Tennessee's one of the oldest states in the Union, officially admitted to the USA in 1796 as the 16th state with 34 to follow until 1959 when Hawaii became the 50th and youngest state in the country. The upper east end of Tennessee was part of the original 13 Colonies in 1776 before a new divide was drawn at North Carolina in 1861 following the American Civil War—there's a lot of history here.
40 miles east of Knoxville, Tennessee, and 40 miles west of the North Carolina border, surrounded by the Great Smoky Mountains is Gatlinburg, a mountain resort town home to only 4,000 occupants. When touring through Gatlinburg or anywhere in Sevier County, Tennessee, reminders of 1861 are decorated on occupied buildings proudly displaying their softball-sized cannon holes suffered during the Civil War. Pura and I made the trip to Gatlinburg that day to tour Cades Cove—an 11 mile one way scenic loop road.
Images - phone
That was our intention—see a bear. Several locals here have told us it's common to see bear at Cades Cove and then @coloneljethro confirmed it. He's spent a lot of time exploring nature and told me he's only seen one bear—Cades Cove.
Well, Pura and I are both from California you see, where November and February aren't much different than March or September. In the Great Smoky Mountains, however, they have four seasons here which means it's so cold in November rain freezes mid-flight. Something bears prepare for—an elementary school lesson that came in handy only after we arrived. But I did see a chicken (me) after an unprecedented encounter with a turkey.
I didn't know what it was at first. I was about 100 yards away when I saw it scramble through the forest—I've never seen a turkey that big. Not on TV or in cartoons or anywhere, the thing was huge. You know those big exercise balls, the rubber ones? Not the medium size, either, the large one (usually blue). The bird was as big as one of those with that lengthy Adam's apple lookin thing dangling from its neck nearly touching the ground.
We made a quick stop at the souvenir shop at the loops entrance before committing to the two hour drive—11 miles, one way, single lane and popular. There's a forestry service right there, toilets, an adjacent campground overflowing with overnight campers, the parking lot's regularly loaded with tourists which means the whole area is protected and the surrounding wildlife knows it! All I wanted to do was see what the thing was. About the time I realized it was a turkey, I realized there's about five of them and they're not just turkey's—they're aggressive turkey gang bangers and they hate cameras.
I thought the thing was posing for me when I snapped that shot, we're distanced about 10 feet apart at the time. But when I clicked the photo, it let a sound that didn't go gobble gobble gobble, more like Intruder alert! Intruder alert! Intruder alert! And then I heard the feet of however many turkeys come crushing through the leaf fallen forest behind me—directly toward me.
Pura said it was a "weird Bruce Lee lookin spin move" before I ran like a chicken for safety. That's a nice way of saying weird ballerina all cracked out on energy drinks before I ran like a chicken for safety.
Look, I wasn't gonna get physical with the things, there's about 50 hysterically laughing spectators from the surrounding camp ground zeroed in on me like they're front row in the studio audience. One foot to the bird would've gone over about as smooth as brushing shark teeth. Judging by the surprisingly loud laughter echoing across the parking lot versus something like a heavy sigh of concern and rage due to a turkey field goal attempt, running like a chicken was a solid option.
So I did what anyone else would've done in that situation—jumped in the car like Dukes Of Hazard and hauled ass outta there!
That's the best aerial view I could find with identifying markers—the loop's that yellow line. Inside the 11 mile loop is acres and acres as far as you can see of grasslands and valley. Immediately bordering the valley and single lane road is dense forest you weave through and around.
Park services were burning the grass in the valley that week but not on the heavily trafficked weekends. Exactly why they do that is here. In short, fire cleanses the landscape for new grass to grow back stronger and faster than the previous season.
There's many parking areas along the two hour tour to stop and take pictures or don't take pictures, or just relax if you feel relaxing. Often times we'd get stopped in traffic long enough I just aimed the phone out the window and clicked.
There's hiking trails and nature paths leading to scenic view points, secluded areas, rivers, and streams along the way. I don't think you could snap a bad shot out there if you tried. I enjoyed walking through the forest looking straight up at the sky, barely seeing blue because the Smoky's are so tree dense. I laid down a few times pointing straight up at the sky but they're just too tall.
Peaceful isn't quite the word I'm looking for to describe it but it's close, maybe tranquil. Paper shredding sound of trees brushing back and forth against each other in a mild wind tuned perfectly to the sound of running water in the distance, then right at your feet, then somewhere in the distance again. That and the only clock's in the sky—whatever word describes that.