Thursday, April 29, 2010

Cades Cove, in the Smokies.

Wow, what a great day yesterday, our last in the Smokies. I went for a mountain bike ride up into the park, but hadn't even left the campground before the camera was out - the high hills were dusted with snow!

I stopped freqently, not because my legs and lungs are out of shape, no no! I stopped because the swollen river and warm sunshine provided such great scenery that I had to stop to admire it...

In the afternoon we packed a picnic dinner and drove through the park to Cades Cove, in the south-west end. This is a picturesque pastoral valley, where horses are still kept and some of the fields are still mowed. Many families had to leave here when the park was formed, which must have been difficult. Now, it is a popular desitnation within the park, with a big campground, and an 11 mile loop road which is open to bicycles. On Monday and Wednesday mornings, only bicycles are allowed! There is abundant wildlife, from turkeys and deer, to otter and black bear. Like anywhere in the park, dogs are only allowed on roads, so we found a dirt side road and had a nice walk:

Then we drove the loop road, stopping to admire the white-tailed deer escaping the heat under a shade tree:

AND, most awesome of all, we saw black bears! First, I caught a glimpse of one in a densely wooded area, but by the time I stopped and got Nancy in position, it had moved into cover. But then we drove on, and there was a mother and three little cubs in a grassy area away from the road. My 12X lens came in handy. You'll have to click on the photo to enlarge it, and in order to see anything other than black specs:

But the next bear was not so shy. It was foraging bearly (ha!) a hundred feet from the road, un-phased by the 50 or so people and their cars that stopped to gawk. It was amazing to be so close to a wild bear! It seemed so content and uninterested in us humans that everyone was at ease - perhaps too much so. No one tried to feed it, which is good, and only a few fools whistled to try to get it to lift its head up for a better photo. A Kodiak moment, perhaps!

Contented, we found a nice spot for our picnic, somewhere away from the bears so that our grilled hamburgers wouldn't cause a scene! That would have been embearassing! HA! Could have gotten grizzly! Ha HA! How unbearably punny! Ooh...

Our bear sightings weren't through - on the drive back out a mother and her yearling cub were ambling down a hiking trail right along the road, so we got another good look. The camera couldn't handle the low light, so these images will reside only in the bear recesses of our minds. On that note...


  1. Matt, Nancy and BEARS oh my! Beautiful photos!

  2. More bear humor: perhaps for some higher Koala-ty photos I should have used a Polar-oid! (I lay awake at night thinking these things up)

  3. Your photo of the bears were so great and use your good imagination to think more things at night...It was funny!