Saturday, November 24, 2018

a hike, again, up Bullhead (the bison bull)


for two years, the trail up Bullhead has been closed,

two years ago, Thanksgiving, we hiked to Alum Cave Bluffs,
and looked across the valley of Walker Prong
to where the Chimneys smoldered with smoke,
only a minor interesting annoyance to us,
for the Smokies get enough rain to be able, usually, to laugh at fire,

a week later, the woods burned when blowtorch winds
spread devastating fire across tinder-dry woods and ridges,
the fire so intense on parts of the mountain
the lichen and moss burned away to reveal
the blue-gray smooth sandstone beneath,

heath forests with low pines and other trees
burned back so that the still-healthy roots
have now erupted the bush bases into new growth,

just down the trail, or up the trail,
the fire did not touch the woods,

the Park Service has chainsawed countless blowdowns over the trail
to reclaim it for hiking,
they took the opportunity earth move, particularly along the high ridge,
and ready the trail for the longterm,
they made and deepened countless
water-diversion trenches along the whole path,

whenever the trail finds a drier ridge,
views open up into the spectacular,

the fire having cleared the foreground,
grasses in some places found again how to be luxuriant,

as did the tiny teaberry plants, making perfect red berries 
with the extravagance of newly-available sunlight,

this hike one of our favorites,
and we are thankful to our bodies and to our wills
that we again can haul ourselves, body and soul,
along this incredible trail and to the stone table,
right where the Cherokee envisioned a primal story
of adventure, of discovery, and wonder,
a mythic underpinning of the joy this adventure calls out in us.

by Henry H. Walker
November 23, ‘18

No comments: