Thursday, December 25, 2008

Smoky Mountain Fall

All Images © 2008 Stuart Pearl

The clouds are beneath your feet. But you can easily change chairs for a different view. Every morning showcased a unique sunrise. Sometimes it was a mass of cotton candy filling the bowl in front of the deck.

Other mornings you could see blue gray peaks just breaking through the gauze. Certainly no two sunrises were alike, and each new canvas was special in its pallet of colors.

For years Jeanne and I had talked about visiting the Smoky Mountains. We finally made good on that plan in early October, shortly before my unexpected surgery. Planning such a trip starts out simple and Jeanne is an expert in the task.

We find a “green spot” on the map and then google for cabin rentals in the vicinity. Now the planning gets complex. She has tremendous patience as she reviews at least a hundred different venues. But she always makes excellent choices.
Switchback road to Sky Cove cabin

The particular rental was at 3500 feet. It was also at the end of a narrow, single lane, winding road with frequent hairpin turns. Second gear was recommended for the ascent…as well as the descent.

Our "Rental"

It’s not often I see the temperature gauge change in front of my eyes. But once we arrived at our “Sky Cove” cabin, the view was worth it.

This cabin was actually nicer than our home. We wanted our kids and their guys to join us so we rented something with multiple bedrooms. Unfortunately work and school didn’t give them the necessary free time.

Jeanne relaxing with a book after dinner

Our deck looked out upon the southern part of the Smoky Mountains. It gave great views while reading or enjoying dinner. There was a different sunrise or sunset to photograph everyday, and it was difficult to select the best images.

Livingroom and spiral staircase to the loft bedroom.

Our rental was just outside of Bryson, NC which is nearby the Cherokee Indian Reservation. Bryson is small and the main industry is now tourism.

"Downtown" Bryson, NC and Smoky Mtn. Scenic Railway

The Recession has hit this area hard. Evinrude Motor, numerous furniture manufacturers and other businesses have moved out over the past few years. If not for the gift shops, lodging rentals and new Indian Casino, income would be difficult for the area. Some still do survive on agriculture though.

One enjoyable day was spent riding the Smoky Mountain Scenic Railway.

It leaves Bryson on a 44 mile round trip traversing both the Tennessee and Nantahala Rivers, with stunning views of Lake Fontaine and their tributaries.

Approaching the Nantahala Gorge

We met a number of interesting folks from all over the United States. The train has conventional seating was well as an “open air car”.

This allows photographers an unobstructed view of the landscape.

Lake Fontaine with houseboats (below)

We also indulged our passion for hiking. Over the course of our five day Smoky stay we went on three hikes of varying difficulty. The easiest was the trip to Clingman’s Dome.

The walk to Clingman's Dome

On a clear day you can see a number of mountain tops across various states. Unfortunately fog hit the observation point the moment we arrived.

Jeanne at creek crossing on Alum Cave trail

Our most enjoyable trek was the hike up to Alum Cave Bluff. This was a 1,400 foot ascent over a one way distance of two miles.

Stu taking a break on Alum Cave hike

Anytime we do a hike of this duration and difficulty we pack lunch and plenty of water. At this time in our lives we’d quickly run out of energy without the additiona calories.

We stopped halfway up the trail at the “cave” and enjoyed our PB&J’s. Further up there is a permanent overnight camp with hot meals and showers, but that’s for hardcore backpackers. After chatting with some fellow hikers we began our 90 minute descent.

Jeanne and Stu at Alum Cave Bluff

The Smoky’s are really a beautiful place. Hopefully we can entice our extended family to join us the next time we return.

Sunset on southern range of the Smoky's

Like to see high resolution images of these views? Check out my Smoky Mountain Gallery on the web.


Mike said...

Very amazing adventure. I like this post..

aldrin james said...

Wow! It seems that you had a great vacation. The mountains are very breath taking and the cabins that you show are so beautiful. I really need to visit that place.

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