I gave my heart to the mountains the minute I stood beside this river with its spray in my face and watched it thunder into foam, smooth to green glass over sunken rocks, shatter to foam again. I was fascinated by how it sped by and yet was always there; its roar shook both the earth and me. — Wallace Stegner
Although I have visited North Carolina for years and know well my mother’s love for the mountains, my lasting memory of our extended visit there this winter was of the rivers. We arrived in the middle of record rains in western NC and every day we could see the accumulation of the mountain streams flowing down into the French Broad River. One day, the kayakers slid by in the rapids, too fast for me to get a camera out to try to capture the action- people and kayaks are one in the rapids. Every day we measured the results of the rain the day before by checking the cut that the current was taking from the bank below our bridge.
We had so much rain that you could hear the river all day long, above the normal sounds of the day. Today I miss the sounds of the river as much as the view of the mountains out of every window. I can say now that I truly do love the mountains, but it is the river that brought me there.
Ever wonder why they call these the Smokies? These pictures will help explain it. We see this almost every day.
Our favorite questions about the Smokies:
What is the difference between the Smokies and the Appalachian Mountains?
The Great Smoky Mountains are a mountain range rising along the Tennessee–North Carolina border in the southeastern United States. They are a subrange of the Appalachian Mountains, and form part of the Blue Ridge Physiographic Province.
Why do they call them the Smokies?
“The mountains of East Tennessee and Western North Carolina are blanketed with a smoky haze that gives the region an almost magical quality. Indeed, the Cherokee considered the mountains to be a sacred place and referred to the area as “Shaconage” (Sha-Kon-O-Hey): land of the blue smoke. When European settlers arrived in the early 1800s, they took inspiration from the Cherokee language when they named the Great Smoky Mountains and the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains.”
“The ‘smoke’ from the Smoky Mountains is actually fog that comes from the area’s vegetation. We all know that plants take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen. What we hear less about is how plants also exhale something called “volatile organic compounds”, or VOCs….The Great Smoky Mountains are particularly blue and smoky because they have the perfect natural conditions for it. The trees that are most common in the region have high concentrations of VOCs that scatter blue light. Also, the Smokies get a lot of rainfall and sunlight, experience high levels of humidity, and have a lot of stagnant air. When you take all of these factors into account, you’ve got a recipe for some of the most beautiful mountains in the world!”
Source: What Makes the Smoky Mountains Smoky, Jason Fishman, April, 2016
And the “smoke” can come and go in minutes!
One of the really cool things about spending February and early March in North Carolina is that we get to see the countryside wake up to a new spring in North Carolina and then see it again when we return north to Michigan. A reminder of new beginnings twice in one year.