"Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?" - Anne Murray

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Great Smoky Mountains: Cades Cove

Cades Cove is the most popular area of this National Park and I have been excited about visiting it since before we got here.  It is simply an agricultural and residential valley that was saved from further development in 1934 when the Park was established. The Park has done a respectable job of honoring the stories of the people who settled this valley and were sadly forced to leave at that time.  Since then, millions upon millions of people have passed through their valley to appreciate its beauty and serenity. 

We began our visit by getting up before dawn to see the valley at sunrise, and before the crowds descended upon it.  It's about a half hour from where we are staying now.  It promised to be a clear day, but when we got to the Cove, it was completely fogged in.  About half way around the 11 mile scenic loop, the fog slowly began to lift.  The valley is a mix of fields and forests, with more open space than most of the Park.  Because of this, there is more opportunity to see wildlife - lots of deer mostly.

As in other places in the Park, homes and farm buildings are preserved in their original locations.

This is a traditional cantilever barn, a style imported from Europe, but used widely around here. This is one of the largest we've seen.

As the fog lifted, some lingered in the lower valleys.

This is a piece of an old unused road. At its population peak, the Cove had about 130 families living in it. So there must have been many roads networking between the homesteads, the mills, the fields and the churches. I think there are at least three church buildings preserved in the Cove. 

A wondrous moment...

We took the loop again, to see the first half that was foggy our first time around. The beginning of the loop is dominated by a wide open horse pasture, with maybe 50 horses of all kinds from the stables in the Cove.  Visitors can take guided rides through this part of the Park.

About half way through the loop, the Rich Mountain Road heads south toward Townsend, so we though we'd take it. It switched back and forth, up and then down the other side of Rich Mountain. 

"The bear went over the mountain...to see what he could see."

Well these two tiny guys spotted us as we headed down the other side of the mountain. We got a glimpse of mom crossing the road before the cubs scrambled fast up the tree. When they got about twenty feet up they paused for a moment, then at some signal from mom I guess, they just as quickly backed down and hid in the undergrowth below the road.  And I mean quick - like squirrels!  

We have learned that the bears in the Smoky Mts spend most of their time in the trees! Who knew? So now we look in the trees for the bears. Between Rick and me, we've seen three sets of cubs in trees, and in one case the mom was up there too, just sitting there with her legs hanging down and her three cubs safely up above her.  These little families are a perfect reminder of the universality of mothers' love.

Here's to Moms!

Wild geranium in the Smoky Mountains
Happy Mother's Day!

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