Saturday, October 16, 2010

Pic of the Day

   Appalachia Mountains from Clingman’s Dome – Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN:  
     My first trip to the Smoky Mountains was around June, 1974.  I was 19 years old and had never before seen such an incredibly beautiful wilderness.  On arriving at Clingman’s Dome I met a few backpackers who were hiking the trails, and after talking with just a few of them I decided that I had to become a backpacker and explore the mountains that I saw before me. 
     By the fall of the same year I was on the Appalachia Trail hiking from Fontana Dam on the south end of the park to Newfound Gap.  Over a five-day period two friends and I hiked the 40 plus miles of undulating trails through deciduous and evergreen forest, rocky balds, meadows and mountain ridges.  There were days that I did not think I would make it through the hike, but I did, and truly enjoyed every mile. 
    Over the next five years I backpacked most of the trails in the southern half of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  After that first trip my dad joined me on most of my other backpacking adventures.  We made many trips to the Smokies over the next few years, three of which were during winter. 
     Both of us enjoyed winter camping, even when the mercury dropped to 20 below zero, as it did on a winter bivouac in January1976.  January of “76” was cold, and the day my dad and I started our hiked to Spence Field the temperature was frigid.  The climb took a day and half and the night we spent on the north side of the mountains was freezing.  As I layed in my sleeping bag I was quite comfortable except for my feet, they were glacially cold and never did warm-up.  The next day my cold feet made walking difficult, and as we neared the spine of the mountain the snow depth reached more than two feet making the last three quarters mile to the shelter even a greater struggle. 
Upon reaching the shelter we were both incredibly cold with feet that felt like ice cubes.  Tired and hungry we quickly built a fire then propped our feet near the flames to warm them up. 
     As we sit close to the fire all bundled-up in our goose down parkas, hoods and balaclavas bulled over our head, and feet enveloped in two layers of wool socks I began to smell something unusual burning.  Opening my eyes I saw that my dads right foot was on fire.   I excitedly yelled---“Your foot's on fire!”  My dad quickly jumped up, yanked the sock from his foot, and smoothers the flames.  Half of his outer sock had burned off, but his feet were so cold he could not feel the heat; fortunately his foot was unscathed.  On that same trip I returned with a slight case of frostbite, toes turned purple with loss of surface skin that healed, but nerver damage that never did.  Of all our trips, we told stories and laughed about this particular one the most.
     As I stood on Clingman’s Dome a couple of days ago shooting this image, the air was cold and brisk.   The distant ridges in my viewfinder that faded from black to purple lay in the direction of Spence Field, where my dad and I had climbed during a frigid, snowy winter almost thirty-five years ago.  The cold air and view before me reminded me of those long ago days when my dad and I hiked these rugged mountains, having some of our best times together, and making some of the best memories of our lives.
Nikon D3, Nikkor 24-85 zoom @ 85mm focal length, Digital Capture ISO 200

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