I am a proud partisan of the Appalachian Mountains, that epic spine of ancient convoluted rock, smoothed and tamed by eons of erosion. And so on this second day of September I am southward bound for the mountains of North Carolina and midlands of South Carolina while Hurricane Earl heads for its powerful Cat-4 brush with the outerbanks of North Carolina and then our eastern seaboard cities.By tomorrow morning I expect to be as wet as a late summer bullfrog - - and as content, for nature's way is always an adventure. Weather, be it a calm hot sunny day, or a gray-green sky churning with active disturbance from the inland wind fields of Earl is always a pleasure for me. And with this week off from at home tasks - that includes the writing of my hiking column - what will I find myself doing? Hiking again. Along with family visits, I'll be exploring the hills and hollars of the southern Appalachians and hiking the trails of Congaree National Park, a magnificant and primeval bottomland forest where the meadering Congaree River runs wide and dark and the cottonmouths and canebrake rattlesnakes grow big. Wishing all a safe and happy Labor Day.