‘The mountains are on fire!’ Driving along in our Ford Explorer, I could see up ahead the Smoky Mountains. There was so much fog surrounding the peaks, they really did look like they were on fire. This last fall, my family and I went to North Carolina to attend a family camp, and on our way there we went through the Great Smoky Mountains.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything as beautiful as those mountains. When we were at the bottom of the mountain, it didn’t seem all that misty around us, but as we climbed higher and higher, the mist got denser and denser. By the time we reached the very top, and the North Carolina state line, we were driving through a cloud.
We could hardly see the road a few feet in front of us, let alone the other peaks around us. Then, as we descended, the mist became sparse again. After a little more driving, we found the National Park office, where we got our campsite reserved.
It was quite a drive to get to our campsite, perhaps thirty minutes. And what a drive it was! The trees there are so tall, and there were so many of them, that the forest below was shrouded in shadows. Alongside the road ran a small river, the Oconoluftee.
Throughout the stream bed large brown stones were scattered, worn smooth by the fast running water. Every plant there was green and thriving, and it’s no wonder, since it is very much like a rainforest there, except it isn’t very warm. At last we reached our campsite.
The air around us was pleasantly cool, perfect weather for camping out, except for one thing — “ the air was so heavy with humidity, that breathing was almost like drinking instead. It was already starting to get dark, so we hurried to set up our tent before night fell. Once that was done, my brother and I decided to go exploring before dinner.
On the edge of our campsite ran the Oconoluftee, so we went to look at that first. The fog hung over the water like a miniature cloud, and I got a really cool picture of it. As we continued to wander about, we found a trail leading off into the forest.
We felt adventurous, so we decided to go a little ways up the trail and see what we could see. We saw all sorts of exotic plants as we walked along, some that looked like they belonged in a rainforest. The smell of damp leaves and wet dirt filled the air, a very refreshing scent.
The trees were constantly dripping, and I don’t think that I ever found a dry place there. Presently, we came to an old-looking stone bridge. The stones were covered with moss, very green and fuzzy. My brother found a plaque on one side of it, telling who had put it there. It turned out to be fairly new, even though it looked to be at least a hundred years old. Finally, our hunger got the best of us, and we returned for our dinner. That night, it rained. I wasn’t surprised. It is so wet there, it probably rains every night. I slept through it all, which is probably a good thing. But when I woke up the next morning, the corner of my pillow was wet. Of all the things that I had that got wet, I think having a wet pillow was the worst. It was still raining that morning when we got up. Nothing was safe from getting wet, unless it was in the car. We couldn’t even change in the bathhouse, since every surface in there was wet, too.
We ended up going into town to a pancake house for breakfast, and changing in their bathroom. All the same, we did manage to dry out all our things later that afternoon, which was a relief. We were going to be camping out all that next week, and we definitely didn’t want our tent to mold before we arrived at our final destination.
Regardless of the dampness, I really enjoyed this trip. The scenery was so beautiful, my brother and I were inspired to write a song about it, entitled, ‘Across the Appalachians’. The chorus goes: ‘Across the Appalachians, Green mountains rising high. Deep in the misty forest, Lofty trees stretch to the sky. Right through the Smoky Mountains, The gateway to the West. Reaching the highest crest!’
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