Morning fog shrouds the mountains and Townsend. My hike for today is a short 3.3 miles up Curry Mountain Trail, so I take my time and allow the sun an opportunity to burn its way through. Little River is running quite a bit higher and faster thanks to two days of rain. At a pull-off on Little River Road, several kayakers are gearing up. Curry Mountain Trail begins at Little River Road. There is a small parking area that might hold three cars; however, it is positioned near a curve making motorized egress rather tricky. The alternative is to park at Metcalf Bottoms picnic area and walk about 100 yards or so up the road. This can also be tricky, but cutting through the picnic grounds gets you at least halfway there.
Curry Mountain rises from 1700 feet to 2800 feet over its course and follows old roads. The walking and climbing are relatively easy. There are two smaller mountains here connected by a gap – Curry He and Curry She. The story goes that the name Curry was corrupted from the Cherokee word “gura,” a plant used as a salad green. Gura-hi meant basically “the salad green is here.” To add gender equity to the corruption, the name Curry She was applied by settlers to the adjoining peak.
I would love to know what plant “gura” is. Several salad greens are listed in William H. Banks’ book, Plants of the Cherokee, including Evening Primrose, Poke, Solomon’s Seal, Rosy Twisted-stalk, Spiderwort, Cutleaf Coneflower, Swamp Saxifrage, and a few European plants in the Mustard family – Shepherd’s Purse, Hedge Mustard, and Watercress. My efforts to interpret the Cherokee names for these plants do not resemble gura in any way. Throughout the book, “gu” is used in a few other plant name pronunciations; but I cannot even find an “r” sound in the language. I’ll have to keep looking.
Sounds of traffic from the road and of the rushing river water follow along quite a way up the trail. When these noises finally fade, the deep silence is lovely to behold. The sun is finally out; the air is mild; I am in the Smokies, and all is right with the world. This totally makes up for yesterday!
The flora here is similar to most other trails in the park. Nothing in particular stands out aside from a bracket fungus that I believe is Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus cincinnatus). There is Zigzag Goldenrod and Tall Rattlesnake-root in flower (Prenanthes altissima). The latter species has been in bud on all the trails this trip, and I finally find one open. Buffalo Nut fruits adorn a few of the shrubs.
A dead pine snag has been ripped and torn in a complete circle around the trunk. The tree’s fibrous core is somewhat softened by decay, but it still takes a strong animal (bear?) to rip out large chunks like that. So is this just a mark or was the intent to find grubs? The sun shines warmly on the southern exposures emphasizing the brilliant foliage of blackgum and sourwood contrasted against the dark background of pines and Rosebay Rhododendron and the blue of the sky. Curtiss’ milkwort, another plant seen on every trail, is consistently found on these drier, rocky, exposed ridges.
The Curry/Meigs junction is a wide, peaceful spot, and Meigs Mountain Trail looks so inviting in both directions. I spend some quality time at the trail junction. A convenient downed tree trunk invites a leisurely lunch, quiet reflection on the surroundings, a little journal writing, and even the luxury of sketching a tiny but beautiful fly that crawls on my hand as I write. Enveloped in forest solitude, I can leave myself behind and simply serve as silent witness to the vitality and divinity of this world. Wind stirs the tree canopy and shakes loose collected beads of rain. The expected aural delight of rustling foliage and pattering water droplets is enhanced if not eclipsed by the unexpected visual of liquid silver dancing through beams of sunshine. Large drops, pulled by gravity, fall fast and true in long, slender lines. Others, colliding with leaves and branches, shatter into a fine spray of thousands of tiny droplets that linger and play in the spotlight. These small moments of grace are why I come here.
Moving from grace to the absurd…Just behind the trail sign is a tied bundle of four upholstered sofa pillows! No amount of quiet reflection can come up with a rational explanation for this bizarre scene. Needless to say they are soaking wet. Maybe when I return on my hike along Meigs Mountain, the rest of the sofa will have arrived!
Near my lunch spot, lots of Chestnut Oak acorns are beginning to sprout, sending out their radicles in search of moist earth. Just what we need — more Chestnut Oaks in the Smokies!! On the trip back down, I can hear acorns (Chestnut and Red) literally crashing through the trees with loud pings and pops before thudding on the ground. I suppose I’m lucky not to have been beaned by one of these guys. To drive that point home, just yards before I finish Curry Mountain, a Chestnut Oak acorn plummets to the ground with a loud “plunk” not 3 feet in front of me. Another second and our paths would have crossed in a most memorable way.