...being the observations and navigational extracts
from the ongoing expeditions of San Francisco Piano Pop trio
True Margrit

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Smokies

I am in in Tennessee with much family for the giving of the thanks and the eating of the buttery bird, pie, stuffing, yam, and the ritual sauce of tart berries. OH yes and yum.

The day before the feeding frenzy we drive through Pigeon Forge (home of Dollywood, plentiful outlet malls, and an array of country music dinner theatres--rather like a mini-Branson Missouri on nitrous oxide) and up to the Great Smoky Mountains. There is some shallow snow that increases in depth as our altitude rises. We choose the Alum Bluff trail and start a jollygood slog through some slushy muddy trails. As neither Sarah, nor Elan, nor Karen, nor I have the ideal footware, no amount of dainty stepping can avoid the puddles and soon all our feet our soaked. Dan's Reeboks are mysteriously impervious to moisture and he alone remains dry-footed. But it isn't terribly cold, so we are in no real danger of frostbite (though there is ridiculously pretty snow on the ground between the naked shapely silver birches). The air is cool and delicious and the river is quartz-crystal clear, babbling merrily as hell. We tromp upwards to Arch Rock which is a tunnel and steep windy staircase that looks like a section of Shelob's Lair that Gollum would be inclined to send Frodo through.

"Master must go in!"

We do. The steps are quite icy and we grip the cable provided by the Park Service and go ever so gingerly. The trail follows steepening switchbacks and then leads to an opening in the trees. The sky has cleared now and we are on an outcropping of slanty shale that affords an excellent vista of the thickly forested valley and surrounding snow-dusted ridges. This is--roughly--the tenth time I have hiked to this point and it feels good to be back in the Smokies sniffing the autumn air and sweating cheerfully after a good hike. The trip back down is swifter with the help that only gravity can give, and soon we are piling into the car and heading for Knoxville.

Now we are ready to feast.

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