I woke up yesterday thinking about hiking. I haven’t been since the fall, back when the air was crisp but not so cold I needed hand-warmers in my front and back pockets, double socks, and a parka. As much as I like the idea of a long winter’s hike, I’m on the skinny side. I’d have to buy two or more pairs of long johns just to keep my blood from icing over.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. We have had some freakishly warm winter days, but you can’t just run around enjoying those. If we start having fun with climate change, then we’re just begging for a giant hurritornami to wipe us off the map.
So I stayed home yesterday. Huddled under a double-lined quilt and a toasty, snoring puggle, I browsed Appalachian websites, prepared to fail epically in my search for a digital mountain fix. I clicked through site after site. Mediocre mountain view after mediocre mountain view. Cabin rental ad after cabin rental ad. They led me down a crooked path to the Great Smoky Mountains Association.
If you know nothing else when you hit the association’s site, you know that they released a Grammy nominated album. It features songs dating to 1939, recorded by people who lived in what is now Great Smoky Mountain National Park. I listened to a few tunes. There were neat but didn’t quite scratch my itch.
Click. Click. Click.
I landed on their video and photos page, and right there at the top was a clip called Rainbow Falls Trail Hike.
Bingo! Up popped the below gem, a video hike to one of the park’s most beloved spots–Rainbow Falls. In it, a small, cheery group of hikers weaved their way up the mountainside, crossing the icy Leconte Creek and capturing lovely images of frozen rocks and rhododendron along the way.
When they reached the top, they paused and gave me, the fella sitting snug on his sofa five hundred miles away, some lingering shots of the falls. Aside from the fact that I wasn’t panting or frostbitten, it felt as if I’d hiked up right alongside them, like I was taking it all in. Slow shots showed bare iced trees and frozen water at the falls’ base.
Even viewing it on a thirteen inch screen, I could tell that this spot was uniquely beautiful in the winter, and for a hot second, I regretted not getting off the couch. I’m active and young enough to handle a winter hike. I started to stand, ready to rummage through the closet for my boots. But before my rump was off the cushion, the sleeping pup on my lap snuggled his nose against our shared blanket.
I settled back into place. Rather than disturb my snoozing lap-warmer, I reached for my phone. In my Reminders app, I typed “Check Out Rainbow Falls” and, in the date section, dialed right past February and March. I’ll be ready to talk about the falls again on April 15.
So are you a winter hiker? Ever gone to Rainbow Falls this time of year? What are your favorite cold weather hiking spots?
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