21 March 2017

Winter to Spring

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On my last day in the Great Smoky Mountains, I woke up to cold and snow!  It prevented me from taking the high road over the top, so instead I spent another day in Cade's Cove.  So different on this day and I found that my eye sought out different things.  

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The herd of Whitetail Deer were much more subdued and focused on eating rather than on playing on this chilly morning.  

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Details of the trees stood out against the grey skies.  So lovely and graceful when silhouetted against a lighter sky. 

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The snow brought out the greens and golds of the fields and meadows.  

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Along the roadsides, the orange of the deeper soils was much more apparent.  

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The light dry leaves of the dogwood stood out even more like blossoms in the dim light.  

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Still beautiful, despite the snow and the cold.  Throughout the day, the snow gradually melted away, returning now and again in slight showers.  The added moisture brought the green of the new grass to life.  

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The grey mist through the trees made it easy to see why these mountains are named the Great Smoky Mountains.   The forest floor's layer of red leaves was more apparent with the damp. 

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On the rocky faces, fern leaves that hung dry and limp the day before were now perking up and the green intensifying with every drop of moisture.  

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The rock formations along the road are every bit as spectacular as those here in the west.  The mountains of the Smokies might be older and worn down with time, but they are mountains just the same!  

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I saw two groups of wild turkeys, this one made up of Toms and the other made up of Hens.  

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Seeing this coyote making his way across the field was a treat!  But that look in his eyes tells me he wasn't as happy to see me as I was to see him!  

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In one area, there was much yellow flagging and these signs alerting visitors to bear activity in the area.  The ranger said that there was a huge tree fall in the winter den area and so a mother bear had woken from hibernation early and was active with her cubs in this area, so they closed it off to protect her and the cubs as well as the visitors.  

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I must have driven past this stump a couple of times the day before and not "seen" it.  But with the cold, suddenly its top of frizzy hair caught my attention and made me smile! 

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The woodland roads still beautiful in the light snow.  

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The soft delicate needles of the Eastern Hemlock.  I really fell in love with these trees.  Just beautiful!  And they have the loveliest tiny cones on them! 

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There were a lot of these pines as well.  Southern White Pine, I believe, though I may be wrong.  One of the things I miss when I'm not able to drive my car from home, is having to leave behind all my nature guides!  

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Isn't this a magnificent tree?  Here in Colorado, there are so few hardwood trees ~ on the plains it's mostly cottonwood and some willow.  In the mountains it is Ponderosa Pine, Douglass Fir and Engelmann Spruce ~ all so different from the eastern woodlands.  Getting to see these beautiful trees here in their native setting is such a gift!  So beautiful!  

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Today I could see the buds forming on the Rhododendrons.  They should be spectacular in a month or two!  

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My last photo as I left the park for the last time.  A lovely winter stream canopied in Rhododendron.  

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The next morning I left Townsend before dark and made my way south back towards Atlanta and the airport.  I had hoped to go back via the road over the Great Smoky Mountains, but it was still closed due to the snow.  Instead I made my way across eastern Tennessee and into northern Georgia to Gibbs Gardens.  On my way north, I had seen signs on the highway advertising 2,000,000 daffodils!  

When I arrived, I was greeted by an enormous flock of Cedar Waxwings!  They are only seen rarely in Colorado and I've never seen them so closely as I was able to see these!  Gorgeous!  

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The entry was lovely, with huge underplanting of mostly yellow and some purple pansies.  

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It was a super chilly morning, only about 28 degrees when I arrived!  I was grateful for my winter jacket and gloves!  It didn't stop the forsythia from blooming though!  

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Normally at this time of year, this hillside would be filled with those millions of daffodil blossoms, but due to early unseasonably warm temperatures, the daffodils were nearly finished blooming.  It was still a lovely walk down the hill on broad grassy paths through the woods.  All around were blooming shrubs.  

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Pearly white spirea blooms.  They sparkled in the landscape! 

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Though most of the daffodils were done, there were still plenty to see!  

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I love these white ones with orange centers!  

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And this one with a pinkish cup.  My sister and I have both planted "pink" varieties throughout the years and been terribly disappointed.  What fun to see that here they actually are rather pink and not just an ugly shade of dirty yellow as they usually turn out for us.  

