Friday, November 30, 2007
I've had an longstanding promise to take my father for a drive to our favorite place, The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. More specifically, there is a small isolated community at the very edge of the park called Cades Cove that is our most favorite place to visit. There is a narrow, winding one-way road that makes an 11 mile loop around the cove, passing the restored cabins and churches and other places that were the home of a thriving mountain community in the late 1800's. Each time we visit we stop at one or two of our favorite "points of interest" to see what has evolved.
The first photograph was taken from the front yard of the Missionary Baptist Church. I was smitten by the brilliance of color and light in the distant fields and the contrasting dimness in the shadow of the trees surrounding the church. I usually stop at the Methodist Church as it's my favorite, but lately I've been intrigued by the architecture of the Missionary Baptist Church, with it's protruding chancel (is that what it's called???) at the front of the church where the pulpit is located. It's really a very fancy detail for the period and setting and none of the other churches in the cove have this feature. The old wood of the interior walls and pews make for amazing acoustics. Daddy and I can't help but break into an old gospel hymn like Amazing Grace when we visit.
Our next stop was at Abrams Creek. With the severe drought we've suffered this year the water levels in the Smokies are lower than I can recall ever witnessing before in my life. Just after the Loop Road crosses Abrams Creek there's a short road to a parking area at the head of a group of hiking trails. As we pulled off the main road, daddy noticed these unusual plants than were in an area that is traditionally moist and a bit like a bog. I have no idea what these are, but they had a large seed pod that is shaped like a bird's body and is about 4-6" long. When the pod splits you see at the 1st inner layer of tiny, flat brown seeds. Attached to each seed and comprising the innermost layer is a silky, feathery fiber that is ~2-3" long. It was shimmering in the sun and had the fluffy nature similar to a dandelion seed, only much stronger. The fluff just glistened in the sun and truly looked like silk. I was completely fascinated and took a number of photos to help me identify the plant. Very cool!
We proceeded on to the parking area and stopped to take a little stroll along the creek. Once again I was stunned by how low the water level was, and how different the creek looked there by the bridge that crosses it. You could see through the clear steely blue/teal water to the creek bottom. A natural dam had been created by a fallen tree. Subsequent limbs and branches flowing downstream got caught in the fallen tree creating a bit of a pond upstream, and a mill-race-like waterfall for the water that moved overt he top of the mass of sticks and leaves. The sounds and the colors were rather eerie and I thought of the Mystic Waters Shawl KAL I'm participating in. I was looking at real mystic waters! Double cool!
By the time we got to the backside of the Loop road it was getting later in the afternoon and the white-tailed deer were starting to come down from their daytime hideaways in the mountains to the green fields in the Cove for their evening meal. November is rutting season and by this point the dominant bucks have stated their claims over the does and are stalking them until the perfect day when its time to mate. They only get 24 hours once a year. This 3-point buck was standing in the middle of a large field, apparently alone. But on closer inspection there was a single doe sitting in a brushy are on the edge of the field. Clearly Big Daddy Buck was waiting and watching over his girl. Not just yet big fella! As we drove on around the bend there was a field full of does, maybe 8 or 10. We decided they were all a part of that bucks harem. Let's face it, the deer have it very good in Cades Cove.