. Cool and dark for me that is. Pat slept until eight, the “children” until ten, and we met up with my niece Kelsey and her posse of pretties who were coincidentally simultaneously visiting Asheville from various locals around the US of A.

After breakfasting we drove an hour north east of Asheville to Crabtree Falls, and hiked the “Difficult” trail to present Lauren with her first waterfall encounter. The waterfall was lovely and, after basking in her beauty, we continued our hike around the loop traveling from a “Difficult” downhill section of trail to a “Strenuous” uphill. We numbered four hikers, one of us had to be the weakest link and that title fit squarely upon my stooped shoulders.

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing

Compared to thirty-two-years-back my wattage is down but I can still claim to have hopes in the clouds, and why shouldn’t they be? After all, I’ve got the best assets a man can ask for; a terrific life-mate, two wonderful children, a daughter-in-law and young grandson.

Has three decades sapped me of energy? You bet, but it hasn’t taken away my exuberance, my joy de vivre; that remains and today I got to accompany a young lady on her first hike to a waterfall. What isn’t there to look forward to?

Wish me luck, I know there’s a lot of steep climbs in my future, but this old dog finds magic hanging with the puppies.

Image may contain: Patricia Tierney Kenel and Keith Kenel, people smiling, tree, outdoor, nature, closeup and water