Stars and a bright moon over Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
This last weekend my wife and some friends were attending a conference in Gatlinburg Tennessee called Divine Rhythm. While I didn't attend the conference, and really don't care much for Gatlinburg Tennessee, I really like being near Great Smoky Mountains National Park!(not to mention I have a cool wife and cool friends to hang out with also)
The only reason I really don't dig Gatlinburg is the fact that it is basically a carnival with a bazillion people in it! One thing that can also bum people out is the large crowds that converge on the Smokies every year. During winter there are FAR less people to share with, and almost nobody out at night.
The first morning I was there, I left the hotel at around 4am to make my way up to Newfound Gap for sunrise. This early start would give me plenty of time to shoot some moonlit, starry scenes.
I sat at this spot and shivered until a car finally came by early in the morning. I would occasionally see headlights down in the valley and start preparing for a car to come around the bend, and find myself waiting a LONG time since I guess I didn't realize just how far they away they actually were. No car lights... There are many cool tunnels in the park.
After this I went up to Newfound Gap overlook and watched the sunrise. I had such a quiet morning up until this point, and as soon as I got out of the car, the quiet stopped! Some kid was running around and yelling while his dad chased after him yelling... yada yada yada... it was still nice to be there:)
To give a little perspective on the contrast between the National Park and Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge, here are a couple phone snaps from just outside the Paula Deen Restaurant in Pigeon Forge. You get to watch a musical water fountain show while you wait for your table:)
The next morning, I went to Cades Cove and jumped on my bicycle. Cades Cove is a BUSY place during the day. There are all kinds of people driving through here. But at 4am, with a big bright moon and ton of stars, I had the place all to myself(as far as I could tell).
This tree isn't far from the entrance just to the left of the path.
The next two photos are from pretty much exactly the same spot, just looking in opposite directions.
I just love those big moonlit trees! The breeze caused me to have to time the photos just right and get a little lucky for sharp branches. A little further down the trail is the old Methodist Church and cemetery. I've been here before at night so I didn't spend much time here.
The below photo was taken just before I made it to the dirt road shortcut that leads to the Peter Cable Cabin. The deer were milling around right near the fence until I cruised up. Fortunately they stayed still during my exposure(also, shout out to the Milky Way and Venus for making a faint appearance just above the deer).
Cades Cove has a bunch of old homesteads, cemeteries, churches, and a sweet mill! A person could spend a long time doing the entire loop, but I cut this one short for time purposes. By the time I was almost back to the parking lot, there were already a bunch of cars on the road in the Cove(they close it to cars at night).
I did have a little time to kill after breakfast, so instead of sitting in the car for an hour, I went up to the tower in Gatlinburg. For $10 a big elevator takes you up to a huge lookout deck with telescopes!
Below, the big mountain in the distance is Mt. Leconte. It is where Ashley and I hiked up to Mt Leconte Lodge last fall.(click here for that post) Seeing it from here really gives some nice perspective on just how awesome of a hike that was!
While I was taking photos from up on the tower, I gotta text from the wife telling me the conference had ended and she was ready to go. I hopped in the elevator and took off. See you again soon, Tennessee.
Thanks for looking.