After my last post, I really appreciate the outpouring of empathy regarding the last-minute cancellation of my trip to Patagonia. It was all very touching. Thank you all!
But who needs Patagonia when you have the Smokies in your backyard? So I turned my attention to there. I took care of some refund requests with Delta at the Knoxville airport on Saturday morning, then headed south to the park. My bags were still packed for Argentina, so I figured I had everything I needed. 🙂 First, I headed for the areas of the park south of Gatlinburg. These are the areas that were affected by the tragic wildfires last November. I’ve been so busy that I had not yet visited those areas. It was about time!
Immediately upon arrival, I found that Spring was just starting to, um, well, spring. The trees in the lower elevations had that yellow-green hue that occurs only during the first growth of Spring. The canopy was thin, allowing the light of the afternoon sun to illuminate the fresh new leaves with a neon yellow glow. I love the leaves in the Springtime! In the higher elevations, the trees had not yet begun to leaf, so the burned out areas from the fire were readily visible. It was striking to see the juxtaposition of the fresh Spring leaves against the burned out remains of the wildfires.
Last November, the attention of everyone focused on the fires and the resulting tragedy that affected so many lives in the Gatlinburg area. Five months later, the lives of the affected people are surely still in recovery mode. As is often the case with tragedies like this, we don’t hear much about them months later. But the spring trees that I saw Saturday afternoon reminded me that recovery is a long process. It also illustrated to me that nature is also in recovery mode. That made me smile. Hope springs eternal!
This attached file contains three shots that I collected along Highway 441 south of Gatlinburg. The two vertical images were taken near the Chimney Tops area (where most of the fires started last fall). The horizontal image in the center was taken just south of Gatlinburg. The trees with their fresh leaves are easily visible. Most of the darker areas are patches of trees that had burned. Some skeletons of partially burned trees are also visible. I hope the resolution of the image allows you to see these details.