I love hiking and I love graveyards, and when the two serendipitously collide, all is right in my little world. So I was tremendously excited to tackle a very steep hill on our recent Smoky Mountain walk, and to be rewarded at the summit by an old family graveyard.
One can hardly imagine a more beautiful place to be laid to rest, or a more challenging one for those in charge of the burying. The most recent grave here dates from 1990, and it's hard to imagine how a heavy modern coffin could make the trip up the hill.
The earliest burial I saw was from 1877. There were many stones that couldn't be read, and probably some that were never written on at all.
Of course there were babies. There are always babies.
There's a little trail at the back of the cemetery that doesn't go anywhere anymore, but the picture I took looking back through the leaves is my favorite:
Neither I nor most of the other folks who hike through the Smokies know the stories of those who gave up their homes so that the land they loved would be forever preserved. But at least the presence of this graveyard and others like it lets us know they were there, and that we should appreciate their sacrifice.