Hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park always is special for me.
The wonderful views. The challenging hikes. The chance viewing of wildlife, from ravens to black bears.
I experienced all of that during a recent hiking trip to the Smokies.
I also enjoyed seeing so many people appreciating their time in the Smokies. Kids playing in the streams. Friends and families hiking together. Parents and children talking about insects or trees or early settlers in the area. Backpackers coming off the Appalachian Trail. People fishing in the clear rivers and streams.
Let me share a few experiences and some of my photographs from my hikes.
Catawba rhododendron was in bloom along several trails and was magnificent on the Alum Cave Trail. (See photo at the top of this post.) Mountain Laurel was in bloom along Road Prong Creek, as we began the Chimney Tops Trail. Flame azalea was in bloom at Andrews Bald.
The trails and mountain views were a palette of greens with maples, beech, oaks, poplars, sycamores and hemlocks.
Trails Forever restorations
As we hiked, we admired the locust log and stone stairs and the drainage systems.
I know from volunteering with the Trails Forever crews for the Alum Cave Trail and Chimney Tops Trail the hard work and attention to detail involved in restoring the trails. I stopped on the Chimney Tops Trail to check the flight of stone steps that I had helped with as a volunteer.
Reminders of Great Smoky Mountains wildfires of 2016
The Park has many signs of the wildfires of November 2016 that killed 14 people and burned more than 10,000 acres in the Park and 6,000 acres in the area around the Park. Views throughout the Park include bare mountainsides and skeletons of trees.
The fire started on the Chimney Tops Trail, and the last portion of that trail is closed due to the fire’s damage. (But not everyone stopped at the gate across the trail or heeded the sign that stated the trail was closed.)
Life in the area before arrival of GSMNP
Throughout the Park are reminders of the people who lived in the area before it became the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
One of our hikes passed the Little Greenbrier Schoolhouse. When it was in operation, children walked more than 12 miles day day to attend school.
You can see the straight-backed wooden benches and desks and the blackboard (a board painted black).
National Parks are national treasures
As we hiked in the Park, I thought how fortunate we are to have the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the sixty other National Parks.
How wonderful to have had the collaborative leadership of national, state and local legislative groups and citizens to establish each of the National Parks.