In English class, my professor asked what we did not want to talk about in our upcoming opinion papers.
A girl flung her hand into the air and responded, "Like the government, it's totes too confusing and I will be on the struggle bus." Her friend's head jolted up from the drool on her desk, and a tiny light bulb went off inside her as she asked, "Like is the government shut down? What does that mean for me?"
The guy up front startled the class with his response, as up to this point we had yet to hear his voice. "It means we can't go hiking." I had to laugh because, although that's not all it means, he had a point.
If you are anything like me, this recent government shut down has destroyed your upcoming hiking plans. My friends and I like to escape to the Smoky Mountains at least once a month, and this Sunday was on our schedule. This is the best time to go because fall is approaching, which means that the uniform green leaves are changed to a near-blinding array of vibrant fall colors.
I enjoy driving through the Smoky Mountains where my friends and I blast Fleet Foxes in the car with the windows down and our hands dangling out. On a typical Sunday we will enter the trails with a small bag of water and John Muir's child-like sense of wonder. My personal favorite trails to hike are Mount Le Conte and The Chimney Tops. Each one is unique, difficult and completely worth getting to the top to see the breath-taking overlook.
Mount Le Conte is the highest mountain in Tennessee with a height of 6,594 feet. It takes about eight hours to hike if you do it in one trip; you can spend the night near the top if you reserve a spot in the lodge ahead of time.
Mount Le Conte is not just a hike to the top; there is a wide range of scenery on the way. For example, about 2.2 miles into the hike you will find Alum Cave, which is really a concaved bluff. In the warmer seasons water drips from the top of it and in the cooler months it freezes to large icicles.
The Chimney Tops is always my first choice because I enjoy rock climbing to the top. It's a bit shorter of a hike than Mount Le Conte, but it still has an incredible view. The top of The Chimney's is not only rewarding because of the climb up but also thrilling because one slip too close to the edge could be fatal. That's why I wouldn't recommend climbing it in the winter. There is a trail to the top instead of taking the climb but that's for sissies.
Sadly, if I were to drive up to the Smoky Mountains this weekend a park ranger would kindly ask me to leave until further notice. That's not as bad as the millions of people that travel from all over the world to see the Smoky Mountain leaves change color.
October is the park's second busiest season and with the park being closed they are estimated to lose millions in tourism revenue. According to WBIR, Blount County officials are working hard to reopen the park on their own by using Blount County Police officers to maintain the park until federal Park Rangers can return.
If Blount County can pull it off or if the government reopens, then you will find me next Sunday hiking The Chimney Tops and posting pictures on Instagram of the newly changed leaves, foreshadowing the cold winter ahead of us.
Kaila Curry is a freshman in English. She can be reached at email@example.com.