Category Archives: smoky mountains

Fall Color in the Smokys

Our adventure started 10 October 2011 with our arrival in Cataloochie at around 1PM.  The first thing we saw was a gorgeous untagged and uncollared elk.  He wasn’t five feet from the truck.  Unfortunately, I was driving and couldn’t get a good shot, but I followed him around for awhile and managed a few.  His

Well groomed elk at Cataloochie.

coat was magnificent.  It looked like he’d just come from the hairdresser.  What a gorgeous animal.  It’s amazing how tame they seem.  Photographers don’t seem to bother them.  We spent several hours there and then checked into our cabin in Maggie Valley, waiting for the rest of our crew and then up onto the Blue Ridge for some sunsets.  It was a singularly disappointing evening for sunsets and a wasted drive, as overcast set in as we approached.  However, the following morning yielded an amazing sight, as we headed to the same sight just west of Soco Gap.  A virtual sea of clouds floating in the valleys to the south made for a wonderful sight.  It was definitely worth getting up early for this spectacle.

Sunrise on BRP
Mill at Cade’s Cove

Following our sunrise, we headed to Cade’s Cove. It wasn’t too bad, as it was a Tuesday, but a bit crowded and some stop and go at the beginning.  Seems there were bears here and there, but I couldn’t see what folks were pointing their cell phones at so I drove on as permitted.  We stopped at one of the churches and took a few shots and one of the group spotted some deer and the turkey were all over the place.

Inside Cade’s Cove Church

I had never seen the mill before, oddly enough, so I was quite happy to have the opportunity to shoot this shot.  There were tons of people there and it was hard to get many good shots.  There was a line at the spot where I took this shot and everyone was nice enough to give each other the opportunity to set up and make the shot.  I’m glad we stopped.

Cascades at Tremont

After Cades, we stopped in at Tremont. I was going to take the gang up to Spruce Flats, as that is one of my faves, but the water was sort of weak and I didn’t think it would be worth the walk, so, we meandered up the river and hit the cascades above the footbridge.That was worth the walk. The light was good and there was sufficient water flow.

Sunset at Morton’s Overlook

On the way home, we were driving by Morton’s and got this shot.  It was a funny day.  It was overcast all day long on the Gatlinburg side and sun shining all day long on the Maggie Valley side.  I was glad to see the sun as we crested the mountain at Newfound Gap and it was only by happenstance that we caught this shot, as it all closed out very quickly.

It started raining Tuesday night and by Wednesday morning you could just tell it was going to be a wet day. We all hemmed and hawed for awhile and then I said let’s go waterfalling and decided to take everyone on one of my usual trips. Not a bad day if you don’t mind getting wet.

Courthouse Falls

We started out down the parkway again and got off at Devil’s Courthouse. One of my favorite falls is Courthouse Falls and we headed on up FR 140. I was concerned for one of the vehicles with us, as there was that bad dip at the bridge and he didn’t have high ground clearance. However, that turned out not to be a concern, as the area has been repaired and we forged ahead smoothly. The falls was in fine splendor and we all spent about an hour and a half shooting. Courthouse never seems to disappoint and that day was no exception.

Eastatoe Falls

After a dryoff and a drink we headed out. I really wanted to stop at Living Waters to show the folks what a great place that is, but I have a jones for Eastatoe, and time was of the essence, so I headed that way. Eastatoe is always beautiful and I love that place, but this day I was a bit disappointed as the flow was low. However, I did finally meet the owner. What a great guy. He was happy and even excited to see that we were all thrilled at being there. Wish he hadn’t been on his way out, as I would have loved to talk to him awhile.

Whitewater Falls

Next was Whitewater Falls. It really started to rain hard as we headed down 281, and I was tempted to duck into White Owl for a minute, but the day was wearing on so we just drove on.

The Gang at Whitewater Falls
Lower Whitewater Falls

Whitewater Falls was looking pretty good. More water would have been nice and it could have stopped raining for a minute or two, but other than that, glorious as always and a bit of color too.  Even though there is only one place to shoot this falls from, it always has the effect of awesomeness.  Truly the king of them all.  I never get tired of visiting this place and we all had a real good time, even though we were cold and wet.  Kind of hard to let something like rain dampen your day when you’re in the presence of such awesome nature.  Gotta love it.  Here’s the motley crew.  Thanks for a great time.  Can’t wait for the springtime.

