Recovery needed after trip to the Smokies

Published 5:45 am Saturday, May 19, 2018

Now that winter is rearing its icy head, I am not one of those people who wax nostalgic about fireplaces and heating their homes with open fireplaces or wood/coal burning stoves or furnaces.

The good news is that I believe I will survive our (my brother, Andy, Loretta and yours truly) three-day trip to the Smokies last week. After sleeping most of the way home and following that up with snoozing away 40 out of the last 58 hours preceding this writing I’m beginning to believe that I’m on the road to recovery.

Mr. Parkinson does not tolerate prolonged exposure to bright sun and large crowds very well, nor is he fond of sitting in an automobile, moving or not, for more than 30 minutes at a time. Since our primary destination was Cades Cove, an 11 mile, one-way-traffic loop through one of the most picturesque valleys in the country, we spent several hours in a SUV that was not moving. In fact, we did it twice, once to catch the late afternoon light and again early the next morning.

For all 365 days of the year and 366 in leap years, Cades Cove attracts hoards of both amateur and professional photographers intent on obtaining absolute proof that wild bears do, in fact, poop in the woods.

Bear poop is called “scat” but pictures of a pile of scat do not count because there would be no proof that a bear actually made it. For the photo to stand up in court, you have to have a picture of a bear undeniably caught in the act of “scatting”.

While Andy, Loretta and I did manage to get dozens of pictures of bears’ behinds, neither of us saw one actually doing his or her business. Neither of us would be able to swear that wild bears do you-know-what in the woods.

Even though there are numerous signs posted throughout the loop advising drivers to not block the road, let someone spot a bear or an antlered deer and I guarantee traffic is going to come to a halt for several minutes. On the other hand, it’s 5:41 a.m. in Paint Lick at this writing but if I was in Sevierville right now, I’d be loading up for yet another trip to Cades Cove and if I lived down there, I’d probably do it every day. Mr. Parkinson would just have to learn to live with it.

Neither Andy nor Loretta had ever been to Clingmans Dome, the third highest peak (6,643 ft. elevation) east of the Mississippi River. Located on the North Carolina/Tennessee border, two nearby mountains in North Carolina are reputedly a few feet taller than Clingmans but some Park officials content they were not measured the same way and that GPS calculations will eventually determine that Clingmans is king.

What Clingmans has going for it is that you can drive almost to the top. The parking lot is over 6,500 feet in elevation. The remaining 100 feet or so to get to the observation deck requires a fairly steep, crooked, half mile hike. Neither Loretta nor Mr. Parkinson had any interest in making the hike and I had been to the summit on numerous, previous occasions. Even from the parking lot, visitors get broad, unobstructed views of the mountain range that are awe inspiring. Instead of looking up at the mountains, you are looking down on them. The perspective literally takes my breath away.

And, for once, Mr. Parkinson was more than glad to sit in the car because the temperature was in the mid 80s when we left Gatlinburg. Twenty-three uphill miles later at the dome’s parking lot it was somewhere in the mid 40s. I thought my ears were going to freeze and fall off but Andy hiked to the summit and back in short sleeves and swore it felt good. Suffice to say that my brother and I have radically different comfort zones.

On Friday we spent a few hours at the spillway/tailrace of Douglas Dam some 10 miles from downtown Sevierville photographing big birds. At least 3 different species of herons along with ospreys, ducks and even a bald eagle were on hand along with several large fowl that I have yet to identify. I find it hard to believe that the locals have not capitalized on Douglas Dam because the wildlife photography opportunities certainly rivals Cades Cove.

Finally, if you’re looking for good, clean motel accommodations at less than half the cost of any other deal we could find, The Wyndham, Apple Valley Days Inn in Sevierville certainly made us happy. It doesn’t have a pool and the in-room coffee is more like muddy, sandy water but the price is great. Two nights cost us $112 including nearly $25.00 in state and local taxes. Those “free” maps, magazines and tourist guides aren’t nearly as free as the locals would have you believe.

If I do make a full recovery from this trip, we’re going back in October.

Reach longtime Enterprise columnist Ike Adams at or on Facebook or 249 Charlie Brown Road, Paint Lick, KY 40461.