A New Perspective on West to East

This spring I took the big step of acquiring a car, thank you parents for helping with that project! I made it through 4 years of college and 4 years of post-college life without a car, and I’m proud of myself for that accomplishment, but it’s also time to be a bit more of an independent adult. So we luckily found a car that aligns with my eco-friendly life philosophy, and seems fitting for a member of the “Green Team” – a used Prius Hybrid! At the end of April my dad and I embarked for a BIG drive across the country, to get myself and the car from Montana back to Vermont.

I didn’t really want to take the quickest route back, because it would go through Chicago and/or Eastern Canada, and I’ve been that way before! Plus it’s northern and cold-ish and wouldn’t be springlike in April. So I directed us down south, and we planned to pass through the Badlands and take an extra day to hike, run and sight-see in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.

MT to VT route
The route, Bozeman to Craftsbury, passing through the Badlands in SD, Smoky Mountains in TN, and Boston for stops of various lengths.
Morning of the departure, heading off in my Prius
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Dad and I were not so impressed with the size of Mt. Rushmore when we walked up, the faces looked tiny compared to the monolithic concrete-block visitor center. Closer up it was somewhat better, the process of creating it looked impressive from the historical photos.
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Creatures of the Badlands in South Dakota
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Not much activity in the Badlands, blowing wet snow, and just us two brave wanderers
In Souix Falls, SD, we happened across a bike path along a canal, and decided to take a pause from the driving so that I could go on a run along it. Geese and goslings and a nice old railroad bridge, and we saw a cheetah inside the zoo fence too.
Flashes of beautiful color along the road, this clump of flowering trees at a golf course in Souix Falls, so not as hard to capture as the true from-the-road glimpses
An accidental wrong turn in St. Louis, and we found ourselves right next to the arch

After 3 days of solid driving, cruising along the highways and not seeing much other than rest stops, we arrived at the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee for an off day from driving and an on-day for some walking and admiring the green and growing things of this world. Over the course of the night-full day-morning we were in the Smokies, we found time for 5 separate outings from different trailheads, of various lengths, and we saw 3 waterfalls and many nice wildflowers like the ones below.

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Tall tunnels of trees in Smoky Mountains National Park
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Receding Smoky Mountains, it’s apparent on a day like this why they’re called the Smokies. Historically the haze has been from the off-gasing of CO2 of the trees, but these days I think it might be mixed with a bit of pollution.
My dad and I near the highest point in the park
One of many nice waterfalls in the Smokies. Most of our hikes – and yes, we did 5 total in the space of 36 hours or so – centered around getting to waterfalls or viewpoints, with wildflowers along the way
Bright yellow trout lily! The majority of the flowers out at this time of year seem to be white or pink/purple, so this was an unusual flash of yellow.
Following a narrow path along the ridgeline, one of the most secluded and peaceful trails I found in the Smokies.
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These trees force you to look up and admire
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My dad worked for the Forest Service for decades, and even now that he’s retired, he still likes to look at trees. A good (if educational) person to be around on Arbor Day while walking around in the heavily-wooded Smoky Mountains. “Hmm, I’m glad that one wasn’t on my dendritic exam, but I think it’s a ____” (Sorry Dad, I don’t remember what type that one was, some kind of fir maybe?)

Wildflowers! Yes, this was one of my sideline reasons for dipping way down south, to see the flowers in the spring. Here are: Bluets (four-petaled purple-white with orange centers, they’re quite tiny), Tuliptree (circular orange and yellow flower, which grows on a tree), Yellow Trillium (not fully blooming, spiky yellow petals jutting out of speckled 3 leaves), Foamflower (spiky stalks of white flowers), Dog Hobble (white and like bunches of grapes)  and Witch Hobble (showy but sterile large white flowers surrounding clumps of small white flowers).

The final tally, yikes, 3418.3 miles! I drove in to the driveway in VT, took this picture, jumped out of the car, and went for a run.

 

 


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One thought on “A New Perspective on West to East

  1. Great adventure you two! Hilarious stories and beautiful country. Loved the Smokies trails and Steve (Dad) still being a forester best of all! Peg Polichio

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