Sounds like Mr. Abbey knew all about the Appalachian Trail, even though his
books were aimed more at environmental concerns in the western United States.
The description above fits the AT to a "T." In the next three
entries you'll see part of the dance between the mountains and the clouds.
The next photo essays will feature various aspects of the
rich, diverse environment along the Appalachian Trail. After some thought about how to organize all the
nature and landscape photos we took on the adventure run, I've decided to start
with the "macro" view (the sky = infinity) and work down to the "micro" view
(little jewels of nature, and close-ups).
These essays will generally focus more on photos than on text. I have a
better eye for design than knowledge of science and simply don't have time to research
all of these topics!
As a child I used to love watching cottony white clouds as they slowly
marched across a beautiful blue sky. Like millions of other children around the
globe, I'd see animals or people or other objects in the designs made by the
clouds, or just enjoy the random patterns they made.
Then for about four decades I was so focused on my education, family, and
career that I didn't do that nearly often enough.
Sure, I enjoyed the serenity of the outdoors when I ran trails and traveled
around the country to mountainous races. But it wasn't until I retired six years
ago that I really began watching the sky again for the sheer pleasure of it and
not just to determine what weather was approaching.
Appalachian Trail hikers become VERY aware of the sky and the clouds.
They appreciate the billowy puffs that create picture-perfect backdrops to
the mountains and valleys they trek. They admire the low-lying clouds that
blanket a valley down below, while mountain tops peek through and infinite blue
sky stretches into space. And they watch closely for gray or black clouds that
portend the weather systems that may bring rain, sleet, or snow.
I'm so glad I took the time to observe interesting clouds on my trek. By the
time I reached New England, I was stopping for longer periods to sit on
overlooks and summits to admire the sky and the views around me.
I wish I'd done that more in the southern states.
In this essay and the next I'll highlight some of the colorful blue sky/white cloud
photos I took. You've seen many of these before because they are some of my
favorite AT landscape photos. Nothing enhances a valley, field, farm, mountain,
river, or lake scene better than a bright blue sky and gorgeous white clouds.
MORE VIEWS FROM THE SOUTHERN BALDS
The AT followed the dirt road below for a little while near the NC/TN state
line, also on
- a great day for cloud pictures!
wispy cirrus and puffy cumulus clouds from the top of Snowbird Mountain, NC/TN,
From this vantage point, puffy clouds nearly
camouflaged the air traffic monitor left behind when the Bedford Air
Force Station closed on the summit of Apple Orchard Mountain in VA.
MORE SOUTHERN VALLEY VIEWS
Another cloudscape from Apple Orchard Mountain, VA,
Looking north toward the Smokies on
13 in North Carolina:
Cumulus puff-ball in North Carolina on
Picture-perfect day at Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, at the confluence of
the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers on
Clouds float like cotton above a farm in Tennessee on
29 . . .
. . . and above another farm in Pennsylvania on Day
As the Eastern seaboard becomes increasingly populated the atmosphere along the
entire Appalachian Mountain chain is getting more and more hazy. You can see the
haze in the photo below
from Max Patch in NC/TN on
I hate to say it, but the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North
Carolina/Tennessee and Shenandoah National Park in Virginia were two of the hazier
sections I ran. All four days in the Shennies were sunny but the valleys were nearly obscured by
the haze, as in the photo below on
from a ridge a little north of Big Meadows CG. The little cloud puffs are cute,
though - I was looking down on them.
Every state had hazy places when I passed through, not just the ones where the
Trail passes closer to civilization. Obviously there are atmospheric
changes from day to day, making some days more clear than others (after a rain,
for example, or when it's windy).
I was delighted
when I got perfect, crystal-clear days so I
could take some bright blue sky photos, such as the two below from Kittatinny Ridge in New Jersey on
I love the contrast of all the colors in the photo below from Bellvale Mountain
in New York on
Day 92 - the reddish puddingstone, green
plants, intense blue sky, and puffy white clouds:
BRIGHT SUMMER SKIES OVER NEW ENGLAND
One of my favorite scenes in southern New England is the one at
the very top of this page on the summit of Race Mountain in Massachusetts. There
were many other memorable views of intense blue skies in the days and weeks that
followed . . .
Puffy cumulus clouds make a pleasant backdrop to the Veterans'
War Memorial, above, on the summit of Mt. Greylock in Massachusetts on
Tranquil reflection of clouds in the pond water at Roaring Branch in
Day 105, below:
May your mountains rise into and above the clouds . . .
as in this photo of a mountain seen from Mt. Baker in Vermont (Day
In the next two essays, you'll see clouds that nearly engulfed
me as I ran and hiked on mountain ridges, and cloud blankets that lay hundreds
of feet below me - there's lots of cloud drama on the AT!