NOTE: IN ORDER TO BETTER SEE PHOTOS IN THEIR FULL 1600 PX. RESOLUTION, VIEW THEM IN THE ALBUM FORMAT BY CLICKING ON THE LEAD PHOTO OR ANY PHOTO IN THE POST. This is especially true for landscape shots. Thanks to Mark for the idea of adding this alert so the photos can be seen at their best!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Chilly Critters and Friends Found

Up at 6:30 in the morning with temps hovering right at freezing, I was nonetheless thankful the wind had died down the previous evening.  Freezing in Tennessee with no wind versus freezing in Wisconsin with wind?  It helps put things in perspective, let me tell ya.  While I wasn't "unreasonably uncomfortable" I was glad that Friday and Saturday night I had a cabin booked since the freezing overnight temps were going to continue.

Cades Cove after a frost

However, the bonus to sleeping in the cold in Cades Cove Campground was the opportunity to be packed up by sunrise and just minutes from a place it would normally take me at least half an hour to get to.  No driving in the dark, hoping to avoid wildlife crossing the road, just straight to the wildlife without the hazards.

frosty breakfast in the fields

Lots of turkeys and deer were out getting their chilly breakfast.  The Loop Road was a lot less crowded and the fields were more crowded, what a great trade-off!  I even saw my what I first thought was an albino but turned out to be a Smoke Phase Turkey, but it was too busy eating to pose for a picture.  Recessive genes account for the rare coloration, not inbreeding with domestic birds or albinism.

Few folks on the road meant I could keep a good pace while still snapping off dramatic shots of the landscape.  Very seldom did I do more than roll down the window which was good because it was still only 35F outside that window!

I see so many photos of fence posts that look stunning but I have a hard time accomplishing an effect that I'm satisfied with.  This one was okay, but only after I applied a vignette.  The twisted wire, protruding nails, lichen and frosted webs were what caught my eye as I drove past.

While the pastures are fenced the fences are not continuous or closed.  This fella wasn't far from the stables, but he wasn't really behind the fence either.  Solemn and dignified, I wondered what he thinks of all the crazy humans taking his picture as they float past in their smelly cars?

I didn't see any bears but I felt lucky to see the mountains and think about the folks who used to live in the Cove and hoped they felt lucky when they woke up to views like these even though their life was often hard.

One of the downfalls of my little Vibe is a lack of places to put all my gear on a longer trip away from home like this one, so after I left the Loop Road I parked at the Schoolhouse Gap trailhead lot and rearranged it all while I waited for Sharon.  Empty cereal bowl on the dashboard, stuff up to the roof in my hatchback, I'm looking pretty homeless these days.

That is most definitely NOT an empty Gigi's Cupcakes bag

By 9:30 Sharon and I had our shuttle parking figured out and were on the trail, ready to hike from Turkey Pen Ridge to Schoolhouse Gap.

wearing the blues, not singing the blues

I kept up a steady stream of chatter, and Sharon occasionally joined in too.  So much to catch up on, it's been a year since we hiked together and not everything goes onto our blogs.

Rue is out for the first time in a year too!

The trail starts out with a steady but not too steep climb, good news for me since my legs were tired from the previous evening.  Along the way we saw some nice rock outcroppings and also some pretty fresh scat that must have been bear even though it looked a little different than what is normally seen, but otherwise the hike was pleasantly uneventful.

After 3.6 miles on Turkey Pen Ridge the 1.1 miles on the gently downhill slope of Schoolhouse Gap seemed like a walk in the park, complete with interesting fungi lining the mountain stream that bubbles alongside the path.

I call this one "Petites Parapluies des Smokies" - and I hope
peace finds it's way back to the citizens of Paris

After all that exercise we headed over to Miss Lily's Cafe in Townsend where I can say the pulled pork was fantastic and there were yummy desserts too!  Sharon and I parted ways until Monday where we will meet up again in another section of the park before I have to head home.  It's lovely to have a friend while traveling, I hope I make more of them so I have lots of them to visit in the years ahead.

Linking up to Saturday's Critters for the first time in a long time!


  1. Hello Pam, what a wonerful post. I loved to hike in the Smokies, it is a gorgeous place. Pretty images, great sighting of the deer and turkeys. The mushroom shot is awesome. I wish peace for Paris!
    Thank you so much for linking up and sharing your post. Have a happy weekend!

  2. These photos are simple exquisite! Wow!

  3. Happy to see you and Sharon hiking together again. Someday I need to join you ladies for a hike! :)

    1. Funny because while we were hiking I mentioned again how I somehow have to get Wayne to agree to let me go to Oregon without him! And when Sharon mentioned places we could meet I said South Dakota was on the approved list so perhaps we could all collaborate on a meet-up in the Black Hills next summer....

  4. I love that shot of the mist in the cove. Nice find with that smoke phase turkey, too!

  5. So glad to see gou and Sharon out hiking. We drove the Cades cove loop on our teip to the Smokies, but thattraffic was very busy then! Very interesting place with all the human stories.

  6. Love the early morning photos:) Glad there are people like you that show me what I miss tucked in bed:)

  7. Tennessee is a gorgeous state! Love your photos!