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At the bottom of the hill lies the full garden, complete with numerous ponds, many paths and loveliness everywhere one looked.  I had the gardens virtually to myself due to the cold.  But it warmed up enough to be a lovely walk.  

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I was finally able to get a good photo of the magenta samaras on the trees!  I found myself wondering if the color of the samara is an indication of the fall color of the leaves.  

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Everywhere were thick fat buds of leaves on the verge of bursting forth.  Nearly as beautiful as flowers in my humble opinion!  

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Along the streams were more plantings of daffodils and pansies. 

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A tori gate at the entrance to the Japanese style garden. 

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The colors in the woods here were magnificent!  

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The weeping willows in the Japanese garden were already cloaked with green!  So graceful above the ponds!

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I loved the assortment of Japanese stone lanterns throughout the garden.  Each pond had a different style.  How glorious will this pond be once the iris' start to bloom?  

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Just lovely!  It was a perfect quiet morning spent in a beautiful setting, before spending the end of the day in a noisy airport and packed plane ride home to Colorado!  

It truly was a lovely trip.  Far too short as usual!  One of these days, I'll sell my little home with it's too big yard and head off with an RV to spend time exploring the lovely places in the country!  How grand it will be to decide to stay in a place and watch the seasons change.  It's what I dream of anyway!  

20 March 2017

Visiting the Great Smoky Mountains

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After lunch on the last day of the workshop at the John C Campbell Folk School, I headed off across the Smoky Mountains to Townsend, Tennessee on the recommendation of several people I had met at the school.  They felt it was a great place to explore the park from.  On the way I passed by this lovely view of Stanteetlah Lake.  The snow of the night before had completely melted away leaving everything looking crisp and bright under a beautiful blue sky! 

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I loved the color on the trees and the hint of coming spring.  Rather than the green flush I had anticipated, I was surprised at the shades of magenta in the maple samaras (the double winged helicopter seeds) that caused the wooded hillsides to blush.  

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From a high point along the North Carolina/Tennessee border, there was a lovely view of the graduated blue shades of the mountains beyond.  The road beyond this point was curvy and one person described it to me a slalom course for cars.  They weren't far wrong and I was glad that I was driving as I think being a passenger in a car on that road might have made me bit car-sick!  I was so busy driving safely, that I had no opportunity to stop for a photo.  I understand that it is a favorite road with motorcyclists as well and I saw many sports cars and motorcycles out enjoying a Sunday afternoon drive on the road.  

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The next morning, I rose early and made my way into Great Smoky Mountain National Park.  What struck me was the brilliant flush of green along the creeks.  Newly born grass along with the yellower shades of dense moss.  Just lovely! 

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 Along the streams, lovely waterfalls of all shapes and sizes. 

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Heading toward Cades Cove, there is a lovely tunnel.  The morning damp made the rocks dark and allowed the green of moss and lichen to glow in the morning light.  

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A short walk along the stream showed small beauties that weren't visible when driving along the road.  The undergrowth was filled with these tiny white flowers rising on slender stalks above the leafy floor of the woods.  So beautiful!  

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Once into Cades Cove, there was abundant wildlife.  The highlight was a meadow filled with white tailed deer.  They were running and jumping and leaping over one another with such exuberance!  It wasn't just the yearlings, but the fully grown bucks and does as well!  It truly was the highlight of the day!  A fairy tale scene, which I had never before had the opportunity to see!  

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As I went further down the road, stopping to see the various cabins and churches along the way, I was walking up to one church just as this buck walked up towards it from a different side.  We stopped and watched one another for the longest time before he decided to turn and go a different direction!  

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As I made my way around the graveyard of the same church, I spied this doe carefully investigating the fence around the church.  Soon, she made her way down the hill to the buck.  

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As I walked up to this church, the sun rose perfectly behind the steeple to capture this photo!  Isn't it just what a church should be?  The place where the light of God descends upon his people so that they may carry it out to the rest of the world! 

