A Study of the South: First Impressions

First Days of Travel

As some of you may know by now, I'm at the moment on a 2 week journey in the Southern states of USA. North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. From mountains to ocean. I'll be spending these two weeks driving around, photographing both popular and less known locations and hopefully meeting new people. At the end of these two weeks, I hope to have captured a small amount of pictures that describes the Southern States, at least through a foreigners eyes. During these two weeks I will write blogs that I share with you, where I talk about my experiences from day to day. I was hoping to share one blog a day, but it's already been 3 days without sharing one. When driving, hiking and photographing up to 16-17 hours a day, it may be hard to find time to sit down and write. Since daily posts will be hard, I'm going to try to upload a post at least every 2-3 days. So check in daily to see for updates. I will most likely not share processed shots in these posts, but I will upload some Behind the Scenes photos for "y'all"!

Day 1

My first day of travel isn't that much to write about. I could write a lot about emotions entering this adventure, but I'll sum it down to one word. Excitement. I'm excited to bee traveling through beautiful cities and landscapes. I'm excited to meet new people. But I'm also excited about spending two weeks traveling by myself, not personally knowing anyone I will meet along the way and figuring out how I will handle situations I normally wouldn't be exposed to. 

Day 1 was mostly a pure travel day. I knew where I wanted to shoot sunrise on day two, so I decided to drive as close to that as possible, and sleep in the car. After 7 hours of driving I finally stopped my car along the Blue Ridge Highway. I decided to take a small hike, in hope that I would find a good view for sunset that was in a couple hours. The hike was not much more than a mile, and I found a pretty nice view. However the view wasn't exactly what I wanted, you couldn't really see how enormous the area is. I fired of some shots, while noticing fresh bear tracks and hearing sounds in the bushes, and I hiked back to the car. I drove around until I found a nice view, but no viewpoint was facing the sunset. Since the weather was grey and raining, I decided to stay at a overlook instead of trying for another hike - that I didn't know where would be. 

The sunset I missed!

The sunset I missed!

That was a huge mistake. I did get some nice light, and a tiny touch of colour in the sky. Behind me was a completely different story. In the direction I had been earlier, the sky was red. Not just red. RED. I have never seen such a bright sunset in my life, it literally hurt my eyes. There was no way I could find a spot, or composition, in that direction. So I stayed with a nice view, but without much light. 

The rest of the day is not that interesting. A couple hours of sleep in the front seat of my car, at a overlook in Blue Ridge Mountain, with rain pondering the chassis. Did I mention the back and neck pain?

Day 2

After spending most of the night switching from the backseats, to the front seats, and back again, it was finally time for sunrise. 

I had planned to shoot sunrise at the Linn Cove Viaduct, a beautiful bridge high in the Blue Ridge Mountain. I scrambled up to a small advantage point next to the rode, that gives a great view of the bridge. To my disappointment, all the clouds that had kept my up most night, where now in a hurry to leave. No clouds, a lot of wind, and a rather boring sunrise. At least the light hit the hills pretty nicely. 

Waiting for the sunrise to take off

Waiting for the sunrise to take off

After the failed sunrise, I headed straight towards some waterfalls. I had planned a total of 3 different waterfalls and hikes, before going towards my campground in Bryson City. Because of the harsh light, the two first waterfalls where impossible to get anything worth keeping. Luckily for my 3rd and last waterfall, the clouds started rolling in, giving me some opportunities to get shots!

Not much of a view from Clingmans Dome

Not much of a view from Clingmans Dome

To my surprise I did not meet one single person at the hikes. I had expected to meet some, as these are pretty popular paths. I guess being there early, on a Thursday and right before the high season is a good thing!

Sunset was nothing to speak about. Driving up to Clingmans Dome in Smoky Mountains I was greeted with thick fog, and at the top even snow. No view, no sunset, back to my tent and sleep.

Day 3

This morning I attempted to head back to Clingmans Dome, the highest point with a 360 degree view of Smoky Mountains. Well, now the road was closed due to ice and snow! Instead I was able to find a descent overlook further down, and had a descent sunrise. 

Mingo Falls, a hidden gem

Mingo Falls, a hidden gem

Further on I went straight to a a less popular, but beautiful waterfall called Mingo Falls. This is what I would call a hidden gem. It's a little bit hard to find, as theres just one tiny sign along the road which is easy to pass. It's a very short 5 minute walk up to the falls, climbing up over 160 steps. 

The rest of the day was spent chasing waterfalls around the Pisgah Forest. Even tho I couldn't get a good shot at all of them, theres not much I love more then waterfalls. The sound of rushing water gives peace to my soul! 

For sunset I decided to yet again go to Clingmans Dome, hoping that this time it would work out! Arriving the parking, my hopes were already low. Fog was everywhere and there was as usual no view at all. I hiked up to the top, just to look, and went straight back down. But instead of leaving, I decided to stay and keep my fingers crossed. 

It was more than an hour to sunset, and freezing cold temperatures with icy winds, so waiting was not really tempting. Luckily I met a Minnesotan couple that I spent the coming hour chatting with. Always lovely to meet new people with a common interest! 

Just as people started to leave, the ridges finally showed through the fog, and we got a small preview of what could be a great shot. Yes, I'm heading back there again tomorrow!

First Impressions

After 3 days of hiking, driving around and talking with strangers, I've definitely made myself some First Impressions of North Carolina. Since I'm staying in a small town close to the mountains, I am surrounded with what I would call proper rednecks. I've also learned that no truck is big enough. No matter how small you are, having a oversized pickup truck is mandatory!

People here are very nice once you get to talk to them. In the beginning I actually felt they were a little rude and not very welcoming, but that was until I started talking with them. Very friendly and helpful people, all of them amazed that I'm from Norway. 

Even tho I think it's a lot of poverty or low income in this area, the communities seems to stick together and take care of each other. I would say this is a perfect place to live if you want to get away from all the big city stress, relax and enjoy the beautiful nature!

So far, so good. Photography wise I've been of to a bumpy start, but now it's just going uphill!