During my transition from working at Clemson University to working at the University of Tennessee, I took a few trips to the Smokies to try to get connected to new opportunities for wandering. To start with, I went with a hike that I had done before, the Andrews Bald hike. This hike is part of the Forney Ridge Trail, near Clingman's Dome. It's a shortish hike, about 3 to 3.5 miles round trip.
On this occasion, autumn was just getting started, but there was certainly a fall-like feeling in the air. The weather shifted constantly from overcast to rain-threatening to partly sunny as I traversed this trail. The air was rather cool for late afternoon, and that smell was all around. You know the smell, the damp smell of fallen leaves just after rain mixed with the sharper tang of evergreens.
This trail is a study in contrasts, each part of the path offering a different experience. The first part of the trail was along the side of a ridge that normally offers views of the surrounding mountains. This time, the clouds were obscuring most of the view. They are the Smokies for a reason, you know. Eventually, the trail moves deeper into older forest, and everything gets darker, old stumps covered in moss and mushrooms scattered amongst tall trees.
Towards the end, the trail reaches the top of the bald, exposed to the open sky. The smells of the forest give way to a grassier scent, the shorter trees lining a path that cuts through a lush field. The view is lovely, if not expansive, and I spent some time there doing a little reading. I took photos of the mountains when I got up there, while the clouds were low. As I read, though, the clouds cleared up, and I took more pictures, with more sunlight.
I certainly enjoyed the trip, although I got the impression that some of the other hikers that were up there were a little disappointed in the view. It seems they were expecting something more panoramic.
During the hike, I listened to a rather appropriate story from Podcastle, called Of Blood and Brine. The story was a beautiful, if dark, tale that was infused with smell as the primary sense. That made it extremely evocative. Since I was enclosed by wonderful autumnal scents, I took to the story thoroughly, and I recommend it.