Tag: BEAUTY

I Was A Leaf Looker This Weekend

I Was A Leaf Looker This Weekend

The sweet smell of balsam fir trees hung in the thick fog. Every droplet that kissed my face seemed to anoint me with Nature’s most amazing scent.

I arrived early at the parking lot at Clingman’s Dome, hopeful for fog. Most people that visit want clear skies for the long-distance views. And they were there at the parking lot, but the top of the mountain was blanketed with cloud cover.

It’s a steep, 1.2 mile walk up to the observation tower made a bit more challenging because I was on Day 2 of my ‘Play Tourist’ weekend. Why I chose this weekend—when the leaf lookers were out in full force—I’m not sure. Maybe I wanted to see color. Perhaps I wanted an excuse to visit my favorite fly fishing store in Townsend. But most likely it was due to the rivers and creeks I fish running very high due to several days of rain. I wanted to let them drop before wading.

So, I got out the Big Mama Nikon and tripod and grabbed a telephoto lens as well as my wide-angle zoom—heavy equipment that I normally don’t hike with and reserve for special photographic endeavors. But the weather was finally rain-free and the temperatures very nice so on Friday I headed to Townsend, through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

I wanted to photograph some of the creeks and rivers since the water level was high. Water…the element that balances me, heals me, directs me back into my soul skin without fail. In my wandering, I had a perfectly timed encounter with three kayakers running a big rapid that’s normally not a kayaking river. After that, I decided to head to another watery place near Cades Cove but traffic was at a stop almost two miles outside of Cades Cove. No thanks. I turned around and went to Townsend.

I’ve been fly fishing since April and over the past month started tying flies, which has opened an entirely new, creatively amazing, journey. Little River Outfitters is where it all began for me and the staff there is beyond amazing. And their store…it feels good just to walk in there. I hadn’t visited their second story which is all fly tying goodies. Threads, equipment, furs, feathers, hooks of every imaginable size and kind and an artist’s dream. Color! Parts and pieces to create small versions of insects, or in my case…insects from Wonderland. Alice would be pleased. I had fun…way too much fun.

A drive back through the park, stopping at beautiful waterfalls and creeks and letting my Nikon play, added more fun to my day as I wound my way up and over the ridge through the park, and finally to my home. A late afternoon walk at my usual trail ended the day beautifully.

Saturday, I intended to go to the Upper Nantahala with the Nikon, but when I got in my car it headed to Clingman’s Dome. I explored the magical, foggy, balsam fir forest on top after the walk up. It felt like I was in another realm, like the fairy dimension opened and invited me to explore. Even though it was early, there were other humans there so I headed down to the parking area to leave before the insane crowd developed. But I got to Forney Ridge Trail and decided…what the heck.

The trail was downhill through beautiful moss-covered rocks and boulders. I was surprised at the number of people on the trail, but it was not nearly as crowded as the main trail. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring a water bottle or put the heavy telephoto lens in the car so I had quite a grueling hike. But it was worth it just for the beauty. There’s something very special about hiking through terrain that’s over a mile high. The trees are different, the air is cooler, and it seems somewhat removed from the chaos of the parking lot and everywhere really.

While I appreciate the opportunity to do short day trips in the national park—it is the most-visited national park in the country—I generally stay away from highly visited tourist areas until January or February, when visitors aren’t as numerous. When I finished my hike and came back to the Clingman’s Dome parking area, there were hundreds of people milling around, walking, blocking the way. It felt like entering a chaotic, alternate reality. I quickly walked to my car, dodging stopped cars waiting for parking spaces, gulped half a large bottle of water and left the chaos. There was a line over a mile in length just to get into the parking area. And cars were parked all along the side of the roadway. I was glad to be headed to my cabin in the woods.

Finally, Sunday dawned chilly and I took a chance to fly fish at my favorite creek. The water was up but running clear. While I couldn’t wade some areas due to high water, it was amazing to be in 51 degree, crisp air, standing in a mountain creek. 

I chose to fish a fly I tied and it was a huge hit with my trout friends. The first cast got a strike. But they carried it underwater without biting the hook…several times. I’ve never fished a fly that got so much attention from trout. One trout even came up under it, opened its big, white mouth, and acted like it was going to take it but then just backed away. It was the best entertainment I’ve had in a long time. It was amazing that something I created brought entertainment to the trout as well. But they didn’t engage in anything but playing with the fly…and that’s okay with me. I saw a couple of mistakes I made in tying it that created a crippled insect appearance. Sometimes they go for a crippled fly, but it probably makes them more suspicious. And our wild trout in the national park are spooky to begin with.

After nearly three hours of wading and standing in the creek, casting a line, and generally losing myself in the non-linear time of Nature, I felt like a reset button had been pressed and I was back inside my soul skin. 

The leaf looker season is just getting started. Today (Sunday) over 2000 people went through the Oconoluftee Visitor Center—I wasn’t one of them. I’ll be seeking the quiet places, the hidden places, and avoiding the crowds and chaos for the next few weeks. But you can bet I’ll be wading and playing with trout and allowing the creeks to keep me in balance.

Elk of the Mists

Elk of the Mists

Before I opened my eyes, I felt the warm breath of the bull elk on my face. I had been dreaming and as I made the slow journey from Dreamtime to waking consciousness, the sensation of elk breath was so real, when I opened my eyes I expected to be face-to-face with a big elk. 

That dream was about a year ago and since then the elk have a direct line to my subconscious mind. And for sure to my heart. This season of rut, if I have a strong sense of elk, I go and they are there. It doesn’t really matter where I go, if I just pay attention to the urge to go somewhere, they show up. Or I show up. However that works.

