It's the third week of June, my favorite time of year in the Smokies because it means azalea time at Gregory Bald.  This time I had the pleasure of sharing it with my dear Bonnie, her first ever visit to the beautiful mountain peak.  With the flowers peaking and the prospect of storms all week, we elected to give it a go and see whatever we could before the weather turned sour.  It paid off in the long run and in between heavy downpours I was able to fulfill the day's mission...asking Bonnie to marry me.  So next to a bright orange bush under the cover of an oak tree, I got down on one knee and asked her to be mine.  She said yes and their was much rejoicing.  Then wind.  Then rain.  Then lightning.  So we bolted to the woods and rode the river of a trail back down the mountain laughing and smiling the whole way.
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The famous Flame Azaleas were at their peak upon our arrival, but the oncoming storms were about to leave their mark.
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Bonnie crouches under an azalea bush to shield herself from the rain, scrambling to secure her belongings and add layers.
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Usually one of the first to drop their blooms, I was surprised at how well the white hybrids were doing this late in the bald's overall display.
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We were fortunate to be able to enjoy the wildflowers, I guess the views will have to wait til next year.
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The trek down the mountain saw us both get completely soaked from head to toe.  Our boots and socks were water logged, so we chucked them into the truck bed as soon as we finished.
 
With everything blooming on the early side this year, we decided to hit up Andrews Bald on a morning before returning to work.  It turned out to be a good choice since the rhododendron were already on their way out.
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When we arrived at Clingmans Dome we found ourselves above the clouds.
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Despite the dry conditions of the past two weeks, the Catawba Rhododendron that were protected by the woods were in peak bloom.
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The atmospheric conditions were stellar to say the least.
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One of the golden Flame Azaleas found near the bottom edge of the bald.
 
A demanding loop hike that saw me accumulate some new miles in the process of returning to a favorite destination near Cataloochee.
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Flame Azalea and Mountain Laurel were out in full force along the Blue Ridge Parkway making for a spectacular drive.
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Peering down the staircase inside the old Woody House.
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My first ever trip to the depths of Cataloochee.
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Watching a storm cell pass by a few miles away to the south from the comfort of Gooseberry Knob.
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Fields of gold atop Hemphill Bald.
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Several patches of Wild Columbine were still blooming strong along the trail back to Polls Gap.