Take it with a grain of salt, but I love mountain cabins and insects now. I hand-catch fireflies like they’re bubbles and don’t mind sleeping with a few silverfish. But how did I become a boot-wearing, tick-checking girl?

This past weekend, I stayed at a cabin in Green Mountains, North Carolina, on land once owned by the grandson of Daniel Boone. A sprawling 30 acres of greenery, wildlife, and a hand-built log cabin, it was the retreat I needed from my downtown Atlanta office.

Origins Of The Cabin

grass, pasture
Mackenzie Patel

The cabin was built by my brother-in-law’s grandparents, Mamaw and Papaw. Papaw is a woodworker and designed the cabin himself, the different woods coming from a mountain beyond their stretch of forest.

Pulling up at midnight, the cabin was a pinprick of hand-carved light in an otherwise blackened landscape. I couldn’t tell if the cars were next to a mile drop or more woods – and the dogs were going wild.

Tired and dirty, I conked out on my blowup mattress of dead bugs and loved blankets – the puppies whined and my hair was dirty, but isn’t that the best part of being in the woods? You can be dirty as hell because your landscape is equally as grubby.

Country Cabins know how to brew damn good coffee. And beer. And wine. And liquor. And anything else food-wise since Mamaw and Papaw are master cookers who don’t need restaurants to survive. Mountain women cook well and eat better, a characteristic I acquired (at least the eating part).

Country Food Is *The Best*

berry, pasture, raspberry
Mackenzie Patel

Food is my cornerstone, and when wild raspberries are within eyesight, it’s hard not to become outdoorsy. I’m unable to stomach Publix raspberries, but this natural strain – miniature and sticky – was a feast. Chicken and dumplings, sausage gravy with biscuits, every hoppy beer I could dream of...and it was impossible to gain weight because of the hiking.

I felt strong and invigorated, and things that were important in the city (i.e. commutes, tax returns) ceased to be so here. I also learned what Nugget Hops are: a mini beer hop that’s used for stouts. The yellow powder inside the grape-like cluster smelled like the grains of a brewery, bitter and deep. Beer = outdoors, so I’ll gladly be a mountain woman if it means two or more Gaelic Ale’s an evening.

pasture, hazelnut, vegetable, beer, nut
Mackenzie Patel

Speaking of Gaelic Ale, I went to four breweries this weekend – Highland, Burial, Bhramari, and Wedge. All were hipster and tasty, selling their brews to a tattooed crowd. Appreciating a double IPA (or hardy beers in general) is the trademark of a no-fuss woman – there’s no Margaritas or Prosecco for us.

An Afternoon In Asheville

beer, tea
Mackenzie Patel

Saturday was also spent in Asheville’s Arts District. Fronting Wedge Brewery is Wedge Art Studio’s, a two-story space dedicated to artists and their oil paints. This wasn’t a regular, humdrum gallery with static walls and elevator music. The artists were actually working in the gallery, easels and canvases set up amongst their ready-for-sale art.

The heat was unbearable, but mountain women don’t mind the sweat. I also got away with not shaving for three days – my legs haven’t been this furry since last winter.

oil, olive
Mackenzie Patel

I used to squeal at dragonflies and roaches, but Saturday night I was chasing fireflies in mosquito riddled air. No amount of red welts or baby hairs sticking to my face could stop me – I was determined to be a buggy child again. Eventually, I cupped a firefly in my hands and dumped it in an old Dixie cup. Although I forgot to set it free later (it died), the long exposure shots I took were incredible.

Did Someone Say "Hiking"?

Mackenzie Patel

Sunday morning I was gorging on raspberries and hiking the trails beyond the cabin. Mushrooms peeked, browning and soggy, through the dirt. The dogs sniffed and barked through the clouds of insects. Tick bites were real and hat hair made me look like a flattened blob fish. It’s alright; I enjoyed gnats lacing my lashes and seeing light through filtered, uncut trees.

Even sweating through long sleeves and jeans wasn’t horrible – the silence was refreshing, like nature’s version of a La Croix water. After the meals of butter crust and fat, exercising uphill was wonderful.

cocktail, juice, tea, ice, iced tea, beer, liquor
Mackenzie Patel

Sunday afternoon was spent at Highland Brewery celebrating my brother-in-law’s 26th birthday. Asheville and Burnsville (the highlight of which is the McDonalds and Ingles) were nice, but I missed the cabin. There, it’s acceptable to be anti-social and stare at the mountains, silent, for hours.

Wooden swings were never crafted so well. And journal entries never took so little time to write. The outlined mountains and treetops looked green-screened, but they were a perfect backdrop for my musings. On the whole, my thoughts were stupid and inconsequential. But while knocking back a Gose and having puppy spittle on my arm, they were important.

Sunday Evening Musings

chocolate, cake
Mackenzie Patel

Cookie cake evenings and long exposure midnights should never end. I tried to catch fireflies again, but I was too busy taking pictures of the moon and Papaw’s cigar. Music spilled out of the old radio, all warbling voices and static. The bluegrass banjos coordinated with the flare of Papaw’s cigar and the steady swing of his feet.

Classic country and backwoods bluegrass were perfect in that moment; it’s a highly situational genre, and I’m not sure I’d like it in the city. Insects showered with me and wet hair never dried, but I was sad to leave North Carolina. The trip was only 2.5 days, but I learned and absorbed more than any accounting class has taught me.

Mackenzie Patel

Long exposure shots, humility, hops gardening, mule genealogy, bluegrass instruments, playing with teething dogs – I could never stop writing about it.

All I need is some Timberland boots and a flattering hat, and I’d be a mountain woman for life.