This morning I felt that call but the fog was very heavy. I figured I would just drive through the area where they are found and go up the mountain for above-fog views. I took my Nikon and tripod so was also ready for flowing water should the fog and sunrise not reveal something fun to photograph. 

When I got to the park there was a bull laying so close to the road I had to stay behind my vehicle. A woman there said he had attacked two vehicles the day before and I wasn’t so worried about my car but I didn’t want to be skewered by his amazing antlers. Nor did I want to stress him.

I moved after I took a few photographs and parked in a more neutral location. He got up and tended to his harem of cows, carefully checking them. But a rival male, one a bit larger, started bugling and within a few minutes was herding out the cows of the bull nearest me, one-by-one, and taking them back to his territory. It was epic elk magic.

Normally photographing in the fog isn’t that great due to lighting and white balance, although sometimes correctable shooting RAW format (which I always do). But today, the fog added to the mystery. The energy of the elk was wild and watching the strength of the bulls as they ran and charged through heavy fog was elementally very pleasing to the senses. But the most haunting of all was (and always is) the bugle. There was a bull across the creek, hidden by trees, but traceable through his loud and high-pitched, with a low rumble, vocalization. To hear answering calls from the others that were immersed in fog, was glorious.

I’m unsure why the elk have chosen to speak to me so deeply. More and more I trust that little intuitive nudge to go-be-with-elk. I’ve never been disappointed. And it’s not that they are always there at other times, when I don’t get the nudge. I go fly fishing and drive through the area a lot and may not see any. For some reason, the elk and I have chosen to connect in the Deep Mystery.

Nature speaks to me through dreams, intuition, and sensory experiences. The more I listen, the more able I am to dance in that realm of wild wonder.

What is Your Message to the Earth?

What is Your Message to the Earth?

I love to walk at a very beautiful place in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I go there regularly and have started picking up trash there because the first mile of trail is used by tubers on the creek and they are really being litter bugs this year. It’s been horrible to see the trash they leave behind.

Yesterday I picked up five bags of litter in that mile and today I thought there wouldn’t be as much. There wasn’t until I got to a popular viewing area. There I found a mound of trash…but it was from someone taking it out of the creek. And they had other piles created from their efforts along the creek.

While I was so happy that others are taking an interest in keeping our beautiful creek/trail clean, I wondered if humans would ever wake up. Can they not see the beauty they are trashing? And it led to this question: What is your message to the Earth? What do your actions say? And I put it to a favorite song in this little video.

Peaceful Waters

Peaceful Waters

As soon as I stepped out of the car I felt it….deep peace. Tourists either gone or not up so early. It’s like the entire area was in a different vibe. I was immediately drawn to the water…the flowing, flowing water. Ahhhhh…..and everything within me melted into this same peace.

Gratitude for the beauty filled my walk on trails I have come to cherish since moving back to the mountains. It wasn’t peaceful during the 18 months of looking for homes, having mine for sale….but I was looking in the wrong place, a place that had been awesome for me many years ago but has grown into a busy city without the Nature energy that called me. So finally….I surrendered and asked…Where?!?  And on that visit I heard to go where I always wanted to live as a kid…the Smoky Mountains. Once I got clear on where, my home sold and the rest came together beautifully.

When the national park was closed due to Covid 19, I walked the gravel road that is my driveway every day. And that was a fantastic way to get to know the forest here. And when the park re-opened, I allowed everyone to flock there and waited patiently. Then started visiting early in the morning to avoid crowds. And I fell madly in love with this section of the park…the quieter side, less hectic, less loved-to-death.

There’s so much challenging happening now….readers, you know this. So how nice to have a place to go that calls me to the profound peace of the deep, inner waters. Thank you flowing waters…thank you trees and rocks and flowers. Thank you Great Spirit for helping me hear the voice of my heart calling me home.

 

Antlers

Antlers

As I was walking down the mountain this morning I thought about the little herd of white-tailed does that live here. It’s always a joy to see them. Once I was standing under a tree watching a hooded warbler sing and heard a sharp and powerful snort and foot stamp. I turned in time to see a big doe bound off through the woods.

As I continued walking this morning my mind wandered to the bucks and their antlers and then to the elk that live nearby and their gigantic antlers. White-tailed bucks begin growing theirs in late March and continue to grow them until August. They have the fastest growing bone, some growing 200 inches in 120 days. And then…they fall off in January or February.

As I thought about that process, I felt a sort of kinship with those guys. Growing, growing, growing…then bam. Gone! Then start over…growing, growing, growing. It seemed all too familiar for the cycles of life humans grow through. Not so much the physical but the emotional and spiritual cycles. Relationships…double ugh. Talk about cycles.

It was a bit depressing thinking of the continuing, spiraling cycles of growth. Seriously. What’s the point if we keep repeating the same lessons and re-visiting the same old stuff? The same questions revolving in and out of our minds…blah, blah, blah.

I was walking along a gravel road where I live, surrounded by green…trees, wildflowers…and mountains. And as I paused to be present with all the bountiful beauty, I heard clear as a bell, The cycles in Nature are the point. Being present with the cycles is the entire point of it all. Not going anywhere in particular in life but being present with whatever is happening.

So…there’s no destination. Nowhere to be. Nothing to escape from or go to. Every morning awaken, arise, live, rest. Really?, I asked.

How are you present with yourself in every moment? With the regular, day-to-day existence. Without the need to escape or numb out or run…this is where you find the point of power and mastery. 

Antlers…who knew they held such wisdom.

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writing and photographs copyright Simone Lipscomb