I'm going to backtrack just a little bit to the beginning of this journey. My daughter left for college on August 26, 2010. We moved her into her dorm room complete with so many accouterments that I'm not sure how it all went in that tiny little space! The biggest thing she kept with her in that dorm room, though, was a large piece of my heart. On the following Sunday, August 29, a friend of mine, Lynn, rescued me from the depths and accompanied me on my first hike in a long time, well since my knee surgeries began back in 2008.
We chose a relatively easy hike to break me back in--Andrews Bald. The beginning point of this hike was located at the Clingman's Dome parking area. The weather was beautiful with fairly clear skies and temps around 65 degrees.
I forgot my hiking stick, so I was a little worried about the knee for a while, but it cooperated nicely. The path was rocky and had some relatively short steep inclines and declines, but I never really even got winded on this hike. The round trip is 3.6 miles and we completed it, along with a good bit of time on the bald taking pictures and catching a snack, in less than 3 hours. The real treat for this hike was the wild blueberries that grow on 7-8 ft tall bushes on the bald and wild blackberries that grow sporadically along the path through the woods. They were delicious, but I must admit, I kept a keen eye out for bear. I was ready to give them all the berries they wanted and lots of room to eat them in! We did see some bear scat on the trail, maybe a day or two old, but never had to share the blueberry bushes on that day. The views from the bald could have been quite nice, but when we arrived, there was a light fog veiling the distant peaks and a good bit of cloud cover in the distance as well. Still, it was a nice view.
There were lots of wildflowers still in bloom on that late August day. My daughter's favorite wildflower, Jewelweed, otherwise known as "Touch Me Not," were fairly common near the 2 or 3 springs along the trail. Monarda was blooming near the trailhead along with some Queen Anne's Lace, but Curtis' Aster was the most prolific wildflower in bloom. It is a tall, purple aster with bright yellow centers that I found particularly attractive. There was also a white, non-photosynthetic plant in a few patches along this trail that I haven't identified yet. It reminded me of Squaw root, but it was albino-like white and was more delicate and branching than Squaw root.
We were the only hikers on the Andrews Bald trail that morning until we were almost back to the trailhead. We did run into a couple who had just made their way up from Campsite 68 where they had camped the previous two evenings. It was located 2.0 miles below our trail and they had traveled the Forney Creek Trail to the point where it intersected with our trail. They were going on out to the bald from there. They made me begin to think about the possibility of doing a little backcountry hiking. Hmmm...