Just Before Spring
On a curve on the back side of the Great Smoky Mountains, I skirt past a waterfall. Not epic in height, it mostly involved just a slight melt flowing over several layers of rocks. It was so minor in its placement, that I drove past it and then doubled back just to take a few pictures. There were no signs or road-side markers preceding it, and no traffic backed up waiting to photograph it. It was just a flow cascading downstream. Truthfully, calling it a waterfall may have even been a stretch; perhaps maybe just a creek with decent-sized boulders that might be better described as a “water tumble.” Regardless, I stopped to enjoy its sound on a pre-spring morning tucked in the southeast corner of Tennessee.
One noteworthy feature not always typical with most waterfalls that struck me at this divide between the two seasons, hung around the waterfall and along the drive: icicles. Typically, waterfalls represent the melt and subsequent gravitational flow of what once lived a life as snow pack or ice, but now changed states of matter for the purpose of, well, falling. Yet throughout the drive, on the mid-March morning, winter kept a tight leash on the thermometer, holding tight at under thirty-two degrees Fahrenheit. Even the nearby Cheoah Dam only opened two out of dozen of its spillways. Dr. Richard Kimball would have been easily caught after his swan dive in the flow I observed.
Leave A Mark
When I booked my hotel just down the road from Cherokee two days ago, I merely wanted easy access to U.S Highway 441 over the middle of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Unfortunately, a downed tree or a mudslide or an oversized ice heave closed the road, so I opt to loop around the west side. So off I go in another direction – a route I’ve taken more often than not. I would twist along the Tail of The Dragon, cruise the Foothills Parkway, and accidentally stumble into a scene out of The Fugitive. I almost feel as if I didn’t really visit the National Park because I only take a short driving tour around the northwest edge.
Curiously, the most north worthy scenery turns out to not be the water falling, but the places where the water already fell. Around the edge of Fontana Lake, boat docks hang limply where the water previously allowed them to float, and in the past, enhancing the waterfront views of the surrounding properties. The drought makes the scenery stark, like the empty reservoir I recall from Glendo State Park in Wyoming and the drying earth at Lake Owyhee State Park in Oregon. Waterfalls are simple reminders of the path the moisture takes as it finds the path of least resistance, drop by drop blending together to a collective precipice, whether great or simple. When the water appears to have fallen considerably over time, with no sign of its presence whatsoever, that leaves a far more noticeable mark.