The Smoky Mountains National Park is a great retreat for nature loving people, especially people who live in a big city like Chicago. My husband Jay and I went there for our second anniversary trip in the end of April and enjoyed every minute of it. Spring is a great time to visit, but it has also a big disadvantage. Since it is not the prime season, the campgrounds are fairly empty and generally free of children, but that comes with chilly weather. It wouldn't be a problem if we slept in a hotel or at least a cabin, but it can get really cold in a small tent.
On the other side, it was perfect from the photographer's view. In lower levels we saw a lot of green meadows, blooming flowers, and beautiful strong waterfalls, which usually loose their power once it gets warmer and drier. In higher levels, we were still able to see snow and frozen trees. It was almost like two seasons were meeting and it formed pretty spectacular scenes.
We were also lucky enough to see several wild animals. Not only deer, which is common everywhere, but also wild turkey and bears which were very exciting species to spot. I don't really have any experience in this king of photography and unfortunately it shows, but I still enjoyed it.
Another new thing for me in the field of photography was a shot trying to show movement of the Earth. The point is to take a photo of the sky full of stars with a very long exposure, which ends up showing the path of the stars. It was the first time I tried to take this photo and I ran into some unanticipated difficulties. First, it was raining or cloudy the first two nights, so I couldn't see any stars. Second, our campground was full of trees, so it was really hard to find a good spot. Finally, every try takes at least a couple of hours, which significantly limited number of shots I was able to take. Anyway, in the end I was able to get somehow satisfactory photograph. I will definitely try this again next time I go far away from civilization.
To sum up our trip, we have been on Tennessee's and North Carolina's part of Smoky Mountains. We visited the highest point of the Mountains, which is Clingmans Dome and it was a perfect spot for watching the sunset. We also took walked several miles to see waterfalls, caves and viewing points. Other very interesting sights were old churches, cemeteries and cabins. While we intentionally sought those places, we also experienced some unexpected. It was amazing to see all those great animals. Adrenalin was definitely running through my body when we were chasing a cub with his mother and it was also great to see a wild turkey standing just few feet away from us. Smoky Mountains itself were just perfect, but there was one terrible thing we saw. Gatlinburg was probably a cute little town once, but today it is just a disgusting tourist town. It's too bad they let tourism get to them this way.
Generally it was extraordinary trip without modern inventions and full of nature. If you want to see more photos from our trip, they are on my website. The link is: http://www.eliskaschnabelphotography.com/p502730243.