I’ve never been to the Great Smoky Mountains. On the approximate 2,181 miles of the Appalachian Trail (from Georgia to Maine), I’ve only stepped foot on about a mile of it in Vermont. So when the prospect of re-routing our trip from route I-70 in the heart of the country to route I-40, I was ecstatic about finally getting to see the Great Smokies, The Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah National Park. It would be the first true greenery we’d see since Colorado, and that alone made it worth it.
The roads, twisting and smooth, cut through lush forests and hazy hillsides of the Mid Atlantic. Blue smoke-like vapors define what is truly foreground and what is not – each mountain, lighter than the last. The near and far of these hillsides paint a vivid time line of what is within reach and just how much is not.
It’s peaceful and approachable to all who travel here, but its framework is untamed and spills onto and over the rolling hills that make up it’s interior. Like a summer fling, it’s a place that I know I’ll have to leave soon, but while I’m here I want to consume it all.
We do. We walk the river and stop often. We even trail the air-gasping tourists and their ducklings as they waddle up to the viewing tower. Why not? We’re here and it’s an undeniable scene. I put my harsh criticism of folks (that somewhat resemble myself anyway) to the side and stand beside thru-hikers, tour groups and family reunions as the space between becomes a focal point worthy of everyone’s eye. It was enough to fulfill whatever it is you look for on a trip like this.
We all search for meaning when we travel, but when point B is a new beginning; meaning seems to creep into all the stops along the way.