Author: Mike Hembree

  1. Trailside Talk: The Perfect Smokies Day

    Trailside Talk: The Perfect Smokies Day Get ready, Cades Cove! On the alert, Laurel Falls! Look out, Alum Cave! Sugarlands, here they come!  Over the next several months, the Great Smokies face the year’s biggest season of visitation as schools dismiss students for the summer and hundreds of thousands of workers target mountain trips for their annual vacations. From one- Read more...
  2. Trailside Talk: Did Charlie Have a Bunion?

    Trailside Talk: Did Charlie Have a Bunion? Charlies Bunion will never be mistaken for one of the Great Smoky Mountains’ majestic peaks. It is rugged and ragged—a sort of obstructive bump on the landscape near Mount Le Conte, its much more impressive neighbor. But the Bunion is worth a look, either onsite or from nearby trails. And in a park noted for ridge after ridge of Read more...
  3. Trailside Talk: Appreciating the Gateways to the Smokies

    Trailside Talk: Appreciating the Gateways to the Smokies It often seems that every community within 100 miles of Great Smoky Mountains National Park wants to be known as the “Gateway to the Smokies.” This is not surprising. Claiming an attachment to the country’s most-visited national park has obvious positives. Make a ring around the park boundary, and the map presents Maggie Read more...
  4. Trailside Talk: A Wildflower for Dot

    Trailside Talk: A Wildflower for Dot A wintery wind is still hurrying through the mountains, but the wildflowers of the Smokies’ spring are bursting forth. It is this time of the year in these mountains that reminds me of my late and beloved friend Dot Jackson, whose connections to and love for the Smokies were long and strong. Dot Jackson, photo courtesy of Read more...
  5. Trailside Talk: Quiet History and Scenic Beauty in Cataloochee Valley

    Trailside Talk: Quiet History and Scenic Beauty in Cataloochee Valley Visitors to Cades Cove, one of the most popular spots in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, might be interested to know that there were discussions in the park’s formative days of preserving parts of another Smokies community in similar fashion.  A view of Cataloochee Field, 1938. Courtesy of GSMNP archives. Read more...
  6. Trailside Talk: See Cades Cove From a New Perspective—By Bike

    Trailside Talk: See Cades Cove From a New Perspective—By Bike Images by Quentin Ellison If you had to pick the top three spots in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the answer might be: 1. Cades Cove2. Cades Cove3. Cades Cove This exquisite mountain valley attracts visitors by the thousands in every season, and for good reason. The views are spectacular, animal life is abundant, and some of the Read more...
  7. Trailside Talk: Want to Leave a Mark? Choose Footprints, Not Graffiti

    Trailside Talk: Want to Leave a Mark? Choose Footprints, Not Graffiti Image provided by Save Our Smokies The natural beauty of Great Smoky Mountains National Park is unmatched in the eastern United States. No other wilderness or park preserve has the same blend of mountains, streams, plant and animal life, and stunning views. More than 14 million visitors enjoyed the park last year, a record for the most- Read more...
  8. Trailside Talk: Searching for Clingmans Lost Apostrophe

    Trailside Talk: Searching for Clingmans Lost Apostrophe Image by Harry Cooke The highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is also one of its oddest. Clingmans Dome, at 6,643 feet, is the absolute roof of the Smokies, an imposing mountain within a group of imposing mountains. Unlike some other giants of the Appalachians, it isn’t necessarily a target of serious mountain Read more...
  9. Trailside Talk: Elk Ignore Park Signs

    Trailside Talk: Elk Ignore Park Signs Photos courtesy of Joye Ardyn Durhum The elk population in the Smokies has been one of the park’s key attractions for two decades. In the early days of this grand experiment that has worked so well, elk headquarters was in Cataloochee. I made the 45-minute drive into the valley several times to see them. And, sometimes, to hear them, Read more...
  10. Trailside Talk: We Needn’t Love Our Trees to Death

    Trailside Talk: We Needn’t Love Our Trees to Death Discussion of almost any major national park often includes the refrain that it is being “loved to death.” This can obviously be applied to the Smokies, the nation’s most visited national park. Traffic jams can be found on park roads in almost every month of the year, and popular trailhead parking areas often are overwhelmed Read more...

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