In my final tribute to the National Parks, we go to my favorite place to spend time east of the Mississippi. The Great Smoky Mountain National Park, I officially discovered this park when I was 4 years old. The only reason I know this is because we were traveling to Florida to see my Dad's grandparents & we had rented a pop-up trailer. My Dad got really sick, so we had to figure out how to set up trailer as we camped in the Smokies. So my mother two older sisters & me finally got the trailer set-up & we ended up enjoying our stay in Florida. Do I truly remember the Smokies,no not really but they do have film of us going up the Sky Lift in Gatlinburg, TN.
I returned to the Smokies on my own trip to Florida when I was 25. I traveled there several times between then & when I met Heidi. Once I met Heidi the Smokies became the place we always loved to go together. It was the first place Heidi & I "ran away" to when we first started going out & we have traveled back there at least a couple times a year since. It was 1997 when we first drove down to the beauty of the Smokies.
So why do I love the Smokies so much? It's a place to escape & reconnect with nature that's within a reasonable drive. We can get down to Gatlinburg from Indianapolis within 5.5 - 6 hours so it's ideal for a long weekend. Secondly, we've discovered a wonderful place to rent Mountain Chalet's from Chalet Village these Chalet's are amazing & keep us close enough to do things in Gatlinburg & the National Park but a world away from all the busyness of Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge. Most of these Chalets are on a mountain above Gatlinburg, the views can be incredible up there & it's very quiet instead of all the noise of the city.
Finally, it's the beauty of the Park; the mountains are lush & green in contrast to the peaks in the Grand Tetons. The park is easy to hike, there are many "quiet walkways" that allow you to get out of your car & enjoy the park & there are many wonderful hiking trails. We have enjoyed hiking & seeing all the beauty of this park as well as enjoying all the wildlife, including Black Bear, Deer & many kinds of birds.
To explore this park I suggest starting your visit at the Sugarlands Visitors Center (It's the closest to Gatlinburg) then head off to Clingmans Dome for a short hike to a wonderful ranger tower where the views are incredible. On your way to Clingmans Dome stop at Mortons overlook a beautiful vista on the side of the road. After traveling to these places I would suggest heading back towards Sugarlands & taking Little River Road towards Cades Cove. On the way to Cades Cove stop at Laurel Falls. Laurel Falls is a short hike to a beautiful waterfall. I would encourage everyone to see these falls as the trails are all improved & not hard to walk the 1.3 miles to the falls & enjoy his view (especially in the spring as the falls are full of water). Continue to Cades Cove a beautiful area that includes a motor route to drive through the countryside. Cades Cove is the best place in the park to see wildlife on a regular basis. The loop can get very busy so go early & be prepared for a couple of hours to complete the loop.
For me the Smokies is like a second home. I can be stressed in my life & drive 6 hours to place of quiet that reaches into my soul. I would go more often if I could, I feel the true connection to the earth whenever go there. The beauty of the mountains the glory of the waterfalls & the wonder of the wildlife call me back often & I am forever grateful to have this wondrous place so close to my home. I believe in the ads for Gatlinburg they point out that they are within a days drive of 60% or 70% of the population of our great country.
Take time to explore the beauty of the National Parks rediscover who you are through this great tribute to the natural world. As John Muir said "I'm going out to go within."
Thanks for letting me share my inspiration with you. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend! Go Colts!!!
Quote of the day: "Amongst the fog & the clouds lives a special place in my heart. No matter where I go in my life, I know I can always return to the Smokies, even if it's just in my mind!"
P.S. The picture is one of the many I've taken in the Smokies & the picture on my blog is also a picture I took from the Smokies