y love for the Smoky Mountains is recent. A work-related
trip for Innovative Health Magazine in 2016
found me barefoot, tears streaming down my face,
meditating at an elevation of 6,644 feet, the highest
point in the Smokies, known as Clingman’s Dome.
furious swarm. The Cherokee
tribe finds the body of the young
man not long after the storm
passes. There are no bear tracks.
Legend has it that you can still
see the morning mist rise from
the magic lake when standing at
the top of Clingman’s Dome.
I have come to know a few
things for certain in this life,
one of them being we are
connected to all that is living.
I’m certain that on that first trip
up that towering mountain, feet
buried deep in the soil, hands
like clouds at my side, I found
my “happy place” because I
was pure of heart. I was able to
see the good that awaited me,
because I was connected to all
of the blessings surrounding me.
I will be back in the thick of
these emerging, alpine peaks
this coming spring. I will be
one on one with all the leafy
vegetation and roam as one of
the wild things. I will trek the
74 miles of the Appalachian
Trail through the Great Smoky
Mountains over a seven-day
period. There will be more tales
to tell and more “happy places”
to speak of.
Until then, don’t worry about
getting your feet dirty.
are beginning to
find out that going
to the mountains
is going home;
that wildness is a
necessity; and that
are useful not
only as fountains
of timber and
but as fountains
Something wonderful happened
in those barefoot moments as
my toes aggressively dug into
the dirt. I finally knew what it
meant to have a “happy place.”
You know, the place people tell
you to go to when encouraged
to visualize where you are at
your heightened rest. I have
returned several times in the
last two years, and I get the
same feeling every time I drive
in view of those majestic, magic
mountains. Pure solace.
The name Smoky Mountains is
derived from the Cherokee word
which means “land of the blue
smoke.” They are a part of the
Appalachian Mountain Range.
My last visit to the mountains
took me on a long winding drive
through fields of wildflowers, elk
sightings, a white owl sighting,
and finally to the Cherokee
Indian Reservation. I crossed
the Tennessee border into the
western part of North Carolina.
Once there, I soaked in the en-ergy
that was thick with ancient
spirit. I spoke with the locals in
their restaurants and small shops
throughout the reservation and
was told of an old Cherokee
legend that reminds us how to
live with all life—Atagahi: The
According to Cherokee
tradition, deep within the Smoky
Mountains there is an enchanted
lake that humans cannot see.
Known as Atagahi, this magical
lake is an oasis for animals of
every kind. In the story, the
Enchanted Lake revealed itself
to a young Cherokee brave, pure
of heart, after he spent several
days fasting and meditating.
He proved to the lake and the
animals that he had no intention
of hunting. He then was
permitted to see the beautiful,
violet waters, and bountiful
wildlife drinking and feeding at
the crystal pool.
When his vision was over, the
young Cherokee marked the
location of the lake with a cairn.
Shortly after the magnificent
view of the pristine waters, a
hard winter fell upon the young
Cherokee, and brought him
to the point of starvation. Not
considering any other choice,
the young hunter returned to
the cairn marker he placed on
Atagahi. When he shot a mighty
black bear with his bow, the
creature fell into the pure lake,
and emerged unharmed.
The bear tells the young brave
that he has betrayed them, and
the Cherokee is attacked by a
~ John Muir,
Our National Parks