My daughter, Kacey, and I, along with a friend of hers, made the hour and a half trip up to Newfound Gap, on the evening of August 12, 2015. I knew I had to work the next day, so we left home about 9:30 which put us at the Tennessee-North Carolina state line at a little after 11:00 p.m. As many times as I have been up that road and to the parking area at Newfound Gap, I guess I had never been there when there was no moon. Even before my eyes had time to adjust to the darkness, we were seeing not only meteors, but an unfathomable number of stars! Even without the Perseids, this view would have been worth the drive and the loss of sleep. I don't know how many nights I have spent camping out or backpacking in these mountains over the last 50 years, but I guess I had never been out in the open that late at night, especially on a dark night. I have never seen anything like that in all the time I've spent in these mountains! The Milky Way stretched out from the North Carolina side of the Smokies, crossed the Newfound Gap parking lot, arched over the Appalachian Trail, and reached on into the hills of East Tennessee. Gazing up into this speckled canvas of grandeur, we watched as streaks of light zipped past us or over our heads as bits of comet debris entered the Earth's atmosphere at over 130,000 miles per hour and became flaming orbs of natural fireworks. We didn't even attempt to count the number of "shooting stars" we saw, but it must have been 40 or more and often we would hear others exclaim about one that we had missed. You simply couldn't look everywhere all at once!
There's still time to catch this sight for yourself. Find a place, any place, away from the lights of cities and towns. Seek it out! Experience it! I promise, you'll never forget it!