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The Great Smokey Mountains

Written By Guest Blogger B. Renee Robinson - Chapter 44 - 5.8.21

The Great Smoky Mountains have been on my hiking and nature photography bucket list for a while. When our Ch8se Leader, Dynamic Deborah posted this adventure I quickly paid and reserved my spot. Fast forward to Saturday morning of the ch8se. Traffic was very light as I breezed up the freeway. If you know Atlanta traffic, you know light traffic is a blessing, a good omen. As I approached the exit for the Publix in Duluth, Georgia, I see the DOT traffic boards warning of a traffic jam. Panic set in, my exit was just TWO stops away! There was nothing but a sea of stationary taillights. Thankfully, the GPS re-routed and I made it to our meetup spot with a few minutes to spare.

Several women advised Deborah of the traffic delays. She immediately contacted ch8sers who were still en route to coordinate where they could meet the three-vehicle caravan. We waited a few minutes to receive others before leaving. Deborah was concerned about the others yet to arrive. Her policy is to leave no one behind and she is very serious about us staying together. Ch8se Champion, Awesome Ay Jay drove so Deborah could focus on the logistics of meeting the other women at the park.

On the way there, we had meaningful conversations, hearty laughs, and the camaraderie of sisterhood. I have fallen in love with Deborah, Ch8sing Waterfalls, and the regular waterfall ch8sers. Hiking and being in nature are spiritual and therapeutic for me. Sacred green spaces provide refuge and sanctuary for me. Before I started hiking, I was battling depression and the uncertainties of life. Nature heals, TRUST ME. Deborah challenged my comfort zone by way of Ch8sing Waterfalls, physically and emotionally. I appreciate the waterfall adventures because we stop to inhale nature's beauty.

We arrived and greeted our hike facilitators for the day, Mark of Carolina Bound Adventures and his tour assistant and friend, KayKay. Once everyone arrived, we gathered in a circle to introduce ourselves, listened to trail info, as well as, set our intentions for our adventure through prayer. Mark is a great tour guide, he stated the park is home to 123 different tree species and 1,500 species of wildflowers. He challenged us to pay attention to the various plants on the trails. We proceeded to the Deep Creek Horse Trail. Mark also warned us to watch our step for "horse apples" since horses were also on the trails.

Before we got deep into the trails, Mark showed us two different tree species. We were attentively taking notes and pictures. Then we proceeded up the trails. I had already seen four familiar wildflowers. Excitement and joy exuded from everyone when we stopped to get countless waterfall selfies and group photos, as we reached the first waterfall, Juney Whank Falls. We could see and hear several streams trailside. Of course, we briefly stopped to embr8se the ascetics of the streams too.

Further, along, Mark stopped to tell us why the hemlock trees in the park are dying. An invasive microscopic insect, the hemlock woolly adelgid, is feasting on these trees. Hemlock smells like fresh pine, we tore samples of the tree to smell the tiny needles. We observed several butterflies that were puddling on horse excrement to get vital nutrients. It was an intriguingly beautiful sight, excluding the excrement. This is a common behavior for butterflies and other insects. I counted five different butterfly species that fluttered overhead, as well as, many small moths. The 63 degree, spring temperature, accompanied by the sun playing peekaboo was so perfect. The air in the park felt different as it blew across my skin.

Indian Creek Falls was the second waterfall along the trail. It is my favorite waterfall of the day! Sadly, we had to admire this beauty from afar because it was not safe to get a close-up view. After spending several minutes there, we ventured on. I neglected to mention this trail (or the route we took) has several inclines. Inclines can be challenging for some people. It challenged me; I paced myself and took small breaks when necessary. We conquered our last incline on the way to the final waterfall, Tom Branch Falls, of course with several pauses. We always speak words of encouragement when anyone encounters difficulty on the trails. Mark led us back to the parking lot so we could refresh ourselves and eat lunch.

We thanked Mark and KayKay for leading and supporting us, they departed. Some women went to the creek to enjoy themselves before we ate lunch. The picnic tables were several hundred feet apart, which changed our normal, well-spaced communal lunch. Eating together is special because we talk about our highlights of the hike, challenges, or anything that compelled us or changed our perspective. Our lunch conversations are another element of healing that you receive when you decide to #Emb8ceTheCh8se. We shared our highlights, encouraged each other, and talked about linking up on other adventures. Camille, whose celebrating her entrance to 50, brought cupcakes in celebration of her approaching a milestone birthday and to also celebrate our Lovely Lynn's May birthday.

I am always excited to go Ch8asing Waterfalls because I know that I will have a great time! The Great Smoky Mountains, as well as, Mark and KK stole a piece of my heart. I enjoyed watching everyone slow down to notice things in nature that often go unnoticed. The waterfalls, plus the wildflowers, butterflies, and the women made Chapter 44 one of my favorite ch8ses to date. I did not want to leave when it was time to go. The Great Smoky Mountains is a place I could easily spend hours exploring the trails or sitting aside the waterfalls. Until we cha8e again, I am Resilient Renee.

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