In addition to visiting the Mill Mountain Star, driving around Roanoke and having a small dinner party, she, Jared and I hiked what I later learned is one of the most photographed spots on the Appalachian Trail.
Otherwise known as McAfee Knob.
Items of note:
- This was my first time hiking in the Appalachians.
- This was my first time hiking on the Appalachian Trail.
- This was my first time hiking east of the Mississippi, period.
- It was foggy. Very foggy.
That last item is noteworthy for a few reasons. First, it is important for you to know that I used to associate fog with axe murderers. Having grown up in the valley-less Houston, I first encountered fog a few years ago during a nighttime drive on a two-lane Tennessee road that wound itself down and through a valley. And it was scary. I was convinced that, at any moment, the fog would fade away to reveal an axe-wielding maniac waiting to assault our oncoming vehicle.
Second, it is important for you to know that I have since dismissed my association of axe murderers with the natural occurrence of fog.
Third, I have discovered that fog is really a beautiful thing, especially when woods and mountains are involved. Spending more than a few consecutive summers in the woods and mountains — and photographing them — has made me acutely aware of how difficult it can be to make a good, wide picture of a landscape. All the leaves and foliage and rocks and dirt can add up toward a very busy photograph. But fog acts almost as a natural buffer against all that business.
Anyway. We did make it to the knob in good time and, as I expected, we couldn’t see anything. Katelyn reassured me that on a clear day, it’s a spectacular view. I believe her. That said, at the time, I didn’t have much of a choice — the entire area was one big softbox and white backdrop, combined.
On the way down, I thought about all the trails I’ve hiked. As I said before, this was my first time hiking east of the Mississippi, and it certainly was quite different from anything I’ve done in the southwest. The foliage, climate and terrain were unlike anything I’d experienced before, but that’s not at all a bad thing.
This might just be me, but I get the sense that the mountains and landscapes out west are more dramatic, more rugged, more sculpted, more brilliant. But the mountains and landscapes in the east are more subtle in their beauty. I’ll always love the west and the Rocky Mountains, but the Appalachians ain’t half-bad either.
Especially when there’s fog.