Refreshing Changes

April 15.  After a much needed break near Fontana Dam, I started back on the trail.  I would be hiking up into the Smokies.  The day was such a pleasant change for me after feeling discouraged the previous week.  Either I was getting stronger or the trail wasn’t as brutally steep, but I felt like I had more energy than I’d had in a while.

A big part of that was scenery change.  This time when I hiked up into the higher elevations I was walking through beautiful patches of spring beauty flower cover.  The flowers were so thick at times it was like walking through a fairy tale land.

April 16.  Today loved hiking near Rocky Top.  Very pretty views with dried yellow grass and short bush trees.  At the risk of being repetitive, it was just so nice to see different scenery.  The next day (April 17) walked up to Clingmans Dome through rich hemlock forest with the fresh Christmas tree smell all around.  The path wound among so many kinds of moss and fallen trees everywhere.  Wisps of fog everywhere.  I felt I was in an enchanted forest, it was so hauntingly beautiful.  All week I hiked in beauty, despite rainy days.  At Charlies Bunion I was enchanted again by the wisps of fog that kept circling the air around the mountains, moving and disappearing so quickly.

April 19.  After a night of rain pattering on my tent, I started off this morning in my rain clothes.  The first open view I came to, the fog cleared before my eyes and I could see the mountains before me and patches of blue sky above.  The hikers in front of me stopped to take it in and I caught up and we just smiled it was so beautiful.  We really appreciated that view after such a rainy, foggy day.

April 20.  Highlight of my day was hiking up to Max Patch summit, a bald mountain.  So beautiful it almost takes your breath away.  I soon found this was a shared sentiment.  Up there I could see 360 degrees to all the mountains and valleys around me.  Some were illuminated by sunlight while on other peaks I could see rain falling.  A man caught up to me and said, “I just moved here this week and came to see this.  As I was walking up here I started to get emotional”.  His voice broke, and we just stood gazing around at the views surrounding us.  I said, “Yeah, it is amazing”.  Eventually we parted ways.  He was carrying a notebook, I think he was going to spend some time reflecting up there.

April 23.  When I look back on my trip so far, I just feel glad that I’m still on the trail and didn’t stop hiking before the Smokies.  I don’t know if I started to enjoy the trail more because I adjusted to a slower pace or because the Smokies were more diverse for me. I guess both.

Yesterday I called home and talked a long time with family.  This trip has made me so thankful for my family and friends.  I think of you often, wishing you could see some of what I’m seeing.  Guess that’s what pictures are for.  So that’s where I am now, anxious to get back on the trail again tomorrow.  Much love to all back home!

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