|From Caney Creek RV Resort, Harriman, 40 miles west of Knoxville, TN.
I suppose the fact that we have visited the Cades Cove area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park probably in excess of a dozen times in our lives & we still eagerly drive two hundred miles round trip just to cruise through the Cove is proof-positive that we totally enjoy it & will never tire of it.
You may remember that we were there in April, 2008 (see the April 28, 2008 journal entry) & actually stayed in the Cades Cove campground for a few days then. We went back this time for just a day visit in the Jeep.
We knew that the likelihood of seeing very many animals was slim, given the midday times that we would be there. Even without seeing the plentiful deer & turkey & occasional bears that are prevalent in the early morning & late afternoon times, the scenery of the mountains surrounding the Cove & the tranquility of the old houses, churches, barns, etc makes the effort to tour the area very worthwhile.
Just to ponder the simple lifestyle that the people of the era during which the Cove was settled & alive with life more real than passing tourists is so intriguing to me. I don’t for a nanosecond dismiss the hard work, lack of modern day conveniences & daily struggles that the people of the frontier endured, but there were so many life values that they understood & lived by that our modern generation has forgotten.
Just the fact that the eleven-mile road through the Cove is a one-laner says so much. Just let your imagination run wild on that thought for a moment. We could not even get around the loop when we were there as sightseers without hearing the honking of horns because someone was too impatient to enjoy the day at a slower pace.
When (I say when, not if, in hopes that you too will be able to make at least one trip there sometime in your life) you go to Cades Cove, there are two ways that you can get there. One route is via Gatlinburg from I-40. If you wish to bypass the tourist-trap part of Gatlinburg, there is a bypass around it that will take you more directly to the beginning of Little River Road at the G.S.M.N.P’s Sugarlands Visitor Center. Little River Road itself is a very easy, scenic drive, alongside the small mountain river for about 25 miles into the Cove. This is the more scenic of the two routes.
A more direct route is to go in through Townsend, Tennessee. This route will still provide you about 6 miles of the scenery of Little River Road before landing you at the Cove.
Regardless of which route you approach the Cove, plan on spending at least a couple of hours inhaling the remnants of a time when life was far different than it is today. Stop at some of the houses, churches, barns, graveyards & scenic pull-offs just to open your mind through your eyes for a few moments. And if you are there at the right time of day, enjoy the wildlife that you are certain to see.
Pack a picnic lunch or dinner to enjoy along the way, either inside the Cove or at one of the picnic areas along Little River Road as we did. One other thing……you can leave all but first & maybe second gear of your car’s transmission at the gate, because you will not need them.
Life can only be enjoyed passively to a very small extent; it must be done so actively to get the full impact that is available & waiting for you.