Thursday, September 15, 2011

Seeing the forest AND the trees (and the leaves, too)

There are plenty of wide open spaces in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, large, relatively flat fields where the farmers of yesteryear may have planted crops to feed their families through cold mountain winters. Those vast fields hold their own kind of beauty, but the mountain views in the background were less spectacular than the ones we saw on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and I was happy to pass through these spaces and get back in the thickly forested areas.

The auto trails were mostly narrow, one-way roads through the woods, and I, a lifelong tree lover, couldn't have found myself in a more enchanting place. Trees grew tall all around us, a huge variety of them, setting the scene for my favorite part of our vacation trip (topped only by the joyful opportunity of spending so much  time in the company of my sister).

I love being in the woods. I love the smell of the air there. I feel sheltered and safe when I'm surrounded by trees, and that sense of security stayed with me throughout our time in the park. Except for that one time when my sister ran over a fairly large fallen rock where there was a sharp drop-off on my side of the car and for a brief second I fully expected us to go tumbling down the mountainside. Except for that I felt safe. Oh, and except for a few minutes late in the afternoon when the trees were so thick that no sunlight got through their branches, and we couldn't see another car either in front of us or behind us. That was a little spooky, too.

So, I love the woods, and I also love the individual trees. There's something about tree bark that appeals to the old soul inside of me. It has a timeless quality, I think, and I especially appreciate the texture of wood in its rawest form.

Sometimes it's the shape of a particular tree that catches my eye.

Or a graceful posture that sets it apart from all the others, the way a prima ballerina stands out from the rest of a dance troupe. 

Employing an even narrower focus, what would a forest be without the leaves on those trees?

The beauty may be in the shape of the leaves...

...or in the way the light shines through them...

...or in an unexpected pop of color like these...

...and these:

The Smoky Mountains are famous for cloaking themselves in vibrant colors every autumn. We arrived a little too early in the year to enjoy the full display, but every now and then, scattered among late summer's lush greenness, we came upon a few clusters of over-achievers and got the tiniest hint of the color that would surely arrive shortly after we returned to our homes:

I envy the tourists who will travel these trails in the next six weeks. They're sure to see some of Mother Nature's finest work.


  1. I like trees a lot too, and I bet those are just breathtaking when the autumn colors arrive. I also enjoy the cool air and the smell of going through a forest. You had a great trip and I'm envious. And I still want to know if you got any frog jam and moonshine jelly!

  2. Janet, get-away vacations have been few and far between in my lifetime, and I feel SO lucky that I was able to accept my sister's invitation to accompany her on this one. If I'd had a bucket list, visiting the Smoky Mountains would have been on it.

    As for the frog jam and moonshine jelly, I passed up the opportunity to sample those delicacies. If it weren't for this low-carb diet I've been on for the last year, I might have brought some home.

  3. I'm a tree lover too! Beautiful pictures! So glad you got to go!!!

  4. Oh, I envy you this trip. I have wanted to visit this area forever...I have friends who went through last year and the photos of the trees in full autumn foliage were spectacular! Trees lend so much comfort, no matter the variety.

    Frog jam...really? Not so sure I'd try it either!

  5. dagnabbit!! I wanted to know if frog feet were in the jam.

  6. Holly, thanks. This trip was such a blessing.

    Marion, I grew up in the Ozarks Mountains, so at least I can remember those bright autumn colors and mentally paste them onto these much higher peaks. Still, it must be amazing to see those colors in person.

    Janet, you made me curious enough to Google from jam. Turns out it's F.R.O.G. (for figs, raspberries, orange juice, and ginger). Now that I've thrown cold water on all of our imaginations, here's a link to a recipe:

    Frog Jam

    Sounds very good, actually.


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