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Cades Cove was beautiful with it's broad fields and meadows surrounded by the Appalachian mountains.  It's not hard to see why people settled here and also why this area was turned into a National Park.  I can't help but feel sorry for the people who were displaced from the park though.  How hard it would have been to leave this place.  But I am glad that it is now preserved for all to enjoy.  

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Throughout the park there were clumps of daffodils blooming.  At first I wondered if they were native to the area, but upon reflection, I believe they are the naturalized remnants of daffodils planted by the people who lived here in times past.  

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At the Cades Cove visitor center, there are a number of buildings including the Cable Mill.  

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Most of the water in the chute is diverted off, so the water wheel isn't turning.  How I would have loved to see it in action!

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Wandering through the old buildings was delightful.  I loved the play of light across the old wood walls and floors.  

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It was a simpler time, not necessarily easier, but perhaps fewer distractions.  I was fascinated with the construction of the buildings, such as this thin wall separating two rooms.  Only the thickness of a board.  Yet the rooms are sound and complete.  What would it have been like to live here?  

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Outside, a flowering quince in bloom.  Simply ethereal.  Such hope it brings that winter is over, spring is coming, and all will be right with the world.  

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Even the bark of trees was fascinating with layers and differing textures of lichen, moss, and bark.  

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Truly a lovely place.  

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I loved driving the road through the woods.  Though the leaves were not out on most of the trees, the woods were green with the Eastern Hemlock trees, which I fell in love with!  There was also the deep blue green of the rhododendron shrubs.  Here and there, the old dry leaves of the dogwood trees caught the light and at first glance appeared to be blooming with a peachy colored blossom.  But it was just the old leaves putting on one last show before they drop.  Soon the flowers will come and the woods will be filled with an understory of bloom.  How I wish I could be there to see it happen!  

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The woods and meadows were filled with birds, many of which turned out to be Eastern Bluebirds!  What a treat to see them!  

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I loved the old stacked fences that curved around the trees.  

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More daffodils in the fields.  And that strip of newly plowed soil beyond, ready for planting (if not already planted).  Fields like that make my heart sing!  

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Most of the barns here have a large overhang and many have a dog trot in the center.  Where barns in the west are built straight and tight, these have lots of space for air to move and overhangs to protect from the rain.  

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It's amazing how these stacks of stones can provide a firm foundation for a large home.  Even after a hundred years or more, the floors remain level with no shifting or cracking.  

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Plenty of log cabins, many made of chestnut.  Incredibly beautiful.  It angered me to see the graffiti penned and carved into these cabins.  Much of it with permanent markers, full names and dates.  I sincerely hope that the perpetrators were found, charged and prosecuted.  Such disrespect.  It's something seen too frequently all over the USA, but something I rarely saw when I traveled in Great Britain a few years ago.  

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I've long had a fascination with vernacular architecture, the architecture of the people. In this area, the  roofs all have a Ridgeline of shingles sticking out above the crest.  It's something I had not seen on old buildings here in the west.  I find the differences intriguing!  

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More stacks of stone supporting a porch and the old, old, beams supporting it.  

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In the porch posts, the hand hewn marks remain clearly visible.  No mass produced posts here, but posts cut by a man creating a home for his family with only hand tools and wood that was grown on the land.  What a legacy.  How many of us today will be able to leave such a mark behind us for future generations? 

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Eventually, I made my way out of Cade's Cove and through other parts of the park.  These steps leading to a trail up into the woods caught my attention and made me think of Tolkien's hidden stairs in Lord of the Rings.  I truly didn't see them until I was right upon them!  

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At a highpoint on the road to the Sugarland's Visitor Center,  I stopped to take in the view, but then my attention was drawn to this lone tree, blooming it's heart out!  Such beautiful pink blossoms against a drab background of still wintry trees beyond. 

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It made for a lovely view!  

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After a visit to the visitor center, I made my way back to the hotel for the night.   Along the way I discovered yet another waterfall that I had missed before!  So lovely!  Once the spring rains come and the snow from higher elevations melt, I imagine it will be quite a glorious sight!  

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Such a lovely day exploring!  I love these woods, even now when they are still held in the last grasp of winter.  How I would love to be able to stay and explore them throughout the seasons!

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