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Tennessee Road Trip Part Apat (4)

The grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never dried all at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls. ~ John Muir

Moon from Newfound Gap
I did something today that I have not done in many years, probably not since my late 20s . I left my hotel early in search of a sunrise. When camping in the Western US in my late 20s, this was a morning ritual – wake before the birds, crawl out of my sleeping bag, emerge from the tent into the brisk morning air, jump in the car, and search for a vantage point to view the rising sun and, hopefully, capture it’s essence on film. A sunrise can only be captured in essence. Its grandeur cannot be confined to film or, these days, digital media.

I was rushing Clingman’s Dome, the highest point in the Smokys, today for what I thought was an optimal vantage point and was about 15 minutes behind schedule. Those 15 minutes may seem short but they are the difference in seeing the sun peak above the horizon and missing the orange glow that signals the sun is awakening. At Newfound Gap, 20 miles from my destination, there were a host of people with cameras watching the horizon waiting for the sunrise. I hurriedly pulled over and joined them.

Sunrise from Newfound Gap

My current camera is a point and shoot with limited functionality compared to the SLR film cameras I used to use. Its inability to effectively frame and set exposure settings is frustrating. I decided at that moment that my next Christmas gift to myself will be a modern digital SLR. For now, I would have to make do with the camera in my hand.

The sun rose in splendor. The clouds on the horizon both bounded and reflected the orange glow. I snapped pic after pic in the hopes that one, just one, would do justice to the beauty before my eyes. I underexposed, overexposed, framed tight, framed wide, changed vantage points and, in total, shot about 30 photos of the rising sun. Many of them were pleasing to the eye and many of them were a disappointment but that’s the nature of photography. I was also able to capture one photo of the moon. The moon in the ‘smoke’ of the mountains took on an eerie feel.

After the sun rose, I jumped back into the car and went the rest of the way to Clingman’s Dome. The smoke was so thick there that visibility was minimal. Had I made it there for sunrise, I would have seen nothing. And I would have froze because the temperature and the fierce wind at the elevation were brutal.

Appalachian trail head at Newfound Gap

Other events today, included seeing a significant amount of red berry infested bear scat, two bear cubs high in a tree feasting on red berries, a snake which elicited a scream and a scramble up a slope, relaxing beside a couple of rock strewn streams where the rushing water created natural music, and a nice hike along 1.7 miles of the Appalachian trail which provided stunning views of the mountain range. I have long had a dream of hiking the entire 2,181 miles of the trail but don’t think I will ever turn that dream into reality.

The event that made the biggest impression on me today was being there when the sun, clothed in red splendor made its daily appearance.


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