GSMNP | A Symphony of Leaves | Thanksgiving Trip

And the trip ...

I'm not a comfortable winter backpacker which clearly stems from my origination in the warm state of Florida.  It's by virtue, circumstances of fact, DNA and other factors I just can't place at the moment but  one thing I'm certain of  is my link to the subtropical climate and life style. Yet I consistently find myself planning backpacking trips around the shoulder season periods, preferably after labor day and before winter sets in. I like the cooler temps, no bugs ( but who who doesn't?), and solitude so intimately tied to the seasonal change and the quiet solace of nature as she prepares for the inevitable metamorphosis from the warmth of sunny days to the harshness of winter.  

As winter tightens it's grip on fall the sun's warmth fades and the glowing orb moves toward a lower position in the Northern sky.  Summer has finally lost it's seasonal influence and the long days of light escape into the night as darkness becomes the queen of winter- she has arrived.

Great  Smoky  Mountain National Park has become our playground as we are now nearing about 10 backpacking excursions and 40-50 nights in the back-country.  The park seems so much smaller than when we first started utilizing the park as our proving ground. 

More to come on the "symphony of leaves"...

The traditional photo Before we embark on the trail.

It was quite cold to start our hike.

The weather God's were extremely gracious to us and blue sky's with white clouds were as far as the eye could see.  It was a welcome sight.

The trails were covered in leaves throughout the entire trip.  What started out as a godsend quickly turned into a curse.  It made the trails so much more comfortable however at each step the sound of leaves being crushed under our feet would generate a symphony of relentless noise we could not escape.  There were no moments of silence unless we stopped moving.  Only at that moment  could we appreciate the solitude of winter.  A bitter sweet reality.

Throughout the trip we would experience great unfettered views of the mountains.

The majority of hiking trails we spent our time on involved ridge-line trails.  Since the leaves had all fallen, the views just totally opened up.  It's my favorite time in GSMNP.  O' and more leaves.

Never have I seen the surrounding Smoky's with such clarity than on this trip. It was truly amazing and we were treated to some spectacular vistas.

You just could not beat the open views - you could see for miles.

More great views.

Rolling mountains as far as the eye can see.

Up on a high ridge on Thomas Divide Trail.

Unique tree.

And more leaves...

It was amazing a spark did not catch the whole leafville on fire.

She is such the fire bug and it makes for a warm night.

Go ahead and attempt to rake them if you dare.

The colors were amazing

Someone got a hold of my camera without me knowing.

Unfortunately this camp site was not that level.  I ended up waking up some time early morning halfway out of the tarp.  It gave me a laugh.

You can really appreciate all the leaves in this photo.

The trials consistently maintained a ground cover of leaves throughout 95% of the trial systems we were on.  I had never seen it so abundantly covered with leaves before.  The leaf pack was consistently 4 to 10 inches think in any given spot.

We really enjoy ridge-line hiking and in the fall/winter of the Smoky's you are treated to some great views.  During the summer there is only forested growth so dense you can barley see the sky.

We opted for a more secluded area.

Our shelter set-up consisted of the Gossemear Gear Spinn Twin 2-person tarp,

Nice wide trail makes for easy trekking.

I opted to bring the canister stove system verse alcohol to speed up the cooking process. It was a treat despite the weight penalty.

Kovea Spider Gas Stove with wind screen

Kovea Spider Gas Stove without wind screen

These leaves were huge!

It actually warmed up to nice temps on our second to last day.

Although you can't see standing water on the trail that well, many parts of this trail were pretty wet from an over flow of the adjoining creek.

Strangest assisted "rock hop" I have ever seen.

And a delight just before we exited to the trail-head.

We had a great time.


  1. Those ridgeline views look outstanding! Reminds me of where I cut my teeth up in Northern Minnesota hiking in the early Spring and late Fall.

    1. I must say I am a bit envious of your locale in Montana - Makes for a great play ground but on the other hand I do not have to deal with the snow. I guess you can't have it all.

  2. Your commentary on how the borders of a place that you previously thought to be immense are starting to get smaller the more you explore it is both unfortunate because you'll eventually have seen it all, but at the same time is cool that you're getting to know the place intimately. It is essentially impossible to get that feeling here since the number of places to visit within a few hundred miles of here would take many lifetimes. That being said there is a certain hopelessness in knowing you can't do it all too.

    1. I agree - the vast amount of wilderness areas seem to be endless in that part of the country. There does not seem to be enough time...


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