Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Great Smokey Mountains National Park

Receving 8-10 million visitors a year makes Great Smokey Mountains National Park the most visted park in the National Park Sysytem. It encompasses 814 square miles, making it one of the largest protected areas in the eastern United States. The main park entrances are located along U.S. Highway 441 (Newfound Gap Road) at the towns of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and Cherokee, North Carolina. It was the first national park whose land and other costs were paid for in part with federal funds; previous parks were funded wholly with state money or private funds.

View toward Gatlinburg TN from the park

The park straddles the ridgeline of the Great Smoky Mountains, part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which are a division of the larger Appalachian Mountain chain. The border between Tennessee and North Carolina runs northeast to southwest through the centerline of the park.

View from the top of Clingman's Dome

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a hiker's paradise with over 800 miles of maintained trails ranging from short leg-stretchers to strenuous treks that may require backcountry camping. But hiking is not the only reason for visiting the Smokies. Car camping, fishing, picnicking, wildlife viewing and auto touring are popular activities.

Cades Cove Barn

The park has a number of historical attractions. The most well-preserved of these (and most popular) is Cades Cove, a valley with a number of preserved historic buildings including log cabins, barns, and churches. Cades Cove is the single most frequented destination in the national park. Self-guided automobile and bicycle tours offer the many sightseers a glimpse into the way of life of old-time southern Appalachia. Other historical areas within the park include Roaring Fork, Cataloochee, Elkmont, and the Mountain Farm Museum and Mingus Mill at Oconaluftee.

                                                                         Trail to Laurel Falls

When I visted the park in early November, the fall colors were past their peak, but still amazing to see. I was only going to have a couple days to photograph so my plan was to do mostly lndscape photography and wildlife on another visit. On my first day my wife and I hiked up the trail to Laurel Falls to do some waterfall photos. 

                                                                          Laural Falls

I had just started taking a couple photos and picked up my tripod to change locations. I was walking on some sloping rock that was wet and moss covered. My feet went out from under me so fast I had no chance to catch myself. I rotated my body instinctivly to try and protect my camera. I hit directly on my left shoulder full force. (camera and tripod on same shoulder) This caused some bad things to happen! I smashed my Canon 40D, Canon 16-35mm L series II lens, and my tripod. I really torn up my shoulder pretty bad, although I was way more concerned about my equipment.. Watching my 16-35 lens bouncing across the rocks was more painful at that moment than my shoulder which was numb. Luckily I did not go over the next falls as that was a really far drop.

Road through the park
So after picking up all my busted gear, I had a 1.5 mile hike back down the mountain. My wife was insisting I go to the hospital, but since I had just got there and did not have many photos yet I decided against that. Besides, I had my older 20D body as a backup and my trusty 70-200mm f2.8L IS. So for the rest of that day, and all the next day I was a one armed photographer shooting with only a 70-200mm lens and using a mono pod for my only support. After returning home I did have a torn rotator cuff and major ligament damage in  my shoulder. A major surgery and 6 months of rehab. fixed that, and insurance covered most of the camera equipment.  

Fall colors in the woods

I am planning a return trip this fall to capture the fall colors and beauty of this great park. Here is a link from the National Park service with great information on the park.

No comments:

Post a Comment