N 35.9184855, W 81.8647179

I could be wrong, but it felt like there was no one around for many, many miles. Just me and my dog. It always feels desolate around the Gorge. Hiking in the rain with a 200 pound dog. Me soaked to the bone and trudging on, carrying forty pounds of gear on my back, Wiley gleefully running ahead, periodically looking back to make sure I haven't gotten myself lost in the wilderness. Out of sight now was the main road where I'd left my truck.

The heavily wooded deciduous mountain forest opened into a grassy meadow. Granite protruded in bald little patches. This was the top of the ridge. A faintly visible path led on through the grass, perhaps man made, but more likely traveled by game. We followed.

Through two almost distinct meadows and back into the woods, uphill yet again, the not-quite-path led us. Another quarter mile perhaps, and then there we were. I'd found that perfect camping spot that Dad had told me about. It was more beautiful than he could have put into words, even in his eloquence.

I should never do it justice to say that it was a fairy tale meadow situated atop a mountain. Waving grass encircled a small stand of oak trees. In this stand, the earth was soft and there was much moss and mushroom. The sky was dark with clouds and a strange greenish light was cast over the bald mountain top. I felt like I was in a Tim Burton movie. Beyond this little oasis of woodland life, alone and almost desperate in the high grass, there stood a lone dead tree. A giant oak it had been in its former life, now a giant dead mass. But it clung to its magnificence with two jagged arms that were once limbs. The tree almost had a face.

Wiley lifted his leg and pissed on the majestic old oak.

True story. Go ahead and click over to the Google Map, follow the green arrow, and check out the aerial imagery if you don't believe me.

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