Saturday, September 3, 2011

Place of Blue Smoke

I have survived Irene and returned from a short vacation.  My brother, mother, and I visited the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, primarily to avoid Irene.  It is a magnificent place.  Long before this area was a national park, the Cherokee referred to it as the "place of blue smoke."  Indeed that description is apt for this incredible jewel in America's breath taking landscape.  We drove through the Blue Ridge Parkway, which was spectacular, in addition to visiting several spots around the park.  Words, nor photographs do justice to this place.

This national park receives 9 million visitors a year, making it the most visited park in the United States.  Part of the reason for this might be that it does not have an entrance fee.  This is my first visit to a national park, and I did not leave disappointed.  After seeing the awesome splendor of this landscape, I have resolved to visit all the national parks in the United States.  It may take a lifetime, but it will certainly be worth it.  Perhaps what was striking to me was the fact that I had cell phone reception at one of the highest points of the park (Clingmans dome).  I guess in today's wired world you really can't escape technology, email, or the internet.  (Note to self, if going on vacation, make sure to go somewhere with spotty electricity so checking work email really won't be an option.)

Everywhere we went, we saw people stopping and gazing, awestruck, at the incredible landscape.  There is something to be said about saving wild places like these.  We Americans may not have cathedrals or piazzas, but we have national parks.  In my view, the best in the world.  In addition to being a national park, The Great Smokies is also a UNESCO world heritage site, primarily for its immense diversity in plant and animal life.  As the nation struggles through the doldrums of recession and we face hard choices on what we want to spend our money on, we should collectively think about where are dollars are worth spending.  For me, the national parks are on the top of that list.  It would be a national tragedy if future generations did not get a chance to experience the splendor of these unique wild places.  At the end of the day, they are part of what defines America.  I sure am proud to be a citizen of nation that had the forsight to save the last Edens on Earth from commercialization.  I only continue hope we retain that collective wisdom as difficult decisions are made on what to save and what to let go.  Years from now, what we save is how our generation will be judged.  I can only hope we make the right choices.  In the mean time, I will try to savor the natural beauty that makes up the American landscape.  My it is a sight to behold.


  1. Wow, it looks beautiful. I'm glad you had a good mini vacation. This was interesting to read because we have just been talking in my environmental law class about the national park system in the US.

  2. Gorgeous photos. I feel at peace just looking at such amazing scenery. Thank you for sharing! Best of luck on your quest to visit all of the national parks. That would be a worthwhile undertaking. I hope you'll post amazing photos like these of each one you visit!! ;)

  3. This is so on my bucket list (as much as I hate that term). These photos are incredible, too.