Spring rhododendron flowers blooming under a sunset sky along the Appalachian Trail near Roan Mountain in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina / Eastern Tennessee. Every once in a while you just get lucky and happen on a great scene, but more often than not opportunities are the result of countless hours of planning, traveling, studying weather maps, hiking long distances carrying heavy equipment, and waiting hours at a time all for that special moment when the conditions you'd been hoping for appear in front of you. As a full time landscape photographer, I've often heard over the years that I have a knack for finding unique conditions, a sixth sense for reading weather systems, and more than anything else, luck. The truth is far less romantic however, and I've always found that the harder I work, the luckier I get. This image is certainly a good example of that. The Roan Mountain Highlands is a place of incredible natural beauty, and I've been chasing a great spring sunset over the scenic mountains and blooming rhododendron flowers in this area for a few years now, so I was thrilled when some of the pieces of the scene I've had in my mind's eye all this time finally fell into place this spring. It didn't come without some cost though, both monetarily and personally, and I've barely been able to walk since. I spent a total of 7 days at this epic location this year, hiking daily with a heavy backpack loaded with gear on a freshly sprained ankle and a partially torn achilles tendon. It was a week of difficult weather conditions including high winds, cold temperatures, heavy rains, thick fog, and a rather poor bloom compared to previous years. As I stood in the pouring rain, I almost packed it in and left half way through the 7th day, but something told me to tough it out and try just once more. I hiked to this location 3 times that Friday evening, turning back twice as lightning storms threatened in the near distance. Things started looking up on the 3rd trip over the mountain just before sunset though, and as I approached the final ascent up to Jane Bald, I was completely swallowed by thick fog and couldn't see a thing. But just as I started thinking it would be another year before I got another chance at this scene, something wonderful happened. The fog broke just as the sun neared the horizon, and I was finally treated to the show I'd been waiting all week to see. While this image might not have the full bloom and stunning sunset conditions as the one I had in my mind's eye, it still tastes pretty sweet to me! Hope you enjoy it!