Springtime is one of my favorite seasons in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The animals are active and the trees are all dressed in bright yellow/green. It’s a fantastic time to experience the many things the park has to offer.
Beth and I spent the past two weeks up at our cabin on Hatcher Mountain and hosted several members of her family. Beth’s mom, Mae, made her second trip up there and we were so pleased to see her. Everyone had a super time but, it all came and went too quickly!
Our son, Lee Scheeler, was only able to spend a few days but, we tried to make the most of it. He and I decided to hike up to Alum Cave Bluffs. It’s just under 5 miles roundtrip but, there’s 1,125 feet of elevation to climb.
The trail starts simple enough as you cross several beautiful streams such as Walker Camp Prong and Alum Cave Creek. Large majestic old-growth trees line the way.
As we proceeded up the trail it became steeper and started to resemble scenes from Lord of the Rings.
Upon entering Arch Rock I was seriously looking around for Hobbits and Orcs. None could be seen 😉
The sun was at a bad angle as we walked by the view of Eye of the Needle but, I took a snapshot regardless. It’s one of the key landmarks along the way.
Finally, we reached our destination: Alum Cave Bluff. It’s not really a cave at all but rather a rock shelter. You can barely see Lee sitting near the lower left corner of this image,
Back in the 1800’s, minerals such as alum, epsom salt and saltpeter were mined here. During the Civil War the Confederate Army used the saltpeter from Alum Cave to produce gunpowder.
At the conclusion of our day, Lee and I thoroughly enjoyed our steaks on the grill and a relaxing soak in the hot tub back at the cabin. Ahhh!
Late April is the best time to see the wildflowers in the park. I’m not big into flowers and I don’t own a macro lens but, my sister-in-law, Barb Severance, convinced me that I needed to accompany her on a wildflower walk. We settled on the Greenbrier section of the park as our best choice and set out for Porter’s Creek Trail.
This little Purple Phacelia was just begging me to snap its picture. Meanwhile Barb is shooting flowers left and right while I’m just trying to get the hang of this flower photography thing.
Finally, I found this nice Yellow Trillium and was able to compose a reasonably good shot. Kewl!
Notice the shadow of the fern on the right leaf. Ooow. Now I’m getting cocky!
Meanwhile, I’m bent over in a contorted position trying to photograph some stupid flower when I hear a couple of guys behind me say “Hey, look at that big Chicken Snake!”. I wheel around and find this 4 foot Rat Snake about 5 feet from my feet. Yikes! Gotta get a picture of that! Why shoot flowers when you can shoot critters.
Rain was forecast for several days but, it never amounted to much. Regardless, my brother-in-law, Frank Severance, and I wanted to walk along Little River Trail beyond the Tremont Institute to shoot images of the cascades and waterfalls. He was kind enough to loan me his Big Stopper neutral density filter to try.
The Big Stopper takes away 10 stops of light so you can shoot really long exposures. It’s a bitch to use but, the results a quite interesting.
This image was my favorite of the bunch.
I finally decided that a variable neutral density filter would be better for me so I ordered one for the next trip.
Ok, now it’s time to tour Cades Cove and look for bears!
Frank met a really nice chap one day in the Cove, Rossano Giachino. He’s an Italian living in Switzerland that happened to be in the States for a business meeting and decided to visit the park. It turns out that he’s the CERN Control Center Manager for the Large Hadron Collider. When Frank told me about him my first question was “Did you ask him about the discovery of the Higgs Boson?” I was excited to meet Rossano to say the least! The discovery of the Higgs Boson is only the most important discovery in Physics over that past 50 years. Drs Peter Higgs and Francois Englert received no less than the Nobel Prize in 2013 for their work.
Well, I did get to meet Rossano and we had a nice conversation about Dr Higgs, his Boson and the Large Hadron Collider. Rossano was actually at the LHC when the Higgs Boson was found. Very cool!!! If I’m ever in Switzerland I’ve got to visit the LHC.
Rossano is also a wildlife photographer so he, Frank and I spent several days together shooting bears.
Nobody can resist the urge to see and photograph a cute baby bear.
It’s sleepy time in bearland.
Even this big male looks kinda cute when he’s snoozing.
It seems like we’re seeing Coyotes more and more often in the park. This one certainly looked healthy.
Ok, one last bear image before I close this blog post.
I love the way he’s peering around the tree and framed by the leaves.
The John Cable Mill in Cades Cove is always worthy of a little digital film.
Every visit to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is always special to me. We are truly blessed to have a cabin nearby so we can visit the park frequently throughout the year. The past two weeks, however, was a particularly special time. Good family, new friends and great fellowship. We had some laughs, ate good food and saw some amazing sights. I can’t wait to do it all again!