For the past few days, I've been hiking through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. After a tough first day that consisted solely of climbing up and up, I've been traversing the tops of mountains and scoring incredible views.
What started out as bare winter forest gave way to beautiful balds (meadows atop mountains). Stunning views of undulating mountains, tinted purple in the distance, showed me how far I have already come and hinted at the climbs to expect.
Since the hiking has been a bit easier these past few days, I've been cruising and I'm a bit ahead of schedule for meeting family tomorrow. Today, I only had to go 7 miles to the last shelter before the road where I'll get picked up. I had planned to take it easy and sleep in, but other hikers in the shelter were moving around and I was up by 7:30am. I'm thankful, though, because about 2 miles into the hike the pale grassy meadows abruptly transformed into a thick forest. Deep green miss covered everything, interrupted only by the brown of fallen pine needles. Pine trees darkened the trail, but ribbons of the morning light peeked through. I tried to capture the experience in pictures but they don't do justice to the beauty.
Eventually, since I had the time, I found a log and just sat. It's amazing how animated nature becomes when we finally sit still. Birds and chipmunks teetered around me as the trees above swayed in the breeze. The forest around me was waking up, and I was fortunate enough to witness it.
Shortly there after, I hit Clingmans Dome (the highest point on the AT) and mile marker 200! It's hard to top a day like today.
I'm looking forward to my day off with family, but I'm also excited to see what the 2nd half of the Smokies will bring.