Quercus Ilicifolia Blog

Completely unaware of the serendipitous nature of the hike I was about to take, I headed off on Oct. 31 to see what I could find up at Big Ridge State Park. I had been getting more annoyed with the crowded nature of the Smokies in the fall, and going in the opposite direction to find a quiet experience in the woods seemed appropriate.

The Great Smoky Mountains can be a wonderful place, with fabulous scenery and lovely drives. There are hiking trails all throughout the park, with many different places to trek. However, this beauty comes at a price for the local (or semi-local) hiker.

During my brief vacation, I tried to go on another hike, but I ended up just driving around the Smokies, because of the rain. It stopped long enough for me to take a little walk to a creek, but mostly, I just wandered around in the car. But I figured, since I got some pictures, I'd go ahead and share them.

Because of the low cloud cover, the Smokies were really living up to their name. And the autumn color was continuing to spread across the mountains, adding a little bit of red or gold to the green and gray.

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.

The transition from South Carolina to Tennessee is proceeding apace, but I figured I'd toss in this last South Carolina "hike". It was really just a brief stroll through Town Creek Park's series of trails. According to SCTrails, part of this series of trails follows the route of a train system used by the Appalachian Lumber Company, in the '20s. Town Creek Park is in Pickens, SC, not far from the main part of the city itself, but it still provides a "walk in the woods" type feel.

There are big changes happening in my life, and I'm preparing to open up possibilities for new places to explore. My wife and I are in the process of moving to Knoxville, Tennessee. Although that means that I won't be hiking around the South Carolina and north Georgia areas as I have for some years now, the Great Smoky Mountains are right nearby. As an example of the kinds of new places opening up for hiking and photography, this post is about a hike in the Smokies taken earlier this summer.

For the next hike with Clemson librarians, we decided to head to Rainbow Falls, in Jones Gap State Park. This is a repeat hike for me and was for at least one of the other hikers in the group. But, Rainbow Falls is such a gorgeous spot, it is worth repeated visits. This hike, about 5 miles round trip, is relatively strenuous, but the view at the end takes one's breath away.

While building staff profiles for the Clemson Libraries staff web resources, I noted that many bios involved hiking as a particular interest. Since that's also an interest of mine, I've been building a hiking group of library faculty and staff. I had gone with a couple of colleagues to Blood Mountain in Georgia last fall, but we're starting to attract a larger group of core hikers. This time, we went to the Winding Stairs Trail, north of Walhalla. I had been here before, but the rest of the group had never been. 

On the first weekend of April, I decided to head up to the Table Rock summit again. Last time, it was in the middle of autumn, but this time, spring was just starting to make itself felt. So, the foliage wasn't as lush as before, and the weather still had a little bit of a chill in it. This 3.5 mile hike up the mountain is relatively challenging, although the downward trip is a bit more taxing on my aging knees.

Even though I live in a particularly rural part of the country, it's still nice to get out of the "city" and away from all of the trappings thereof. And some weeks are worse than others, making the need to get out just that much more important.