Mountain Trek

While visiting with my mom last week in East TN, I took the opportunity to visit some of the mountains in the area. Before the heat wave rolled in, I hiked an access trail that connects up with the Appalachian Trail after hiking the chimneys in the Smokies. It was hot though, and the haze, which unfortunately these days is more the product of pollution than the natural product of the Smokey Mountains, was quite evident.

The trail itself starts out fairly tame and crosses a vigorous mountain stream three times before turning up hill toward the crest of the mountains. It turns into quite a climb once you cross the third bridge.

I took time to photograph some of the water falls at the crossings, something a number of folks were doing. The day was cloudy, an excellent day to take pictures of water falls.

Near the crest of the mountain, the first Rhododendron blooms began to show themselves. Another couple of weeks should show them in full swing. On the mountain crest, the sheer rock face was daunting but the aged granite has numerous handholds for climbing. If you want to truly get a view of the surrounding mountains one has to climb the rock face. There is a trail that goes up the side, but it is currently closed to allow recuperation from over use. Still yet I and some other visitors discovered several folks on the trail. One of the park's rangers confronted them and we heard them explain they were from France and said they could not read the sign that was in in English. They spoke fairly good English though. Go figure.

After reaching the summit of the Chimney's I turned my sight to hike up the AT, another three miles straight up the mountain. I was about 3/4 of the way when I saw a strange object in the middle of the path in front of me -- a big pile of pooh. The only thing in that area that would be big enough to leave such a mark is four legged, black, furry, and I could conceivable be considered part of its food chain on a bad day. I went on though, figuring it would have moved on. The trail became quite rough and turned into a creek bed that one had to follow for 1/2 a mile or so. As I turned a bend in the creek, guess who was getting a drink? And guess who saw me looking at her. Momma bear was there with her couple of cubs. I didn't take time to get out my camera as I decided I had come close enough to the AT. Bear in front of me. Bear scat behind me. And me -- right in the middle of this bear's ranging terroritory. Hmmm. Downhill was looking better all of a sudden. So I didn't make the AT. I find as I get older I err more on the side of caution.

I was glad to see the Evergreen trees making a come back. 20 years ago, a friend of mine and I
were exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway to discover on top of Mt. McKinley a veritable skeleton forest of dead evergreens killed by a combined assault of pollution and a particular aphid. Today, one can still see the remains of the devastation, but new life is showing in the evergreen population.

There is a story about these mountains that explain why Tennessee hill folk didn't used to wear shoes. When the first settlers came over the mountains from North Carolina into the frontier of Tennessee, they were near the tops of the mountains when the clouds pa
rted and the voice of God (who went as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night before the children of Israel) thundered out -- "Take off your shoes. You are on holy ground."