A few weeks ago, my wife and I had the pleasure of visiting the smoky mountains. This is the first time we’ve visited during this time of year and considering the fires that took place last year, we were curious as to how much damage was still around.
As it turns out, there are plenty of scars from Pigeon Forge through Gatlinburg all the way to Chimney Tops where one of the initial fires started. Chimney tops picnic area is still closed to the public. Forest fires are a peculiar thing. Certain trees were burned more than others while a few feet away, brush and trees were untouched.
There are a row of hotels in Gatlinburg that were burned down with their stone chimneys the only thing remaining. The lift chairs that ride up the mountain in downtown Gatlinburg have been replaced with new poles, wires, and chairs. There’s also a new chair lift near the entrance of the city.
Both Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg were lit up for the holidays. It was mild weather for the most part. It began to snow on the day we left and although we didn’t get to see the mountains covered in snow, just seeing it snow in the mountains was enough for us.
As usual, we visited Cades Cove which always seems to take forever to get to as the road follows a curvy river through the valley. Here, we saw turkeys, elk, a large buck that was sunbathing, and a bear. Pretty much everything you’d want to see wildlife wise was in Cades Cove.
Overall, visiting the mountains is exactly what my wife and I needed. Our next smoky mountain milestone is visiting the area during the peak of Fall foliage. But getting the timing right is tricky and it’s also the most expensive time of the year. If you’ve never visited Smoky Mountain National Park, I highly encourage you to do so at least once in your life. Check out the gallery below which includes 89 photos from our trip.
The mountains are calling and I must go – John Muir