We’re heading into serious vacation blogging season. In less than a week I’ll be in the canyons of Utah, exploring the majestic geological formations created by millennia of erosion and movements in the earth’s crust creations of God [this assertion has been moderated by your friendly neighborhood creationist ID activist — we don’t ken to that pseudoscientific mumbo-jumbo here].

Anyway, this is a bit of a warning that, light as the posting has been the past few weeks, it’s due to get even a bit lighter, and when it appears, it’s more likely to include vacation photos than the serious, thoughtful fare you’ve come to expect from Word Munger.

That said, I took a nice little hike with my daughter this weekend in preparation for the larger ones to come. On Saturday, we drove up to Clingman’s Dome in the Great Smokey Mountain National Park. Unlike most hikes, this one begins in a gigantic, paved parking lot. There’s a paved trail up to the lookout tower, where chilly southerners are stunned into the realization that beachwear isn’t generally appropriate for an elevation of 6,400 feet, no matter what the weather’s like 5,000 feet below.

This was actually the one and only time we got lost: in the parking lot! We couldn’t find our trailhead: there were only two trails — the one leading up to the dome, and the other heading down to Forney Ridge. There was no “Siler’s Bald” trail, which was the one we were supposed to be taking. A quick consultation with our map revealed another way to get where we were going: head up the paved trail to Clingman’s Dome, then join the Appalachian Trail at the top. There is nothing more humiliating than being passed by mothers pushing strollers as you struggle up a steep albeit paved path hauling your 40-pound backpack.

We were relieved to finally get off the pavement and onto the trail, even though it was one of the muddiest I’ve ever hiked:

It was foggy and drizzly all day. Here’s about the closest thing to a “view” we got for the entire trip:

It wasn’t exactly what the Great Smokeys were supposed to look like (see here for what I was hoping for), but it was beautiful in its own haunting way:

We arrived at our shelter as the drizzle began to increase to the torrential downpour that would be with us all night. It was the first time I’d ever stayed in one of these park shelters, which wasn’t much to look at, but did offer a lot more protection from the rain than our tent would have. The area in front of the shelter you see here was one giant puddle by morning:

And that was our trip to the Smokeys! It was a great trip, but still a relief to get back to our car, to mud-free shoes, and a giant hot fudge sundae at the bottom of the mountains in the town of Cherokee.

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