Thursday, August 11, 2011

Cades Cove

Our last day in the Great Smoky National Park was Thursday, July 28.  We chose a driving loop which features views up at the mountains from the meadows, rather than views to valleys far below.  Alas many of my pictures are of things right next to the things I wanted pictures of, because the screen was destroyed during the previous day's exploits on "Chimney Tops" aka "Shale of Doom".  Digital cameras do not even feature viewfinders anymore, and there was no way to tell how far I was zoomed in, whether the flash was on, what mode I was in, or what, exactly, I was picturing.  However, taking "point and shoot" quite literally, one can still get a few good photos.

 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.

 The biggest appeal to me in stopping here was not the church itself, but the cemetery behind it.  I love cemeteries,  and after a PBS special which toured a bunch of them as scenic and serene parks, I am not afraid to admit it anymore.  Lots of people love cemeteries.  Really.  I am not weird.

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:

Tricky.  There were two barns.

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...


kt said...

The waterfall looks magical. I could sit there for hours just staring at tit. Maybe even take a nap to the soothing sound of the waterfall (and then get mugged by a bear thinking I was witholding food in my backpack). kt

NICKI said...

Funny, we actually did take little cat naps next to the falls.

Jessica said...

I too love cemeteries... totally not weird :)