This year offered poor autumn colors because of a severe drought in the region. For the most part, I looked for other subjects. Here are a few images that I feel are appealing, beginning with sunrise from the Foothills Parkway. The crepuscular rays of sunlight appeared after I had given up on seeing a good sunrise, so the scramble to retrieve my tripod and camera was amusing (to others).
The lesson from this is: Never give up!
I admit that I love saying "crepuscular". Sounds so scientific.
On one morning I had no scheduled outing, so I was away very early and was the third car in line for the gate to be opened at Cades Cove at sunrise. Wasting no time, I arrived at the trailhead for Abrams Falls and was underway on the 2-1/4 mile hike with only one pair of hikers ahead of me. I kept whistling as I walked to be sure I did not surprise a bear. It was great to reach the falls before others.
Can you imagine how high the creek was to put that log across the top of the ledge?
I finished my photography at 9:30 am as the hoard of visitors arrived. Perfect timing. The parking had swelled from two cars to over fifty.
One of my favorite locations is the Tipton homestead in the cove.
It took a few visits to get images without wandering people in the scene. This view is from inside the grain storage shed.
The ground level of the barn has a bay to unload forage wagons under cover. The perimeter overhang provided shelter for livestock. It's a beautiful reproduction of the original. There is a small wagon under the barn's bay as seen below.
In the early hours at Cade's Cove, I saw deer, coyote and these bachelor turkeys. You can guess which is the dominate gobbler.
Likewise, in the early hours, it is possible to capture clean images without a dozen cars on the lane.
As the park fills, it is best to look away from the road. These sulfur shelf mushrooms were 50 feet off the loop road. They were of little interest to people who just wanted to see a bear.
This is one fungi species that I know, and yes, delicious sauteed in butter with sweet peas.
Leaving the Cades Cove loop road for a higher view, one finds a nice view of the Cades Cove Methodist Church. It is on my list for a more colorful year in the future.
And, a little farther from the cove there was a black bear with two cubs. I watched her (at a respectful distance) through a screen of saplings as she foraged on acorns. Her cubs explored nearby. The gentle wind clearly told her where I was, but caused no alarm. This is the best I could obtain.
Nearby, I finally found some autumn color that excited.
There is one other way to escape the crowds. That involves getting up at 3:00 am and joining other photographers on the heights of the Foothill Parkway overlooking Townsend toward Cades Cove. No traffic to be sure, just the valley in a cold morning fog. Beautiful.
At 5:00 am, there is already commercial aviation coming past on the way from Europe to the Atlanta airport. I had to watch for them, as this is a twenty second exposure.
Even in a poor year, autumn in the Smokies is beautiful. I really like Townsend, which is distant from the Gatlinburg carnival scene and closer to the real beauty of the park. It has great restaurants, affordable lodging and a really good coffee house. There you have it.