“The mountains are calling and I must go” ~ John Muir
Shades of Blue © 2012 Patty Hankins
For me – happiness is spending time in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I’m not sure what it is about the Smokies – but from the first time I visited, it felt like home. And on each successive visit – I fall in love with the Smokies all over again. From the wonderful mountain views to the smallest wildflowers, I can always find something to photograph and something to make me smile.
Speckled Wood Lily © 2012 Patty Hankins
I wasn’t sure what to expect on this trip. From all the reports I saw before I left, spring wildflowers were blooming much earlier than usual – and I knew I wouldn’t really get a chance to start photographing until late in my trip.
Fourleaf Milkweed © 2012 Patty Hankins
On my first day out – I stopped worrying and started enjoying myself. Even though my usual favorite wildflowers were pretty much done blooming – I had the chance to discover and photograph new wildflowers.With the early spring this year – the wildflowers that traditionally bloom in mid-late May – bloomed at the end of April. One of new-to-me wildflowers was the Fourleaf Milkweed I photographed along Chestnut Top Trail.
One of the great surprises was how quiet the park was during my visit. Usually my spring hiking coincides with the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage – so there are always lots of people on the trails. This time, I was hiking a few days after the pilgrimage ended – and often had the trails to myself.
Along the Trail © 2012 Patty Hankins
As wonderful as it can be to meet and talk with other hikers – espeically other wildflower lovers – there was something special this week. I could take my time photographing (including having my pack in the middle of the trail) and not worry that I was interfering with any one else’s enjoyment of the park.
Laurel Falls © 2012 Patty Hankins
When I got to Laurel Falls, another wonderful surprise awaited me. I was the only person at the falls. So not only could I photograph them without people on the rocks, but I could take time to enjoy the peaceful beauty at the falls. As I sat on a bench meditating, I was so inspired by what I was seeing, hearing and feeling that I pulled out my iphone and recorded the sound of the water rushing over the falls.
I’m not sure yet what I’m going to do with the recording – but I’m hoping it will help me remember and recreate the wonderful feelings of peace and calm I felt sitting at the falls once I get home.
Thyme-Leaved Bluets © 2012 Patty Hankins
What I noticed most of all during this trip was how peaceful, calm and happy I felt. No matter where I was, or what I was photographing – I was having a wonderful time. I also noticed that the more relaxed I was, the more of my senses I used to enjoy and experience the park. In the quiet woods, I loved hearing the birds singing, the squirrels and chipmunks scampering through the brush and the water running over the rocks in the streams. The smell of the wildflowers and feeling the cool breezes on my skin added to the wonderful experience.
Are there places that make you feel as relaxed and happy as I am when I’m in the Smokies? If there are – I’d love to hear about them.