"It is one of the blessings of wilderness life that it shows us how few things we need in order to be perfectly happy." ~Horace Kephart
While Minnesota will always be my home, pieces of my heart are always being left in new places. Places like Denmark, the Canadian Rockies, the Sleeping Bear Dunes of Michigan, and now the Great Smoky Mountains. Many people have been asking me if I’m excited to leave. I’m not. How could I be excited to leave such an incredible place, so awe-inspiring that after twelve weeks I can still hardly believe I’m here?
Admittedly, I am excited to be back in Minnesota and look at a lake for the first time this summer. But there is so much that I will miss about Tennessee. I’ll miss the cloud-covered mountain peaks, the iconic waterfalls, the historic valleys, the wildlife, and the people. I feel so lucky to have gotten to know this park as well as I know my own homeland. I’ve learned its history, geology, and biology; its stories, legends, traditions, and cultures; and I’ve experienced it through more divisions of the Park Service than I can count on both hands.
I’ve created webpages (check out my final AmeriCorps project), gotten over a hundred thousand views on some of my photos used on the official park facebook page, monitored fish populations in streams with the fisheries crew, taken photography and writing workshops with the park’s Artists-in-Residence, and stepped behind the desk at the visitor center to help families and travelers plan their adventures. And that was all just a part of my job!
My most recent adventure was one of my favorites. On Friday the 14th, my friends Maureen and Victoria flew all the way out here from Minnesota to spend my last weekend in the Smokies with me. And what an adventure it was! Hiking to a waterfall, sunsets, biking, an alpine slide, and an evening spent in my favorite place—the high elevations near Clingmans Dome. It was a weekend for the books! Thank you so much for visiting, you guys! I miss you already!
What I’ve learned this summer:
- How to communicate and make plans without depending on cell phones or the internet. Hooray for no service in the park!
- That the National Park Service is one of the most passionate organizations I have ever had the honor of working with.
- How to be creative (enough) when cooking for myself.
- How to air out the house after setting off the smoke detectors with burnt French toast.
- That adventures generally have a range of ALL KINDS of emotions.
- How to properly pack for hikes, day and overnight alike.
- The art of putting myself outside of my comfort zone, which—I usually realize—is when I always have the most fun.
Things I will miss about the Smokies:
- The Mountains. Period.
- The opportunity to go hiking on a new trail every weekend. And over 900 miles to choose from in the park!
- NO MOSQUITOES!! That’s right, Minnesota, I’m telling the truth.
- My fantastic group of interns, coworkers, and supervisors
- The incredibly unique Appalachian culture of bluegrass, moonshine, and mountain log cabins.
- Walking to work every morning, crossing stone bridges over rushing streams and seeing the outline of a mountain through the trees from my road.
- Living and working in a National Park—something I never thought I’d be able to do!
This summer has truly been a dream come true, and a year ago I certainly would not have thought myself capable of moving out here alone. So for now, it’s goodbye to the Great Smoky Mountains. I have no doubt that someday I will return. They’ve earned a place in my heart, and I have learned skills and life lessons that I will carry with me forever. A post can’t do the summer justice—not even a full blog can do that—but I hope that you’ve enjoyed following along. Keep an eye on my website (lindseytaylorphotography.smugmug.com) for more photography updates from Gustavus throughout the year.
On to the next chapter! Thanks for tuning in!