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Springing Into Action (Part 1)

I wasn't going to let this spring go by like I had in recent years.

So if that meant "driving 'til I drop," 5:30 wake-up times, and lung-strangling hikes up short-but-steep trails to catch some bloomin' magic, then so be it. And I'm not even done with Spring yet. Roan Mountain is next.

Besides, I'll have all summer to rest, God willing. And boy, do I ever plan to rest.

Here in the Smokies, spring tends to start a tad later; so the lower elevations were my first destination - for this year, I settled on Tennessee.

Tremont is one of the quieter areas of the Smokies. So while the tourists are packing in like sardines at Laurel Falls and Cades Cove (and often leaving a mighty mess in their wake, but that's another story for another day) I'm heading to a place with plenty of room to maneuver, and very few people to maneuver around. Suits this dogged introvert just fine.

The dogwood blooms began mid-April; and since capturing waterfalls and streams tends to be a rarity for me nowadays, it was especially nice to have Tremont to serve as my canvas - a pleasant diversion from my wide-angle, mountain-high, CinemaScope norm:

Come first of May, it was back to North Carolina and the High Country. Just in time for a little storm chasing. First on the Blue Ridge Parkway south of Asheville, a wide angle view of a developing thunderstorm over the Hendersonville area with Looking Glass Rock in the distance:

Then north of Asheville on the Parkway, as I chased a severe-warned storm as it passed over Morganton:

My experience with friends at Linville Gorge was so enjoyable from last year, I was game to replicate it all, even if it meant multiple appearances.

I visited the gorge four times this year - just so I didn't miss anything. Me and room 15 at the Pixie Inn - convenient, since it had cold AC and was located next to the ice machine - got well acquainted as well.

I visited the Chimneys on the evening of May 4. An easier hike, but not an easy drive for my poor Honda Civic, which is pushing 525,000 miles. The suspension needs a serious overhaul, especially after going down the rutted, bumpy drive to the parking area.

So while the sunset skies didn't look promising, the light and the early blooms were, as I caught this scene on the way back out, looking towards Table Rock:

When it comes to the following image, I'm not sure what's more impressive:

a) the fact that I managed to get up at 5:15 the morning after my visit to the Chimneys

b) the fact I didn't keel over and die before reaching the summit of Hawksbill.

It's a steep hike, folks, but the rewards were worth it...

Working my way around the peak, I enjoyed the morning light as it rose over the gorge:

But my favorite image from that morning's session at Hawksbill - maybe my favorite image so far this spring - was facing the opposite direction from the sunrise. Perhaps it's not as impressive as some of the others I've shot, but seeing the shadow of Table Rock Mountain appearing on the gorge wall as the sun continued to rise was quite the treat. Look right of center to see it:

I returned to Hawksbill a week later, but this time in the afternoon - with more developed blooms, and with more dramatic skies as developing showers circled around the area:

And as the rain continued to develop and move in, it began reflecting off the light that poked through the clouds - and rather dramatically:

I had to scramble back to the trailhead soon after - the heavier rain eventually forced me to pack up and go - but I concluded my exploits at the gorge feeling quite happy with what I captured.

And with this, I conclude part one of my spring blog. Be looking for part two in a few weeks. Still plenty of blooms to be captured!

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