27 June 2015
Far Over The Misty Mountains
For my vacation, it was time to unplug completely and return back to the forests. When you sit in front of a computer screen all day at work and then go home just to sit in front of a television to play a game or watch something day in and day out, you get screen fatigue and just want to unplug from everything.
Almost every summer my grandpa would take my mother and me to Gatlinburg, Tennessee in the Smoky Mountains. Sadly, he died about two years ago and I feel some regret because I wasn't able to visit him that much in the last couple years and wasn't able to have a "proper" goodbye. Regardless, I have countless good memories with him and Tennessee is definitely one of them. We would pile into the RV and drive down or one year he rented a small cabin for us and we explored the many trails in the mountains.
Going back was a real treat. Gatlinburg has certainly changed but was still very fun. I tried real moonshine for the first time! And probably for the last time after that (that's some strong stuff!). I also tasted real Southern BBQ at a local hole-in-the-wall which I have missed quite a bit now that I am living up north.
But the best part was the entire day dedicated to hiking. I picked out one in particular known to be less traveled so there wouldn't be so many tourists and also had remnants from the founding families of the area. An old farmstead can be found near the beginning of the trail in a clearing and there are other bits of a long gone community. The skeleton of an old truck (probably from around the early 1900s), a cemetery, the remaining stone wall in a small clearing, and the top of the summit also has an abandoned ranger station but we didn't get that far.
The entire hike was about 4-5 hours long with the highest elevation point being 2,642 feet but I believe we only gained about 400 feet or so of elevation from our own trek. The trail was near empty, say for two rangers patrolling the trail and a father-son duo coming down from the summit.
While I am not religious, I do have some belief in spiritual moments. I believe humans should return back to their simplicity from time to time and that they can find clarity from something such as a hike in an old, overgrown forest deep in the mountains. My mind had been racing before this vacation about work, bills, if the cats were okay, therapy, doctor's visits...And then there was a calm while climbing higher and higher into the forest.
And within that, I also found strength. It was a rather difficult trek. The trail gets smaller until it is only a rocky minor clearing that hikers must trek single file and also watch for big, twisty roots from the countless trees closing in on the trail. The creek is bigger, and more vicious than usual as it had rained the night before, and the only way across the waterfalls were small logs about 10 to 20 feet or more high up. They too must be walked single file and carefully so you don't slip and fall into the rushing waters. Instead of turning back because of my fear of heights and drowning, I pressed on.
The resting spot before turning back was a giant boulder that had fallen from higher up the mountain and now had firmly planted itself on the trail, moss covering one side completely. From that boulder, you could see far into the forest below. The drop was several hundred feet at this point. There was silence. No cars, no planes, no other people talking, no ringtones, no alarms. Just human will and the wild.