Clouds, Wind Ruin Views Of Fall Leaves
Published Thursday, October 31, 2013
ON THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL — It was milking time when I shook my resistant son out of bed, threw a backpack with peanut butter jelly sandwiches and hard-boiled eggs into the car and headed for the Smokies early Sunday morning.
The fall leaves were waiting, and this promised to be the last good chance to see them in full glory. The weather forecast called for temperatures reaching 65 by mid afternoon, mostly sunny, 10 percent chance of rain.
Park rangers wouldn’t run us off since the federal government is open again.
After breakfast in Cherokee, we put on our boots in the Newfound Gap parking lot and shivered. Winds gusted to 20 mph, the temperature had only climbed to 40 and heavy, dark clouds hung on the slopes. Not to worry, the weather report had been very promising for Cherokee.
Maybe it was a pretty day 3,000 feet below. On the trail to Charlie’s Bunion, however, it was cold and windy, visibility 200 feet at times, with clouds blocking views of the autumn foliage below. Traces of snow were still visible on the northern slopes.
Instead of pretty leaves, we saw a Massachusetts hiker with a ukulele, a gift from his ex-girlfriend. He had cheated on her. Since he was working for her father at the time, he and the ukulele are now hiking. He plays by the campfires at night.
On the trail, we saw an old man with a machete ahead of us. Visions of the Rwanda massacres popped in my mind.
“We come in peace,” I announced as we caught up with him.
Not to worry. It was Pete, 67, the trail maintenance volunteer from Oak Ridge, Tenn., who regularly fights erosion on his designated three-mile section of the Appalachian Trail. We encountered two volunteers. With shovels and hoes, handsaws and machetes, they prune back limbs and dig ditches to drain water from the trail.
Pete gets to claim this paradise as his own.
Cold and weary, the old editor talked aloud about turning back short of the rocky outcropping called Charlie’s Bunion. Michael wouldn’t hear of it. My back and legs were weary on Monday.
Our reader Velma McDaniel of Highway 601 South still writes letters with stamps and envelopes. She wrote last week, “This would be good for a letter to the editor section. I copied it from a tee shirt I saw someone wearing:
“Dear God, Why do you allow so much violence in our schools? — A concerned student.
“Dear Concerned Student: I’m not allowed in schools anymore. — God”
In third grade at Farmington Elementary, my teacher Carolyn Boger read from the Bible every morning. My brother took his 12 gauge shotgun Christmas present to school on the bus for show-and-tell. And we boys all took out our Barlow knives and played “stretch” at recess. Times have changed.
My new friend Rebecca Subbiah, a British-born nutritionist, came by the office last week. She is a thoroughly modern girl, very skilled in the new social media. As of last week, she has Tweeted 186,000 times and has 9,745 followers. I have Tweeted 81 times. I’m much closer to Velma McDaniel’s stamps and letters generation than to Rebecca’s new age.
It's appropriately named, the killer frost. Fall's first destructive frost hit Friday night. The next morning almost every summer flower was dead.
— Dwight Sparks