Ah . . . birthdays! I suppose most people don’t look forward to them as much after the 30th one. However, I personally always look forward to mine with much anticipation, no matter what the number, since it means I’m going on a hike, that is as long as the weather cooperates! This past Friday was my birthday, and Wes and I were blessed with gorgeous weather for our hike to Andrews Bald, here in the Smoky Mountains. The day started off with a delicious breakfast consisting of peanut butter french toast with caramelized bananas, which Wes graciously made for me. Yummy . . . was the word that summed up that meal! He also gave me my birthday card, which featured a drawing of me in a dress he thought I would like for my birthday. It was a sundress covered in peanut crunchies, with all of my feathered and furry friends hanging all over me, while enjoying eating the treats! I thought that was most clever and would probably be lots of fun!
It was simply beautiful as we drove along the winding road through the National Park leading to the trailhead located at Clingman’s Dome parking lot! We rode with the windows down and enjoyed the refreshing cool temps, which felt like they were in the 40s! Wes wore a flannel shirt and I a sweater as we started down the trail leading out to Andrews Bald, with walking sticks in hand. It had been a couple of years since we had hiked this trail, and the Trails Forever group has done even more amazing work on the trail since then! It seems like you walk for a mile on what appears to be an ancient stone path with sets of stairs interspersed throughout. It was lined with lush moss and fern on both sides, both obviously thriving from all of our recent rain! The really cool part is the way in which they’ve handled the drainage issues along the path, by creating what looks like small stone-lined streams which cross the path every so often.
Onward we went while enjoying the refreshingly crisp morning breeze! I stopped several times along the way to take photos of the ferns and mosses, and of course to pet the moss. There were also several lovely views off of the trail, but I kept in mind that the one from the bald is the most stunning! We enjoyed mostly having the trail to ourselves as we strolled along. The further we went into the dense forest, the thicker the fern growth became, and in no time we were walking through a tunnel of firs and spruces with fern and moss covering the ground below! This area always reminds me of the type of forest I think that some of the dinosaurs would’ve inhabited, and as I walked along, I could imagine a Velociraptor hiding behind one of the ancient looking trees, quietly watching me as I walked by! By this time, the rhythmic sound of my feet hitting earth had lulled me into a deep state of relaxation and I had lost all concept of time. Soon I found myself looking at the first glimpse of the bald about an hour after our feet first hit the trail. A tunnel of old Rhododendrons lead you to the opening where you leave the seclusion of the forest behind and walk out into the vast openness of the bald.
When we got to the top, the view was spectacular!! God had blessed us with amazing weather and the air was clear and the mountain ranges crisp and beautiful! In no time flat, Wes had found us the perfect location for our lunch. It was off to one side, away from the few other hikers that were enjoying their lunch there as well, and the view . . . simply stunning! We sat there while enjoying the priceless peace and quiet, void of any man-made sounds, while eating out “nutter-raisin” sandwich, and flaming Cheetos. Yes, I allow myself to eat a little junk food on my birthday, guilt free! Anyway we topped off our yummy lunch with some dark chocolate, and then sat there for a while, just enjoying the vast beauty of it all.
When we first sat down there were no clouds, then we noticed a small cloud way off in the distance. Before long the cloud had come closer to us. Then we noticed that other small clouds were coming from up above to join it, almost as if being sucked in by it. So we laid back on the grass and just watched as the cloud shape shifted and grew right before our eyes. It was a plane, then a dragon, and then a sheep, which morphed into a running dog! Then we began to notice how tiny clouds were forming right before our eyes . . . right out of the clear blue sky! It appeared almost as if God were painting them into existence with a paintbrush. One after another would form, and we decided this must be a cloud nursery, the type of place where clouds are born. Some would grow quickly and float over to join the larger one, while others would form and then disappear as soon as they had appeared. I thought . . . how cool is this . . . to be able to watch clouds being born! What a wondrous birthday experience! After lying there quite sometime, watching the clouds come to life and listening to the calls of the Cedar Waxwings nesting nearby, we decided to get up and explore the Catawba Rhododendrons and Flame Azaleas that were starting to bloom. They are both so very beautiful and two of my favorite blossoms! Although most were just starting to open, there were several, which had opened already and made for stunning photo-ops!
The grass-lined, narrow dirt path leads you along the top of the bald bringing you into numerous small clearings, each feeling like it’s own little meadow, with a section of grass being surrounded by azaleas and rhododendrons. Each brought its own unique surprise, with some featuring several beautiful Azalea and Rhododendron blossoms. After exploring for awhile, we, and I must emphasize I, reluctantly, started our way back along the trail. By the time we had reached the trailhead where we started earlier that morning, I had been beautifully serenaded by the Winter Wrens, Wood Thrushes and Indigo Buntings, each singing their own amazingly melodious version of “Happy Birthday”. The most beautiful versions one could ever hope to hear! I felt blessed . . . very blessed, to have enjoyed such a wonderful day!
Although the weather the past few days have been delightful for the most part, we had a couple of days last week which were quite warm. So I convinced Wes for us to hike to Spruce Flat Falls in the park, instead of walking around in the blazing sun here in Townsend. It was a smart move, as it was cooler and beautiful as it always is! The rest of the week has been spent painting and working in the yard. We enjoyed a nice time last evening, with a delicious dinner and playing Canasta at our neighbor’s Jim and Uschi’s house, along with neighbor friends Beverly and Avery. The boys won one game and the girls won one, so all left happy!
Currently On Our Easels: I am working on a miniature painting featuring two Flamingos. Wes is painting a miniature of a precious little Mandarin Goby fish.
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Until next time ~ Rachelle