Typical hikers flock to the Smoky Mountains for those destination hikes like Laurel Falls, Abrams Falls, Mt. LeConte, or Charlie's Bunion where breathtaking vistas or cascades are the reward for walking over rocks and roots for several miles. Hiking in the fog is a sure way to shift one's perspective--if you cannot look out as you walk along a ridge line at the peaks and valleys that surround you but that you cannot see, you find yourself noticing things you otherwise would have missed. On January 12, that is exactly what we encountered as we chose to hike Thomas Divide Trail, which I'm sure is aptly named as it divides two separate water basins, to Newtons Bald Trail down to the Smokemont area.
Lichen covered trees glowed an elvish green
Closeup of some of the lichen
Instead of views of the mountains that undoubtedly we would have been able to see on a clear day, we were mesmerized by the Lothlorein-like (from Tolkein's mythology of elves) appearance of the trees covered in lichen and moss which were truly shimmering in the mists of the morning. The mythological feeling was so strong, I would not have been surprised to see Lady Galadriel watching us from the distance. Sadly, and perhaps by Lady Galadriel's design, we were unable to capture the magic of this place on film. The photos we took show only pale green lichen clinging to damp trees--the vibrancy of their color and the magic with which they transformed this place slipped out of the frame to be only captured in our memories.
The highlights of this hike were those small things--a squirrel's picnic table, where he had stopped to open and enjoy the contents of several acorns on this frosty morning,or a lacy leaf partly consumed by decay, but stunningly beautiful even in that condition as it held tiny water droplets between the remains of the leaf veins.
These things of beauty were sights we would surely have missed on a clear day. We would have been so enamored with the views in the distance that we would have overlooked the treasures that were right at our feet. Somehow this strikes me as true about life in many ways. Often times we are so caught up in our larger goals or desires that we simply miss the treasures that are right in our grasp every moment--the delight that we can find in a daughter's hug, in holding a husband's hand, or the rare but strong embrace of a son. Sometimes a change in perspective is exactly what we need.