On previous visits to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I did not have the opportunity to visit the Cades Cove area, so I made it my priority on the trip I took there last month. As I drove the 11-mile, one way loop road, one of the first observations was how obvious it was that the early settlers of Cades Cove were strong in their Christian faith. At the beginning of the tour, you will see the Primitive Baptist Church. Some of the earliest settlers established this church in 1827. A log building served their needs until the white frame structure shown above, replaced it in 1887. Although the church closed during the Civil War, the adjacent cemetery has many headstones that allude to victims of that most horrendous of wars.
Every churchthat I went inside along the Cades Cove tour, had a Bible in the pulpit. They represent a time when all a preacher had available to share God's Word, was that beloved tome. There were no video screens, no flip charts, no "Power Point" computer programs, no microphones, or sound amplifiers. It becomes understandable why preachers of that day may have had to SHOUT, to get their message across to a diverse group of pioneers!
Other churches along the Cades Cove driving loop are the Methodist Church and the Missionary Baptist Church. The church above was a bit "fancier" than the other two, because of the circular bow-shaped addition behind the pulpit.
Further down the road, in the mill area, visitors can see the LeQuire Cantilever Barn. Large barns were common in the Cove, where farmers needed shelter in the cold months for the livestock they grazed in the mountains during the warm season. The overhand in cantilever barns such as this one provided shelter for animals, as well as storage space for farm equipment.
This photo shows the Cable Grist Mill, so named because it was built by John P. Cable. The water wheel you see provided power for both the grist mill and a saw mill.
One of the churches I visited along the route, was just dismissing a worship service that had been taking place. I heard many of those in attendance mentioning they would see the others shortly at the "dinner on the ground". Having grown up attending small churches in the South, I knew they were talking about an outdoor picnic. I later saw many of those families in the mill area of Cades Cove, enjoying their potluck meal, under the shade of a big oak tree.
Today,the Great Smoky Mountains Association operates the grist mill as an historical exhibit, with the gentleman shown above, explaining that Mr. Cable had been a farmer, as well as a miller. Therefore, he not only sowed the seed for the grains he raised, he also reaped its harvest. I am using this image as a visual aid for my First Place 4 Health ( www.FirstPlace4Health.com ) memory verse that says, "Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows." Galatians 6:7
The Visitor Center at Cades Cove is open most days throughout the year, barring flood or flurry or other times when the entire park is closed. (For example, the entire park shut down for a few days when I was there in September, due to high-speed winds, associated with Hurricane Irma). The Visitor Center was built in 1972, and is a place where visitors can obtain information, buy books, post cards, batteries, maps, guides, and pre-packaged snacks.
After I completed my walk around the Mill Area of Cades Cove, I took the highway that leads to Clingman's Dome. I had read there was a paved trail that led from the parking lot to the lookout tower, so when the highway ended, and I saw this ribbon of concrete in front of me, I knew I must be at the right place. The trail is a one-half mile, asphalt trail, leading to an observation tower. (Note: Pets are not allowed on this trail.)
When the paved trail ends, you will step onto a spiraling ramp, that will lead you to the observation tower. Lest you think the dead trees readily visible at Clingman's Dome are the result of fire, the problem is actually an invasive species of insect that is decimating certain tree species in the park.
For those who do not want to take the spiraling ramp to the observation tower, they have the option of waiting in an area, suitable for sitting, at the entrance to the ramp.
When you are on the circular observation tower, there are placards that tell you the names of the mountains you are seeing in the 360 degree view. You will also learn that you are standing on Tennessee's highest point, and the third tallest summit east of the Mississippi. The official elevation is 6,643 feet above sea level.
Adjacent to the parking lot are some very large rock formations, and several people were enjoying scrambling over them, looking for photo opportunities.
The upper right corner of this photo shows the Clingman's Dome Visitor Center. Besides the usual souvenir items for sale in this building, you can also use the FREE "passport stamps" available to record your location and date of visit, on whatever piece of paper you want to get stamped. The logos available included not only Clingman's Dome, but also Appalachian Trail stamps, as the famous "A.T." goes through this location. In fact, one of the reasons I was determined to visit Clingman's Dome was because some of my hiking friends had posted photos from here, when they were backpacking this section of the Appalachian Trail. With some roads of the park already in the process of closing due to Hurricane Irma, I was giving thanks to God, that I was able to make it to the top before getting "run off" by Park Rangers, who were in the process of clearing out visitors, as a precautionary measure because of the severe storms that were being forecast.
This photo shows the ominous-looking thunderheads that were starting to roll over the top of the mountain.
Folks who like to participate in walking/running events might be interested in combining their love of foot racing, with a vacation to a popular tourist destination. If that is you, check out the schedule for an organization whose motto is "Race Where You Play", at www.VacationRaces.com I was able to see huge numbers of racers participating in an event called the Great Smoky Mountains Half Marathon. They got a very early start, on a beautiful Saturday morning in the park, and walked or ran 13.1 miles along a paved trail (beside the highway and away from traffic) that leads to the park, from near the town of Townsend, Tennessee. This photo shows the medals that would be waiting for them, complete with the emblem-shape of the National Park Service.
Of course, you do not have to sign up for a race, to be able to enjoy the more than 850 miles of foot trails within Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Considering the park is made up of a sprawling 520,000 acres spread out in both Tennessee and North Carolina, you are bound to find a trail activity that is to your liking and skill level.
The National Parks of the USA are such an incredible blessing to all those who visit them, so let's get out there and enjoy them! If you would like to start planning a trip to The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, just visit their website at www.nps.gov/grsm My visit to this remarkable area in the center of our nation gave me "MILES OF SMILES"! Tricia