For the past few years, since maybe ’07 or ’08, I’ve visited the Smoky Mountains nearly every fall, and sometimes in spring and summer. I’ve said often “next time I should take the scenic route”, but this is my first time doing so.
Tuesday set the tone for the trip. While this is technically a work trip, I wanted it to feel as little like work as possible. Having just returned home from going coast to coast…
…in two countries, I was in no mood for a non-stop, dawn-to-dusk schedule.
I slept in until 8, had a leisurely breakfast, played with the cat and wandered the house house wondering what I was forgetting this time (my toothbrush). I left around 11 am, making good time around the beltway and down 66West before detouring from the main highways for Skyline Drive. Skyline Drive winds through Shenandoah National Park, providing amazing views of the fall-colored rolling mountains. It was hazy and much of the foliage was past peak, so I didnt stop for many photos, but it was a visual improvement over I-81 South, my usual fast route. I even took the time to watch one of the videos at the visitor center. I learned that all of this was man-made–all these trees lining the drive and covering many of these rolling hills were transplanted or planted here by the CCC in the 30’s when the road was built. Amazing. Biggest garden I’ve ever seen.
I hit the Loft Mountain campground for the night. In the morning I found a good spot to photograph the sunrise. After I’d been there for a few minutes I heard this sound like maybe someone running on blacktop. Curious, I looked around and saw that a large black bear had joined me. He stood about 250 feet away. The noise was his lips smacking together as he grazed. I moved a little further off and kept an eye on him, but he took no more notice of me and about twenty minutes later moved off deeper into the trees.
After a wonderful sunrise, I traveled to I-81 rather than taking the slower route of Blueridge Parkway. Maybe I’ll hit the Blueridge Parkway on my way home.
I met up with my good friends, Pam and Colleen, in the Cades Cove Campground in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. Thursday morning I photographed the cove, Friday I ventured up to Newfound Gap and Clingman’s Dome. Successful shooting all around. We’re down in Townsend for the next week and I hope to spend some time on the Foothills Parkway and perhaps wander on over to Cherokee for a day.
I should have wifi access for the rest of the week. I’ll try to post more updates- with photos!