Moonset from BRP

Thursday found us heading for Max Patch Mountain and Wolf Creek Falls.  I had heard about this place and wanted to go badly, so after another run up the parkway for sunrise, we headed on over to Harmon Den.   The trip out FR 148 is not for the faint of heart and can be pretty rough.  I certainly wouldn’t recommend driving the family sedan out this road.  Actually, you should probably not go on this road with anything less than a high set truck and 4WD wouldn’t hurt.

So about fifteen miles later we hit the falls, but along the way we stopped at Max Patch Mountain for a look at some fabulous vistas and a few quick shots.  It was a hard truck up the mountain side and no one was paying too much attention to our backside.  Unfortunately, right in the middle of an award winning 360 pano shot, a storm zoomed up the mountain and started belching rain by the bucket.  It was amazing.  As I was looking out to the south at a wonderful sunny landscape, I began to feel drops.  Upon turning, I saw nothing but dark gray and rain.  We all beat feet back down the mountain, managing to keep our cameras somewhat dry and jumped in the trucks.  There we me Lori Kincaid who aided us in finding our way to Wolf Creek Falls.  Thanks Lori.  Nice meeting you.

Wolf Creek Falls
The Gang at Wolf Creek Crossing

It was a stormy drive down into the woods on the way to Wolf Creek Falls, and even a bit spooky at times, but we made it and it stopped raining as well.  We parked and tried to decide which way to go.  Up the creek or down the creek.  Naturally, we picked the wrong way and all we found was a pond and an old washing machine.  As we returned to the the trucks, down out of the woods comes this guy.  His name was Kieth and he had a book and was looking for the falls too.  He joined us as we ventured downstream.  I have to say, it was worth the trouble driving fifteen miles on washboard roads to see this falls.  Great place.  Got some good shots.  Not sure I will ever go back though.  However, Max Patch is definitely on the list for a revisit.  After shooting, we walked back to the trucks and broke out the coolers for lunch and a group shot.  Thanks to Keith Garnes of Jamestown, TN for hanging out with us and also for the donation of his copy of Gregory Plumb’s book.  I’ll look forward to using it and seeing Keith again.

Friday was reserved for Big Creek but we stopped into Cataloochie in the morning for more elk.   I had always wanted to go to Big Creek and had been through Waterville several times over the years, but never hiked up the creek to Mouse Creek Falls.  I had heard it was nice and wanted to go and this was the trip to do it.  Fortunately, it was a nice day for a hike and had rained quite a bit the day before, so the water was moving.

Mouse Creek Falls

It was a pleasant hike and we met a lot of folks along the way.  On the way back down we were told about a rock house where loggers used to stay during the timber years, but we didn’t have the energy to climb as it had been a long week.

Big Creek

I discovered that there was way more to shoot than Mouse Creek Falls on the Big Creek Trails.  On the way up I had spotted a few places but they were in full sun and blown out.  However, on the way back down, they were looking pretty good, so we stopped a few places more and I am really glad that we did.  We were in a bit of hurry but not too much to stop and shoot this place.  I was amazed at the difference in the look of the spot from earlier in the day.  I had a good time here and came away with more than one keeper.  We managed to get out of Waterville just in time to hit the road and zoom back up to the top of the parkway for the final sunset shots of our trip.  It turned out to be a pretty good evening for that as well and I’ll remember this trip for a long time.

Saturday we stopped into Oconoluftee and bought a few things.  Later, we stopped at Mingus Mill for a few shots, but the construction equipment was in the shot, and there were tourists all over and I was getting the urge to head home.  So, I decided to forgo going over the mountain and Roaring Fork with the rest of the gang and headed back to Maggie Valley and out U.S. 19 to the Interstate.  From all reports, I made the right decision.

All in all, another wonderful and fun filled trip to the mountains and the Land of Waterfalls.  I don’t think we could have timed it better for color, and even though more water would have been in order, it was a perfect trip.  You can see all the rest of the photos here. 

Leave a post.