My Favorite Place | A Snowy Smokies Fall Color Cruise | Gatlinburg, TN

I never knew when God told me on Jan. 4, 2010, while facing going back to the same job I’d almost had a nervous break down doing 3+ years earlier, that I’d be taking this God given gift of Photography to full time status, just what He had in store for me.

Gatlinburg. The second word that gets me all hyped up like a spider monkey on Mountain Dew. The first being “SNOW” of course. So, after 9 days on the road traveling literally all across Tennessee, and in to Little Rock, Arkansas for sessions, he woke me up bright and early on a Monday morning, completely spent and out right beaten…after only 4 hrs sleep no less, and off to Gatlinburg my mom and I went. I had no idea what lay before me…only this compulsion to go.

2 years ago I was blessed enough on a whim ride to the mountains by myself to see a rare site. Fall color with SNOW. I’ve wanted to see it again since then, and that day I’d hoped but wasn’t too optimistic. We drove up the scenic route bypassing Wears Valley and Pigeon Forge, but we missed getting to head up 441, a.k.a. Newfound Gap Road, by TEN minutes! TEN! To say I was upset was an understatement.  I KNEW what that meant….there was SNOW up there…snow I wasn’t getting to see 😦

I conned mom in to staying the night, something she NEVER does…EVER, in hopes of getting to go up the next morning when they opened the road. Well, she gave in, but I never got to go up to my favorite spot in Gatlinburg…that trip 😉 And seeing some of the snow images from a few days after when the road did open up from where Hurricane Sandy had dumped almost 2 feet of snow up top on my favorite spot, and almost 3 feet on Mount Leconte, didn’t help.

BUT We did see one BREATHTAKING site…something I’ve only seen twice in my life, and something I hope I can see A LOT more of…. Fall Color coated in SNOW!  If you haven’t seen this site yourself, I suggest getting a 4WD vehicle and adding it to your bucket list.

I drove us up Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail where just a month before I’d shot some Senior pictures when it was all green and fresh. (You can see those Here.) Only my second time ever going up there…in alllll the trips I’ve made to my beloved GBurg and heard of this place I’d never been! I’m telling you I am so thankful my clients seem to hate studio photography as much as me so, they seek out wonderful and different places…places like Roaring Fork!

We got to to top of the trail right before you head back down and we slid a few times in the mud, slush mixture (hence why I said get a 4WD just in case!), and the bright hues popping under sheaths of white really struck me! No matter how bright or dirty we think our sins may be to the world Jesus’ blood comes through, when we ask Him to come sweep over our soul like the flakes on the leaves, and COVERS that bright spot in a fresh, new, PURE, and unstained coat. WOW!  What a parallel!  I didn’t personally need that reminder then, as I’ve always loved that aspect of the snow.  Truthfully that’s a large part of why I always pray for a LOT of it…so it’ll cover everything in pure, beauty, and hopefully remind someone of that old song “to thee whose blood can cleanse each spot, Oh Lamb of God I come…I come!”

So, I pray that whoever I was to capture those images for that you let Him cover those seemingly too bright stains/sins with His grace and mercy. Whoever sees these will know that He loves us all soooo much that He shed his pure blood to make our sinful stains as white as the fallen snow!

After that we headed to eat, and then back to our hotel where I stayed awake most of the night watching for the snow to start falling…but it never did! The weather prediction kept pushing it back, and back, until it said 4 am…and I wasn’t staying up til 4am on my mini-cation.

We rose early the next morning to NO snow 😦 and 441 was still closed. So, we had breakfast, and then headed to take the Sky Tram up to Ski Mountain. Also known as Ober! Mom had never been, and I’d never been in the fall. The site that was about to unfold before me…well…I just stood there in amazement! I’d never seen snow look more beautiful! I’d seen it down low, looking UP at the trees, but looking down and watching as BRIGHT, VIVID, Fall leaves changed over to “sugar” coated scenes straight out of a Kincaid painting just made me silent. I wished there weren’t windows in the way! You know I’d have been the one crazy person who leaned out just a little too far to grab a picture, and over I’d have went…but as long as someone saved the memory card I’d have considered it a WIN 😉

We came back down and I immediately didn’t want to leave. That feeling of dread always comes over me when it’s time to depart my beloved GBurg. We had to though. I had to. I had (and still have) sessions to work on and Christmas props to work on!  We took the long, scenic way out again and decided a stop in Cades Cave was a necessity as well.  God wasn’t done granting me surprises either.

I’d NEVER seen, nor shot obviously, a bear!  Hundreds of trips to those Great Smoky Mountains, and never ONE bear shot! I had seen one a few weeks earlier on the Senior shoot, but I was driving and we were in a rush to not lose light so I didn’t get to shoot it. BUT this day I would.  I’d just uttered the words “I’m goin’ on a bear hunt…gonna shoot a bear” when up ahead near the beginning of the loop a bunch of people are stopped, out of their cars and looking in a row of trees. I ask the gentleman walking what it was and he pointed out a BEAR…IN a tree!  No big deal right? Bear in tree! BUT this little fellas WAAAAY up there, looking a bit frantic and “dancing” around on branches that I still don’t know how they held him!

So, I parked, hopped a fence, darted horse apples in a muddy field…in my furry boots no doubt, and joined the bear-pointer-out man just outside a double row of fences that separated us and the “high-wire” bear. We kept an eye on the trees for momma bear, but thankfully she never showed! I had my telephoto 70-200 lens but that wasn’t close enough to get this death defying black bear. SOOOO thanks to the zoom/crop feature in my editing software I got a closer glimpse of him. Annnd I LOVE it!  One day maybe I’ll get a close up, and live to show it, but for now I hope you all enjoy “high-wire” or “death defying” bear.

I came home late that evening and went to bed. I had a wonderful, deep sleep like I hadn’t had in so long. God showed out during my little 36 hour adventure, and even though it seemed too short I felt more relaxed and refreshed than I have in too long. He knew EXACTLY what I needed and just when I needed it.

If you’re still hanging in here after this mini-novel I promise you there’s photos 😉 TONS! I sincerely hope you love them, and add Gatlinburg’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP for short) in the Fall WITH Snow to your bucket list. There’s really nothing quite like it!

P.S. Any of these images are available for purchase from my gallery in print, or canvas! Just sayin’ 😉

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