Cades Cove - during spring, this is covered with wildflowers.
The Cades Cove Loop is an "Auto Tour" with lots of stopping points for looks at historic structures. After all, the meadows only really exist because white settlers came to the area in the 1820's and 30's and chopped down all the trees. The area was once home to as many as 271 (white) families. (The native people, generally Cherokee, had lived in the area for centuries and I guess no one knows how many of them there were because it was not listed in my official "Self-Guided Auto Tour" booklet.)
Cades Cove is rumored to be a good place to see wildlife, including bears. More on that in a moment. First stop was a Baptist Church, established in 1827.
OK, OK, so I'm weird. I especially love the oldest tombstones. I like to see how old people were, who their family members were, what sort of epitaphs they may have. I like to look at the years, and try to imagine what life had been like for them. I mourn a bit for those whose tombstone inscriptions have faded.
This cemetery had a number of old and interesting stones, including one guy who was "murdered by North Carolina Rebels" and another with an arched stone. There were many whose lettering had washed away, and a number of infants and children.
It was also stinking hot! And no shade! So we continued past a homestead and two more churches without stopping. We did stop for a short hike to Abrams Falls, and I don't think I would have taken such a nice picture if I could see the screen:
I do, however, have a few pictures of the rocks next to the falls, and about 8 pictures of ground because I tried to photograph two beautiful butterflies that were opening and closing their wings. I missed for every shot. I did not even try to shoot a picture of the otter I saw later on.
The final historical stop is the Cable Grist Mill. According to my booklet, this would feature about 10 old structures which were moved from various park locations to simulate a typical homestead with a mill. One structure was to be a "Tennessee Cantilever Barn" and I was sort of surprised to see the use of a structural engineering term such as "cantilever" in the description. When we got to the barn, we saw this:
This. Is not a cantilever. An example of a cantilever is a diving board - something that freely overhangs on one end, with the other end fixed. I thought perhaps they had screwed up their terms.
But then we saw this one:
Anyway, we walked around the mill area a bit and then continued the drive. Unfortunately, there was a bit of a traffic jam. People were pulling off to the side to look at wildlife, but when the pull off areas filled up, they just parked themselves right there on the road. We were patient, thinking this must be the bear we hoped to see. So we get to the area, and we look, to find....
Yes, deer. Not reindeer, or elk, or any interesting species of deer either. These were the same freaking critters that eat the shrubbery in front of my house. The ones I practically dodge on the street on a daily basis. And looking at the license plates, it was clear that these people would be equally familiar with this "rodent with hooves". Very confusing.
We made our way around the deer-gawkers, and found the bear-gawkers - outside their cars, and into the woods about half a mile. According to a woman just outside our vehicle, people were looking at a mama bear and her two cubs.
This is EXACTLY what the park rangers advise us NOT to do. Not so much because the bear will maul you (though it could, if you get too close), but because the bear will get used to you, and then attempt to steal someone's "pickinic" basket, and then maul some other random jackass. And then it will be killed without a trial.
Sorry, I just get frustrated by the masses who seem to care for nothing but their own enjoyment, regardless of the circumstances of their actions.
We opted to leave the bear be, though I was sad not to see it. We saw only two bears on our trip - in both cases they were frantically crossing busy streets in Gatlinburg. Kind of like these deer things we have up here...