By Charlene Shiver
Marketing and Membership Associate
Saturday, 9:32 p.m. – A dark shadow slowly made its way across the scarred floor of the old church….
Same Day, 6:45 a.m. – I woke up early this morning with the bright idea to explore Cades Cove later in the evening, past dark. Though I was unsure what I might find or experience after sundown, I was determined not to stay indoors on what was shaping up to be a fine fall day.
5:17 p.m. – After a little planning and housework, I was finally ready for my adventure. I packed my car with all the essentials, including water, a flashlight, good walking shoes and plenty of snacks. Hopefully I had not forgotten anything.
6:48 p.m. – I arrived in the cove at dusk to find the gate was already closed. I strapped on my backpack and headed out, flashlight in hand. My first stop was at the John Oliver cabin. As I walked down the trail toward the house, I took note of the silence surrounding me. The sky was getting blacker by the minute. A dark, eerie feeling slowly wrapped around me like a warm blanket. Finding the courage I required, I held my chin high, determined to reach my destination.
7:25 p.m. – I approached the cabin’s front porch and quickly headed up the steps and through the door, thinking to myself, ‘the faster I move, the better.’ Once inside, I held up my flashlight hoping it would protect me from anything that might be lurking in a dark corner, someone or something that might be standing still, listening to my approach. I found only shadows and memories lingering in the rafters, some good and some sad, the leftover memories of what life had been like in this mountain community. Off I went to explore more.
7:48 p.m. – Back on the paved Loop Road, I enjoyed the peaceful night. I encountered and exchanged pleasantries with a few other night travelers along on the road before journeying on to look for my next stop.
9:32 p.m. – Finally I arrived at the church, which sits peacefully at the top of a small rise. Shadows lengthened as the moon rose over the horizon bringing an odd glow to the glass windows. I took a deep breath and headed up the church’s stone steps. After a full day and a long walk, I was glad to take a seat in the first pew I came to. I used this quiet time to think about life.
That’s when I noticed the shadow slowly creeping across the century-old floorboards towards me. At that exact moment I froze, barely even daring to take a breath. With eyes wide open, I was too terrified to move.
Breathing an enormous sigh of relief, I realized the shadowy figure was only a cloud passing between the moon and the church window. I grabbed my flashlight and headed back to my car, elated to know that what I’d seen was only a trick of nature… Or was it?
Editor’s Note: Charlene and her husband, Lloyd, invite Great Smoky Mountains Association members to walk Cades Cove Loop Road with them on the night of each month’s full moon. The next 11-mile walk in the dark is scheduled for Tuesday, November 26.