Author: Mike Hembree

  1. Trailside Talk: Finding Solitude in a Busy Park

    Trailside Talk: Finding Solitude in a Busy Park For many people, national parks are about an escape from daily life, a place to find peace and quiet alongside a stream, on the shore of a deep lake, or at the highest point of a mountain. Is this sort of reverie possible in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the nation’s most heavily visited? The answer is not only “yes,” Read more...
  2. Trailside Talk: Smokies Photos—Take Your Best Shot

    Trailside Talk: Smokies Photos—Take Your Best Shot Photo by Bill Lea, BillLea.com. The beauty of Great Smoky Mountains National Park isn’t always easily translated to photography. Even experts in the art often agree, such as the late Ansel Adams, an internationally famous landscape photographer—particularly for his stunning images of Yosemite National Park. Adams Read more...
  3. Trailside Talk: Smokey the Bear

    Trailside Talk: Smokey the Bear Many people of a certain age have a special affection for Smokey Bear (or Smokey the Bear, as he has also been called). I remember reading Smokey’s story—how he was rescued from a wildfire in New Mexico in 1950 and became the symbol of fire awareness in the woods for generations. Posters and signs showing Smokey in a park ranger Read more...
  4. Trailside Talk: The Wonder of Falling Water

    Trailside Talk:  The Wonder of Falling Water The Smokies have waterfalls, dozens of them. Tall, wide, swift, slow. You can find them on the roadside and deep in the Smokies wilderness. Laurel Falls Cascades. GSMA Archives. Walking to a beautiful waterfall is the objective of many Smokies hikers. The hike is often its own reward, but to round a corner in the forest, Read more...
  5. Trailside Talk: Approaching Autumn

    Trailside Talk: Approaching Autumn There are a few magical moments that bring in the seasons of the Smokies. The first snowflake blowing across the shoulders of Mount Le Conte or Mount Guyot beckons winter. The tiniest wildflower signals spring is close behind. An afternoon thunderstorm rolling across the ridge freshens the Little River and declares that summer has arrived. And Read more...
  6. Trailside Talk: Alum Cave Trail—Heart of the Smokies

    Trailside Talk: Alum Cave Trail—Heart of the Smokies On any given day, and particularly on weekends, the trailhead parking area for Alum Cave Trail is among the most crowded in the Smokies. Cars spill out of the parking area and line up on the sides of US 441, the main road bisecting the park from north to south. It seems that some people like the trail so much that they are willing to walk Read more...
  7. Trailside Talk: Great Bear Jams I Have Known

    Trailside Talk: Great Bear Jams I Have Known No one who visits the Smokies, particularly during the summer, should be surprised to encounter that long-time park phenomenon known as the bear jam. Someone spots a black bear along a park road. Brakes bring the car to a screeching halt. Sometimes the bear spotter pulls to the side of the road (if possible). Sometimes the driver will simply Read more...
  8. 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...
  9. 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...
  10. 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...

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