Hiking to Charlies Bunion
By Rachelle Siegrist
As we began our hike to Charlies Bunion this past Tuesday, I thought “This is sure a lot different then what I was doing 25 years ago on this day!” It was our 25th Wedding Anniversary, which we choose to spend hiking to one of my favorite places in the Smokies! Even though the agenda for the day was much different than our wedding day, I was still spending it with my best friend! The air was cool when we started our ascent up the rocky trail, and I was delighted to quickly leave the crowded Newfound Gap parking lot behind, happily trading the noise for the tranquil sounds of singing birds and gentle breezes!
Recent rains encouraged the plentiful moss lining the path, to be lusciously thick, and it felt completely decadent being able to pat the soft green masses covering the surrounding forest floor! The moisture had caused numerous, colorful fungus and mushrooms to grow as well, and they were scattered along the mossy patches. Mostly orange and yellow in color, they stood out like little gems against the rich green moss!
Wes even found one tree that was adorned with fungus, which actually looked like pancakes splattered all over the trunk!
“So much moss, and such little time” I thought as we hiked along the rocky, curving trail. Being a trail where you must pay attention to where you are stepping next, lest you trip over one of the hundreds of rocks lining the path, and fly over the edge in spots, leaves little time for petting moss! Then Wes announced that there was a Turks Cap Lily blooming nearby, and before the day was over I would see many more blooming as well, which delighted me! A gorgeous bright orange blossom with brown speckles all over its curled petals, it shines against the dark green forest or brilliant blue sky, whilst hanging upside down!
Before long I could see the bunion through a small window opening up in the trees, revealing the beautiful, rugged rock outcropping which forms Charlies Bunion. Although I had been excited while hiking that morning, the reality that we were almost there filled me with even greater excitement! With much of the hike around 6.000 ft in elevation, some areas as you draw closer to the bunion, make you feel as if you’re walking along the spine of the mountain, dropping straight down on either side in spots and offering some lovely views!
Formerly called Fodderstack, the name of the bunion was changed to Charlies Bunion, after a gentleman named Charlie Conner and Horace Kephart were hiking one day, and stopped to rest on the rocky outcropping. Horace told Charlie he was going to get that place put on a government map for him, since he thought the rocks looked like a bunion, which Charlie had exposed after removing his boots and socks! I decided that must’ve been one rough looking bunion indeed! Soon we were approaching it, and Wes began climbing to our lunch spot. I quickly joined him, and there we sat, eating our peanut butter sandwiches, while feeling like we were on top of the world! “This has to be one of the best places to spend part of our 25th Anniversary” I thought as I looked out over the stunning landscape, and while sitting there with Wes, I felt very blessed!
I had hoped that they would visit while we were there, and they did! Several Slate-colored Juncos, and one Rufous-sided Towhee came, jumping all around on the rocks, paying no mind at all to the edges and how far it was down! “Must be nice to be a bird” I thought watching them go about carefree, as I sat tightly against the rock.
No hike up there is complete without me climbing on top of the rock for a look out and down, and of course a photo to scare my poor Mom . . . ha ha! Standing there I truly felt like I was on top of the world!
Here is the amazing view from atop the rock where I was standing. Please forgive my obvious lack of talent in the photo editing department of trying to paste two photos together, but it still gives you a sense of being there I think.
We sat up there for quite sometime, just relaxing while absorbing in the immense beauty, peace and tranquility! We then decided it was time to move on, and so I said goodbye to my bunion friend, and we started hiking down the narrow rocky path leading around the mountain.
Instead of going back, Wes had the wonderful idea of hiking up the Appalachian Trail a ways, and I was thrilled with that idea, especially when we came upon this gorgeous highland meadow area full of huckleberries!
Hiking a bit further along the A.T. we had just turned to head back, and noticed this view of yet another stunning rock outcropping! The day just kept getting better, awarding us with more and more hidden surprises!
But alas that was not to be the last of the surprises, as while we were hiking back down along the trail, we saw a beautiful White-tailed deer and stopped to quietly watch him for a few minutes. It was like a fairytale setting as he slowly walked along the moss and fern carpeted forest, stopping occasionally to eat, paying us no mind at all.
Before our hike was to end, we were in for one more treat! “Eagle Eyes Wes” as he is called many times, spotted this adorable little salamander peeking up at us through an opening in his rotting log home!
As it so many times is, all too soon the hike was over and we had returned to the trailhead where we started earlier that morning. It was a great one though and we finished our day of celebration off at a favorite Mexican restaurant called No Way Jose’s in Gatlinburg. We were seated in our favorite window seat and watched the numerous ducks swimming in the river below while eating delicious food. Yes it had indeed been a great day!
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~ The latest paintings off of the Siegrists’ Easels ~
I finished my miniature painting of an Osprey which we photographed while on Sanibiel Island this past May. It was a real treat to get to watch this beautiful bird at close proximity while at Lighthouse Beach on evening! Wes finished his two paintings recently as well, both of which I’m delighted to say have sold already!
We have 12 available paintings at two different shows which open this week. You can see both shows online at the links below. I’m delighted to say that I won the “Patron’s Choice Award” on my miniature painting, “Mother’s Things” at the 9th Annual Miniature Fine Art Show at Artistic Designs Gallery.
Until next time . . .