The original plan was to spend five days and four nights on the Foothills Trail, which runs along the border of western North Carolina/western South Carolina. Hubster started to get heat exhaustion on the second day, however, so we hopped (good Easter word there) off the trail and came home. I really needed to hike, so we decided to spend a few days hiking in our back yard, a.k.a. Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
We headed up to the Cosby, Tennessee, area (about 45 minutes away) and to the Cosby Campground to hit the Snake Den Ridge Trail. From there, we hiked a two-day loop that includes the Albright Loop (a 0.7-mile stand of virgin forest) and picks up the Gabes Mountain Trail back to the campground. It's an 18-mile hike, and it's supposed to be a three-day hike. We got to our second night's campsite at noon yesterday, though, so we just decided to hike the last four miles back to the car.
It was an incredible hike--the trees there have legs and mouths. I'm not lying. It seems they took root (several roots) over decaying logs, maybe, and by the time the logs had decayed to nothing, the tree roots were strong and "standing" on two or three roots, sometimes up to three feet off the ground. They looked like Ents suspended in motion. Hubster and I decided that they only walk around at night, and when they sun rises, they freeze in position. They can't move again until it gets dark again. Some trees looked like they were picking up huge boulders, ready to throw them at Saruman's evil Uruk-hai breeding factory.
There were a few nice views of the mountains and the valleys, but the real highlight of this hike was the forest itself. Not only were there huge trees (in an eastern-forest kind of way), but many wildflowers were in bloom. The forest floor was carpeted with spring beauties, and we saw nodding trillium, many species of violet, Dutchman's breeches, clintonia, rue anemone, bellwort, wake-robin, solomon's seal, and showy orchis, and of course dogwoods, which were just beginning to bloom. The bloodroots and mayapples hadn't bloomed yet. I was wishing I'd brought my wildflower ID book; I know a few wildflowers, but there are plenty I don't know and want to learn. It's just so cool hiking in spring and seeing the wildflowers; it's like seeing old friends that I haven't seen in a year.
Everything was so green. The rocks all had green growing on them, and there were flowers and even small trees growing out of the rocks. The dead trees were covered with green. We went through a "hell," or tangled mass of stunted rhododendrons and other plants at 5,200 feet, and even that was a grayish-green from all the lichens. Wintergreen was growing at the higher elevations, and various spruce and firs--it smelled like Vermont!
I want to upload pictures, but they are huge, so Blogger seems to have trouble uploading (or maybe it's my computer). I don't have any special photo programs through with I can make them into smaller files, so if anyone can give me some advice, I'd appreciate it. I would really love to put some pictures from the hikes on this blog.
Update: The uploading seems to be working fine now. I guess I just need to be patient.
I'd planned to go back out to the trails for a few days, probably to hike up the AT from Davenport Gap (northern end of the Smokies) to Max Patch (south of Hot Springs), but it's supposed to do nothing but storm for the next three days. The house needs a serious spring-cleaning workover, and I have a piano lesson scheduled for tomorrow. So, for now, it's back to "real life" and back to Bach.
I love the "back to Bach" part. It's the "real life" aspect that I could do without. I really wish I could just go to the woods and stay out there for a few months.