Enjoy the Colorful Photographic Impressions by Vann Helms
Rarely can you actually “see” the border between states, but when you travel south on the Foothills Parkway in far eastern Tennessee, all you need to do is look to the east, and the Tennessee-North Carolina state line follows the highest ridge from northeast to southwest into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
As you approach the Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge area, that same ridge is clearly visible as it divides the national park down the middle. Mount Laconte, the tallest peak in the park, is the second highest mountain east of the Mississippi, falling just feet short of Mt. Mitchell to the east.
In the far southwest quadrant of the Park is the preserved settlement called Cades Cove, and that same ridgeline, above, continues southwest into Georgia. Restored farm structures in Cades Cove tell the story of Scots-Irish families who settled in this remote valley hundreds of years ago.
Since the National Park opened in 1935, Gatlinburg has been one of the main destinations for Park travelers. First class resorts with artistic pools and waterfalls have been built all through the valley.
Where you have millions of tourists, you also have the irresistable attractions that vie for the family vacation dollar. One of the most dramatic is a nearly lifesize recreation of the Titanic, iceberg and all. Driving past this bohemoth is disorienting to say the least.
Another recent addition is the Hollywood Wax Museum, with a 150 foot tall King Kong clinging to the Empire State Building, while a Mt. Rushmore knock-off of Hollywood’s greatest stars looms in the foreground.
After two mornings in a row with a low temperature of 33, ice was heavy on all metal surfaces, especially my old Buick. This is very unusual for this elevation, this late in May. My previous record for a May frost was on Cinco de Mayo in 2011. Grandfather Mountain had a low of 18 yesterday with wind chills below zero. I still took my sunrise walk both days, and the images below made it all worthwhile.
Today, the blackberries finally began to bloom after such an extended winter.
On my way to the gym in Marion this afternoon, I stopped to enjoy the beauty of a huge horse pasture covered with tiny yellow wildflowers. You can see them on the video, along with my breath at sunrise this morning, and Buddy showing me how he has learned to debark my newest hiking stick. Where do dogs learn these things?
One of the greatest pleasures of living near Asheville is having access to the incredible Biltmore Estate with its house and gardens. Today I went to see the azaleas that have been in bloom for two weeks, and anything else concerning the gardens that might prove especially interesting. Driving the two miles to the mansion from the entrance where the security guard checked my pass was worth the entire trip. Wild azaleas were blooming in the forest all along the road. Century old trees of every make and model were in their full glory on an overcast afternoon. Driving past the house, I went directly to the parking area behind the Gardens’ store and hot houses. Being a weekday, there were people but no crowds. It was almost like I had the entire Gardens to myself. Walking into the formal garden from the conservatory, this is the view that greeted me.
Scattered among the iris beds were plantings of the most interesting pansies I’ve ever seen.
Walking into the Frederick Law Olmstead designed azalea garden, the colors were in all directions. I slowly walked amongst these glorious bushes, in awe of their displays. For those folks who believe that they might see Heaven in their afterlife, they don’t need to wait. Just being in this place is as much Heaven as you might ever have imagined. You can’t believe the beauty…
Moving on to the Boathouse on Bass Lake, I found the largest Mountain Laurel tree I’ve ever seen. It, too, must have been over a hundred years old.
Walking back toward the garden entrance, I was greeted by a Robin Redbreast, looking for that illusive worm. Also, a small stream fed into the lake, but not before keeping a steady flow of nourishing water to the forest around it.
Driving out, the house beckoned me to return. That’s one request that will be easy to fulfill.
As a thunderstorm approached from the west yesterday, the sun was already drying out the remains of eight inches of rain. The slow moving weekend event brought rivers over their banks, while mud and rock slides closed major east-west roads between here and Asheville.
The pond down through the woods was out of its banks as a swollen Otter Creek flooded the low areas. That same area was the subject of a sunset video just a few days before the storm. The changes are striking.
With lavendar being my favorite color, I especially love the small wildflowers covered in morning dew, and the impressive Empress Tree with its trumpet like blossoms that carry the scent of sweetness and purity when they are blooming. Just click on any of the above images and move through the slide show at your own pace.
A pair of Eastern Wood Peewees has nested under my deck every spring since I moved here. Yesterday, three eggs hatched, and three hungry chicks cried our for food. The Peewees eat only insects that they catch in mid-flight like our bats.
The video below was made a few days ago at the feeder in my meadow. Turn the sound up, and listen for the Wild Turkey and the Pileated Woodpecker. The blue bird is a male Indigo Bunting, common here in the South. The Goldfinches have just arrived, and watch for the grey Tufted Titmouse near the end. He has very expressive dark eyes. They tend to dominate the other birds.
A clear spring April morning was the perfect time to trek higher up Otter Creek Valley to view High Lodges Falls, the only set of falls I’ve seen in this entire valley. After three inches of rain, the falls come alive.
The music is Ein Heldenleben by Richard Strauss
Their are two mountains to the north of the house, and both of them dominate the eyes when entering the valley on Fibber Magee Drive. Stopping by Otter Pond last May 15th, below, Oak Mountain is the first one to the right.
The trail is an old logging road that snakes its way along the eastern ridge for about a mile. Although the climb is a mere 600 feet vertically, the overgrown path presents quite a challenge even to the seasoned hiker. It is just after sunrise, and the temperature is 42 degrees. Nearing the summit, the trees seem to congregate around the top. There are no evergreens along the entire upper ridge, only hardwoods.
Because the trees are so thick near the top, and the new leaves obscure anything along the horizon, all of these views are taken from a small clearing just down the southeast slope along the narrow trail.
Mt. Shumont, above, at almost 4,000 feet is the tallest visible peak from Oak Mountain’s south face.
A smaller Young’s Mountain, below, is just as impressive early in the morning.
Looking toward the southeast, King’s Mountain is clearly visible on the horizon, below, a distance of about 80 miles.
In the foreground of the same photo, a horse farm greets the rising sun.