On a recent trip north from Florida to the Midwest, I took a break from hectic Interstate travel to meander through Great Smoky Mountains National Park on US 441. Stretching across multiple mountain ridges reaching up to 6,643 feet the trip from Cherokee, North Carolina to Gatlinburg, Tennessee is only 34 miles. Unfortunately, my tight schedule limited me to just one day in the park, but views from turnouts on the road afforded breathtaking views of this mountain paradise. Misty blue mountain crests nestled behind each other as far as my eye could see invoking a sense of wonder.
Opportunities for exploration awaited my curious eyes at each roadside trailhead. Everywhere brooks burbled over polished rocks and rushed to lower altitudes.
Along one trail a root spread out over a rocky obstacle in weathered beauty. I couldn’t help but reach down and trace its growth with my fingers. How long had it hugged the soil? What stories could it tell?
Warm June days bring rosebay rhododendron bushes to bloom throughout the park. Their delicate pink tinged white blooms lure bees and eager photographers.
As I left the park, one little rocky pathway stuck in my memory. Its sheltered tunnel of branches and leaves still call me to investigate unknown forested mountain vistas, large and small. This appetizer from America’s most visited national park has only whetted my craving for the banquet that surely must follow.