I planned to go on a Carolina Mountain Club (CMC) hike. It was going to be a short walk on the Appalachian Trail from Sams Gap going south. I drove directly to the trailhead. Through a comedy of errors, and it was a comedy, there was no one at the trailhead, just one other (empty) car with a NC Smokies license tag. After waiting a while, I decided to do the hike by myself.
Now, I’m not too crazy about hiking by myself in the winter, though I’m fine with it the other seasons. As soon as I got on the trail, I saw snowshoe footprints. I’m not much of a tracker, not like Crocodile Dundee, so I couldn’t figure out how fresh the tracks were. Were there one or more hikers on the trail?
But walking in someone else’s snowshoe prints is so great. It’s easy because they’ve done all the work but you can still enjoy the snow. Blue sky, frost on white pine needles and quiet, white all around. It’s easy to be a solo adventurer under these conditions. I wondered who walked ahead of me. Would I meet them? And whose car was in the parking lot? They could have gone north, the other way, or be on a multi-day backpack.
I thought about the Smokies license plate again and realized that the automobile car owner is probably a trustworthy person.
Having a Smokies plate means that the owner is a stable member of the community. You don’t get a specialty plate on the fly. You have to fill out a form at least the first time and pay a little extra
It means that the car owner has ties to their area. And it doesn’t matter if they live in Asheville or clear across the state in New Bern. The license plate is statewide and Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a national park.
A specialty plate as a character reference? And all this for $30. Can you beat this bargain? Why haven’t automobile insurance companies thought of this? What if they gave a small reduction in their fees if you had a specialty license plate supporting a nonprofit organization? Maybe not the first year that you get the plate, but the subsequent years. Hey, State Farm, think about it.
After a couple of miles of snow heaven, I found the owner of the car and snowshoes along with his hiking partner. It turned out to be a CMC member, after all. He would laugh if I thought of him as trustworthy but he is.
As an added bonus, on the way back, we met an A.T. southbound thru-hiker from Indiana–Huckleberry Finch. He was slackpacking today and heading back to Irwin, TN. He has a lot to walk before he gets to Springer Mountain, including the Smokies.
I hope he comes back to the area in better weather.