Who Says Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire?

I went to Gatlinburg to spend a week with family touring the area.  By far, it is the Great Smoky Mountain National Park (GSMNP) that has been my favorite part of the trip. The towns around here are geared to tourists, which makes sense, but they seem to cater more to the tourist shoppers or folks attracted to wax museums, believe it or not museums, etc.  Not necessarily bad things but, having seen some of those in the past, that is no longer what I seek to experience when seeing a new area.  I could come to this part simply to enjoy nature and skip the towns happily.

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park – Human Stories

The GSMNP, however, is exactly what I seek to experience. As in my trip to Tasmania, discovering “new” types of nature is something I enjoy, even if on this trip I am not able to go on longer hikes than 30 minutes would fit. As my parents are with us, they can only do fairly flat hikes and nothing that takes more than 45 mins round trip (or so). Fortunately, the GSMNP can be enjoyed by everyone as there are many types of stops, short hikes, scenery along the road, and even great history.

As a lover of history, getting exposed to that along with great scenery is a fantastic combination and use of my time (if I focus on efficiency for a sec!). The Cades Cove area and the Roaring Forks area show great examples (real, not built for the purpose) of how people lived 80-150 yrs ago in this wilderness.

The Bales farm, the John Oliver cabin, the Cable Mill, the various churches in Cades Cove, etc. are all great examples of the type of life that took place here in times long gone. Life here was hard though one can over-romanticize it in these times of concrete cities, 100mph lifestyles, etc. Everything seems very peaceful – yet these folks had to work day and night to survive. I especially enjoyed looking at how the structures were constructed following methods no longer in use, even in wooden frame houses. These structures still stand today as witnesses to a not-too-distant past that seems ages ago…

The Carter Shields Home at Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Cades Cove – The Carter Shields Cabin

Detail of the construction in a cabin in the Smoky Mountains National Park

Detail of the construction

Bales Farm in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Bales farm

Missionary Baptist Church in Cades Cover in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Cades Cove – Missionary Baptist Church

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park – Nature

Besides seeing these testaments to a life long gone by, the area is loaded with trails, picnic areas, streams, and places in nature to explore.  A good map from the National Park staff will do you a lot of good, trust me!

Woods around Ogle farm in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Woods around Ogle farm

Bear crossing road in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Yes, we even saw a bear along our route in the park!

Trail in the Ogle farm - a great nature walk - in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Trail in the Ogle farm

From the house we rented on a mountaintop overlooking Gatlinburg, we can see the GSMNP and it is amazing how at every time of the day, we get a different view as the sun moves across the sky and hits the mountains at different angles. It is simply breathtaking.

Morning view of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Morning view from our cabin

Afternoon view near sunset at the Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Afternoon view from our cabin

And if you look carefully around the deck of the house, you may even get to see a rabbit… or a black bear.


  1. A great blog. I wish I was in this area. I’m
    in Florida. Stuck doing Beach and Florida travel
    blogs. Great photos. All the best.

  2. Definitely need to make my way here. Not that I’d be too thrilled to see a bear, but hiking is my new love, so this is right up my alley!
    The World Wanderer recently posted..Thoughts on Turning Two.My Profile

  3. I totally agree Raul — the GSMNP is the best part of that area. Every square foot is jam-packed with stuff to explore or study — mosses and ferns, animals, sounds, smells, etc. Love it!
    Am super envious of your view from the cabin, too!
    Josie recently posted..6 Distilled Travel Tidbits From Around the World — October 2012My Profile

  4. Oh, I love the Tennessee mountains. I can’t believe you caught that picture of the bear!
    Leah Travels recently posted..Global Entry: Yet Another Advantage to Having Never Been ArrestedMy Profile

  5. I love the name of the park!!
    @mrsoaroundworld recently posted..Samsonite Giveaway – Kuoni at John LewisMy Profile

  6. What, no visit to Dollywood?:) We visited Gatlinburg when I was a kid and they had a freak snow storm come through. We were stuck for a couple extra days, but we did get to do some skiing at “Ober Gatlinburg.”
    D.J. – The World of Deej recently posted..Finding Florida – Discovering the CapitalMy Profile

  7. two things: 1. did you get a chance to pet the bear? and 2. you should read “the architecture of the the arkansas ozarks” by donald harrington– you will love. xo, the wino
    thelazytravelers recently posted..living the swiss lifeMy Profile

  8. Very cool that you saw a black bear. Did you get a chance to visit Abrams Falls when you were in Cades Cove. It is one of my favorite trails. Two miles to the waterfall and when it is hot it is an amazing swimming hole.
    Traveling Ted recently posted..A superior sunset in the Porcupine Mountains State ParkMy Profile

  9. very pretty clouds & mountain views photos!! the bear part i’m not so sure about. i don’t care for random animals crossing my path. lola is a wee bit afraid of these types of encounters!
    lola recently posted..lola’s 5 airport essentialsMy Profile

  10. Such fantastic scenery – like something from a film!

  11. Whoa, a bear sighting?! I remember in Boulder being freaked out by every sign that mentioned “confirmed bear activity in the area.” Cute animals, but I’d rather keep my distance… Your teddy looks far enough… 😉

    This post reminds me that I should go hiking again, while it’s still warm enough outside.
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