Fall leaf report 2012: crack smoking in Great Smoky Mountain National Park

I finally decided to take two days and head to the mountains to view the fantastic fall colors and do some hiking with Troy. The news reports gave glowing reviews of radiant leaf colors not seen for a decade. Reports of outstanding fall foliage were greatly overstated and may be the result of either hopeful merchants or crack-smoking leaf hunters.

Let’s review what good fall leaf color looks like.

Roaring Fork in a good fall color year (photo credit to Troy, not me)

Now, let’s see what exists there this year:

OK, but I will not be composing poetry rhapsodizing over the verdant fall colors.

For those of you who want to know, there is good color in a 1-mile stretch heading to Cades Cove (roughly 5 miles in) and there is some decent color in Greenbrier and around Chimney Tops. However, the crowds are unrelenting, the traffic is horrendous, and there is of course the horror known as Gatlinburg to contend with. I’d pass on this year. Unless you enjoy endless streams of Mississippians in Cadillacs cruising at 2 mph in Cades Cove slamming on their brakes every time they see a deer.

An oasis in a sea of fudge shops, Dukes of Hazard memorabilia and Ripley’s Believe it or Not.

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Glacier National Park, part deux

I saw a headline today that said that Tennessee as a state is the 5th laziest state in the United States. This makes me want to work harder at slacking. I loathe sweating and if I feel a bead of sweat rolling down my ass crack, it’s a pretty safe bet I am unhappy. This is why it continues to mystify my friends that I go to national parks for vacations where I swear I am going to hike. Part of it is being married to a guy who thinks a 12 mile hike at high altitude is a fun day and not wanting to look like the complete slacker I am.  I blame the rest on the Title Nine catalog.  If you buy the clothes, clearly you can do the hike.  Consumerism creates delusional behavior.

Unlike normal people who see a photo of a beautiful mountain scene and admire the beauty, I look at it and think, I could train to get in shape to climb that mountain and then my obnoxiously fit husband could kiss my ass the next time he makes some comment about how I use the cross trainer to hang wet bras out to dry.

If you buy the right shoes, you can definitely hike to Grinnell Glacier, even if you drive to the corner market rather than walk.

There is one major problem with hiking in the mountains. It’s the word “mountains”. Mountains are steep. Steep is hard to walk up without sweat running down your ass crack and I hate sweating. I much prefer the kind of hiking that’s suitable for old people. If the trail is groomed enough for someone to ride a Rascal scooter on, I am all over it.

Even better, take awesome pictures of Goose Island on St Mary Lake 10 feet from your car

There is another problem with mountains. Mountains are cold. They have ice and snow. Second to sweating, I hate freezing. Glacier National Park is named after glaciers. Glaciers are moving giant fields of ice. Ice is cold.

This is Grinnell Glacier. It is cold. Troy hiked here to take this picture as I had nothing to do with the actual taking of this photo

Troy hiked to Grinnell Glacier. He said it was very cool and the alpine valleys were scenic. For all I know, he went to the bar and had someone photoshop the picture, but he swears he hiked there.

Troy at Grinnell Glacier. Note the awesome hiking stick.

He may have hiked 6 miles up to Grinnell Glacier, but I staggered out of the car and up a field to take this picture of wildflowers at Many Glacier. Troy will never pick up chicks hiking to glaciers. We want flowers, not hunks of glacial ice.

Just as scenic, 40 degrees warmer and no difficult hike.

I hiked to St Mary Falls to prove I was not a total loser. It is beautiful. I sat on the rocks and contemplated tossing Troy over the edge into the roiling waters for taking this picture. If Chaka Khan was a white girl with flaming red hair and she hiked in Glacier National Park, this is what she would probably look like.

Photographic proof that I was there for my doubters

Note my awesome hiking pants. They are not quite as cool as Chuck Norris action jeans, but they are close.

Glacier National Park, Montana

There is something about this place that makes me want to break into a stirring rendition of ‘The Hills are Alive’  even though I really hated that movie. I know it’s an anti-American sentiment, but I wanted to slap every last one of them. But I digress.

You know you want to break into song

Montana is Big Sky Country. I’m not sure what that means since all states have big sky over them. However, when I stepped off the plane, a part of me immediately conjured up fantasies of living in some ranch house with huge acreage while admiring handsome men who bring home trout. This is part of my Legends of the Fall fantasy. I know, Brad Pitt was eaten by a bear at the end (more on this later) and everyone he loved died, but the scenery probably made all that misery worthwhile, at least during the summer when the air is not so cold as to freeze your lungs.

Some scenery:

Brad Pitt probably fished here

When you enter the actual park, they hand you a brochure with a bear on the front that warns you that bears are dangerous. I know Troy brought me here to feed me to the bears for nagging. So far, though, we have seen no bears. This is somewhat disappointing. I wanted to ask the park ranger what time the bears would show up but Troy wouldn’t let me. So far, my wildlife count includes squirrels, deer and mountain goats. I love the baby mountain goats.

Baby mountain goat posing for me

I also was hoping to see golden eagles. Troy saw them when he hiked earlier today, but then he told me the rangers said golden eagles eat baby goats.