The Fiery Gizzard

     Last Friday, I went on a hiking trip to the South Cumberland Recreation Area. The goal was to capture some of the fall foliage before it was gone and to get a little exercise. My friend Barry had been talking about how beautiful the pictures he had seen of the area were, so we set a date and headed out with another friend of ours.

     The trail we hiked started at the north end of the Fiery Gizzard, up to Raven Point, then looped back along the plateau to where we began. We set off from the trailhead and the grandeur of this place is evident right from the beginning. The descent into the gorge starts immediately. It was a chilly morning and the temperature dropped quickly the further down we went. It was a good motivator to get the blood flowing and make some headway. 

     There was just so much to take in. There is a stream running along side most of the trail. It was mostly a trickle due to the dry weather we’ve had, but the waterline on the rocks showed at some points it would be about twenty feet across at times. The trees are thick, with much of the trail being covered by a web of roots that are hard as rock. 

     And, of course, there’s the rocks. Everywhere.

     Huge rockslides are everywhere in the Fiery Gizzard trail. I’m guessing that’s where the name came from. The Devil’s gall bladder might have been more appropriate. It’s an amazing sight to behold. The landscape is just striped with them. These aren’t Disney rocks all carefully and securely placed, many of them move when you step on them. If you’re thinking of going, make sure you’ve got some good boots. Wearing tennis shoes is asking for an ankle injury, and that’s not good in a place where no vehicles can get to you. 

     It is a completely different world down there. The hike was rough, the scenery was incredible, and I was reminded again how small I am in the universe. There is just something remarkably humbling about being immersed in nature like that. I spent a lot of the day thinking about when I was younger and got out into nature more often, and the people I went there with. Some of them I haven’t seen in a very long time and some of them are just gone. 

     The still of the forest brings back lots of memories. There’s no click or buzz or hum to  distract the mind from opening up places that have gone unnoticed amongst the noise. Places that are always there and always will be. The purity of their makeup doesn’t allow them to compete for attention. Instead, the environment must be just right, and I must be quiet and ready for them to return. Like morning light filtering through the trees, they slowly grow brighter, and the path I need to be on is clearer.



  1. Barry October 28, 2010 at 7:32 pm #

    This photo is pure genius! It's hyponotic as it beckons to another world. Really dig the way you can tell the story with words and photons!

  2. Gary Voland October 30, 2010 at 12:22 am #

    Thanks for the great compliment, Barry!

  3. Anonymous October 30, 2010 at 1:43 am #

    You have a gift many of us wish we had. The gift to see the beauty of things around you and the ability to write to inspire the viewer and the reader. Keep it up! Glad your my son, I'm proud of you. Dad

  4. Gary Voland October 31, 2010 at 3:59 pm #

    Wow. Thank you. Proud to be your son, pop.

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