Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Smoke 'em If You Got 'em

Daddy, why do they call them The Smokies?
You do favor your mother's side of the family, don't you son?

We took very different routes, coming and going, on our foray into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Going in, we drove around the north side, through Hillbilly Vegas, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, and we despaired. It's a permanent carnival at the feet of the great tract, a carbuncle of the toe of the foothills, gaudy and neon, even on an overcast afternoon. Hatfield and McCoy tacky. Dinner show after side show after sho' 'nuff. Mind-reading pigs and talking dogs and Jesus Saves; the backwoods Holy Trinity.

Side note: If a pig could read your mind, how would you know? Perhaps all pigs can read our minds and this one was nothing special. Would the dog tell us if he knew (bein' our best friend and all)? Pigeon Forge drags you down to this level.

Coming home, we took the slow route, through the park, and our faith was restored. Here, it was easy to fall under the spell of Marc's Zen Baptist philosophy; the proof spread out before us in all it's uncultivated glory.

And in between the two, the coming and the going, we did a little fishin'.

We stepped out of the Townsend breakfast joint (two over-easy with a side of grits and biscuits, please) and the bottom dropped out. Rain in buckets. We'd have gotten good drifts in the seam running down the center of the two-row parking lot, if we'd cared to try. A trio of motorcycle riders (real bikes, with two wheels, not three), dressed head-to-toe in glossy black, also waited under the cover.

Wet ride ahead? They shrugged, nodded, then noticed our fishing gear and asked if we were going out in this stuff. We confirmed and they shook their heads.

You're nuts.

When the bikers think you're crazy...

Rain in the deep woods makes spring greens pop with color and with life. Rich, ancient earth smells, borne within the thick mists, Smoky Mountain namesakes, seep deep into your core; a fresh, moist presence penetrating impossibly through waders and shell, Gore-Tex is no match, going straight to the soul, undeterred and welcomed at a primal level.

Though I must admit there were times when I wasn't quite sure whether the drifting haze was mountain mist or blowdown from Steve's upstream cigar.

The Sunday morning downpour stopped as we arrived at the turnout and by the time we'd slickered up there were traces of Smoky mountain blue sneaking through the canopy; mercy from the heavens, probably undeserved, but appreciated nonetheless.

The trout were as small as the surroundings were grand and I suppose there's a certain symmetry to that. Nature is balance, after all. For every small trout there's a majestic ridge. For every downpour there's a bluebird sky.

For every Pigeon Forge there's a Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

Let's do everything we can to keep it that way.

Thanks, boys, for a great weekend.

Note: I don't recall if the "Holy Trinity" line came out of Steve's mouth or mine, but we arrived at it together as we turned off Pigeon Forge's main drag onto US321, away from the insanity. I guess, then, that this is an apology, if necessary.

If nothing else, I'm an honest plagiarist.


Dani Johnson said...

Love the line "Gore-tex is no match"...so true. Those woods during/after a heavy rain are a magical place.

Mike Sepelak said...

They're absolutely lovely, Dani. There's a weight to them that's hard to ignore - not that you'd want to.

Chris said...

F'ing brilliant, as usual... you should enter the Blogger Tour essay contest... Oh, wait...

Ofieldstream said...

Yes, I agree. On what? Just about all of it. In fact, I don't think there's anything I can disagree with. Pigeon Forge is a blight. The Smokies are a sanctuary. Small trout are trinkets for the pleasure of being 'There'. Mercy is never earned and only truly appreciated by those who know viscerally merit is unworthy.

Yes. MOST Definitely. Let us work our egos off making sure the ratio of blight-to-sanctuary remains at Lottery Winning level.

Great piece of writing. Continue to exhilerate. It just may keep the lights on.... Just sayin'... B|

Mike Sepelak said...

Ah, if only I could, Chris. If only I could.

And good luck to all those do enter. It'll be a trip to remember.

Mike Sepelak said...

Thank you, Sir O'field. It's quite clear that you "get it.". And I truly appreciate the reinforcement.

Tom Chandler said...

There are only about a bazillion miles of water I haven't fished in the Smokies, and I fear I never will. Still, this got me a little closer, though I believe you left out the required pilgrimage to the Townsend Phillips 66 state for a slaw dog.

You didn't forget, did you? Really?

Mike Sepelak said...

Ashamed to say I missed it, Tom. Mea culpa. And I forgot that these are your stompin' grounds when you find yourself out east. Bazillion miles of water, indeed.

Find your way back again, soon, and you can introduce me to that dog.

Does it talk?

Brk Trt said...

Well done.
The photo of the mist/cigar smoke working up the stream is a great shot.

cofisher said...

Very nice job capturing one of the premier Nat. Parks in the country. Nice when bloggers meet up...even you three. ;)

Mike Sepelak said...

Thanks, BT. It's one of my favorites too.

It's always a pleasure to meet others who are crazy enough to bear their souls on the interwebs, Howard. We're an odd lot, but fun. Someday I need to get back to Colorado...

Matt Smythe said...

Loved this post. Hell yes. Glad you all got to connect and get on the water! Hopefully I can swing down that way soon.

Steve Zakur said...

Beautiful piece.

I thought about hunting down a slaw dog when I was planning for the trip, sorry we didn't get to savor the local fare.

I don't recall who had the Trinity epiphany though it was damn funny. We need to hang out more.

Mike Sepelak said...

Thanks Matt! It was great fishin' with these guys again. And I look forward to your arrival.

Steve, you were too busy trying to save the IBM universe to think about slaw. As for "We need to hang out more", ain't that the truth.

Fontinalis Rising said...

If so, then I love that kind of plagiarizing. Thanks for sharing.

Mike Sepelak said...

Thanks Jason!

Anonymous said...

I've never read your blog before but I just had to say that the pictures in this post are amazingly beautiful. I'm adding Great Smoky Mountains National Park to a place I must visit.


Mike Sepelak said...

So nice to have you stop by, Karen. GSMNP should definitely be on your must visit list. It's absolutely lovely. These pictures don't begin to do it justice.

Peace, Teeny Hippie. :-)

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