Thursday, April 15, 2010


click on photos to enlarge them

below are views from the Cherohala Sky Way

It is Thursday April 15, 2010 and it's time to break out the motorcycle for a run through the mountains.  I want to investigate the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest.  I have not been there since moving to Tennessee.  9:00 AM this morning found me at the Suzuki dealership having a new front tire installed.  The tire was slick with no tread.  It would wear through in another two hundred miles.  I don't usually allow a tire to reach this deplorable condition but, money has been tight this past winter.  It was easier to find hens teeth than it was the money for a new tire.

The day is gorgeous.  As I mentioned;  the winter has been a long one and the bike has rested patiently in the shed until only recently.  I wanted to savor this ride.
 I rode onto the Cherohala Skyway at a slow speed.  It felt great to be on two wheels again.  After a mile I rolled the throttle to 50 miles per hour.  Ah;  The warm air wafted past my face and the bike moved effortlessly forward.  The familiar curves and sweepers brought my mind and eyes to the business at hand.  Focus and attention;  these are the qualities that are brought to the forefront of ones mind when riding motorcycles.  This is really what is meant by the statement; "Motorcycles clear the cob webs out."  What that really means is that the act of driving a motorcycle requires total focus.  All the rest of the nonsensical problems are pushed out.  The experience felt grand!  I wanted to let the big motorcycle find it's own legs.  The throttle was opened and I leaned forward and lower over the gas tank.  At 70 miles per hour the bike was laughing at the road.  I held it there for ten minutes until my exhilaration calmed down.  70 MPH provided no serious concerns.  This is a great handling motorcycle and could surely, and has, handle another 20 miles per hour plus.  But, not today.  I wanted to simply enjoy the mountains and the sun.  The speed was reduced to 55 miles per hour and held there.  I was relaxed.  We were heading for the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest which is a short distance from the Cherohala Sky Way on the North Carolina side of things.
The Cherohala is one of the greatest roads on the planet but, I was using it today as access to the Joyce Kilmer Forest.  A small road leads to the memorial forest with several pull offs and eventually to a parking area deep within the forest.  One sees rich, vibrant greens in all directions.  It is a quiet place.  Even the tourists talk with lowered voices.  There is a sense of reverence in this place.  It commands respect from visitors.  I locked the bike and entered one of several trails that leads around the mountain side.  I wanted a flavor for the place today.  I was not prepared for an exploratory march into the wilderness.
Never have I seen such a well maintained trail.  Wooden or stone steps are placed on even the most gentle inclines.  It is obvious that the trail system is designed for even the most challenged hikers.
I am amazed at the color green that surrounds this trail.  It is more vibrant and rich than any green I have seen in other forests this time of year.
I was staring at the trail in front of my feet as I walked.  Then I stopped and took a deep breath.  My head turned to the right for a look at the forest.  There before me were gigantic trees.  Monster trees! I drank them in.  No camera could capture their bearing.  These were only supposed to be the small oaks and pines.  There were trees twenty and thirty feet around a couple miles from here.  
They were enormous!  I've never seen trees this large accept the redwoods of California.  I went a bit farther and sat down beside a tree whose visible roots were the diameter of my body trunk.
These were monarchs.  They were tree Gods.   Look at the size of the root below.
I can understand why Joyce Kilmer was enamored by these great trees.  He had an entire forest of them in his day.  Actually, the entire United States must have been covered by trees like these.  They were natural then.  They had no enemy accept lightning and fire.  Then we came along.  I won't go there.  There is a prehistoric feel to this place.

Mr. Kilmer;  you have a marvelous legacy.  This forest and it's children indeed are honored by your poem and, your poem is honored by their grand countenance.
This was a good place to write.  Stories could be spun here but, I just wanted to enjoy the shade and the feeling of privacy in this place.  Joyce Kilmer is one of those fellows I would travel across the continent to talk to, if only for an hour.  I can only imagine the experience.  I will look up his biography.  It is worth my effort.  Below is an interesting story of how Joyce Kilmer's life was ended.  The ecological world sustained an tragic blow at his departing.  Thank heaven his legacy lives on in his beloved trees.
My visit to this sacred place was moving and will prove to be long remembered.  I will return and hike it thoroughly.  
 The above by G. Loucks.  Poet and don't know it.

I reluctantly left Joyce Kilmer Forest and ventured across the narrow mountain road that joins the Cherohala with route 129.  State route 129 has incurred rock slides and was closed into Tennessee.  This meant I had to drive through the Great Smoky Mountain Park to get back home.  It was a long, long way but, I loved it.  The route took me through the Cherokee Indian Reservation and past the entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway, my favorite corridor home.  I would be riding that road to Pennsylvania soon for a visit.  The scenery through the park was exquisite.  A few pictures are provided below.

I'll close this entry with a simple picture.  Tomorrow's another day and something new will present itself for me to write about.  It may be eagles.