It has been nearly a year since we last came to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The first time was specifically to enjoy fall, this time was a pleasant coincidence, returning from the Overland Expo.
We woke at dawn. I peered out of the windows at the grey sky, wondering if it was clouds or if the sky had yet to make up its mind. When the grey gave way to golden light, I rolled out of bed and we drove out of the Balsam Mountain Campground where we had parked for the night. See, this is one of the perks of sleeping in your truck bed: there is no camp set-up or break-down.
As we wound down from Balsam Mountain back to the Blue Ridge Parkway, we encountered elk. A mother and her calf were nonchalantly chewing grass along the roadside. No one else was on the road. So, we stopped the car. I rolled down my window, picked up my camera, and captured the moment with one of the easiest wildlife shots since that deer back in Olympic National Park.
There was still a few miles left of the Blue Ridge Parkway until we were dumped into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Dawn was a completely different experience, catching views of misty valleys, still hidden from the brilliant blue morning sky. We soon got down into the mist ourselves as we reached the valley floor. We wandered in to the Mountain Farm Museum where chickens strutted through the rapidly dissipating fog.
Despite a fair bit of doom and gloom espoused by some, the leaves were still lovely, even if they were not as great as they could be. We took most of the day to drive about the park and hike. More about hiking in a bit…