A year ago one of my long time doctors dropped me an email asking if I knew about Wilderness Wildlife Week in Pigeon Forge. Said if I didn’t, I needed to scope it out and inform my guests! After asking around a little, I found a few of my friends had attended over the years and Bonnie handed me the 73 page pamphlet last week when we met for lunch. It took two hours to plow through the thing! I plan on attending a couple of different days. It’s coming up fast, Saturday, January 24, through Saturday, January 31, 2015 at the new and beautiful LeConte Center in Pigeon Forge. For an online complete listing of “exhibits, performances, workshops, classes, walks and talks that are both informative and entertaining” go to http://www.mypigeonforge.com/events/wilderness-wildlife-week/, scroll to the bottom of the article and click for the schedule.
Since Bill and Bonnie Gathergood are regular attendees of Wilderness Wildlife Week, I asked Bill to write a synopsis of the event. Here are his thoughts…..
Wilderness Wildlife Week is a free celebration of East Tennessee culture, history and science. Hundreds of entertaining lectures on bears, birds and butterflies of the area are free to the general public. Concerts by local musicians; Boogertown Gap and Lost Mill String Band are presented along with historical church music with Sacred Harp singing and traditional hymns.
For 25 years, Wilderness Wildlife Week, a concept begun by Ken Jenkins and Bill Landry, brings fascinating information about the National Park and surrounding areas. There are historical lectures on the Lewis and Clarke Expedition, the Trail of Tears march of the Cherokee as well as traditional Native American folk tales. The Master Gardeners of East Tennessee present several lectures on gardening techniques, creating butterfly habitats and planting specific flowers to draw hummingbirds or monarch butterflies to your yard. There are several classes on nature photography including a photo contest with all participants voting on the best photos.
For the last two years, Wilderness Wildlife Week has been held at the LeConte Center in Pigeon Forge. The free lecture series are presented in the center’s many classrooms. People can also sign up for over 60 hikes through the nature trails of the National Park. All activities are free.
Thanks Bill, my first guest blogger! Blessings, mizkathleen@ Gracehill Bed and Breakfast
Gracehill Bed and Breakfast was lucky enough to be chosen to host The Red Chair, for a couple of days, during a cross country trip Red is doing staying at hundreds of B&B’s across America. What are The Red Chair Travels? His own website and blog does a better job describing it than I can! The following is an account of Red’s stay while being hosted at six different bed and breakfasts, December 2013, here in the Great Smoky Mountains.
Red showed up in Townsend (TN) on a windy, blustery day when weather was pounding the east coast with snow and rain. He retired early his first night after having had a hearty dinner at Berry Springs Lodge in Pigeon Forge. Red was the first guest up the next morning. We chatted while I prepared breakfast, and he was patiently waiting on the other guests when they surfaced at 9:00. He enjoyed lively conversation along with popovers with honey butter (no jam for this guy), caramelized pears pistachio, and chicken crepes mornay with a fresh orange cranberry relish. He had seconds on OJ and decaf coffee. He said he was so excited about staying at Gracehill and visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that he needed to watch his caffeine intake for the next couple of days. I did learn he was not keen on sitting too close to the fire. Good thing I had put him in the only bedroom without a fireplace!
Wouldn’t have wanted to spark any bad dreams! We hung around after breakfast for several hours doing this and that waiting for the weather to clear. It didn’t, so we took off around 3:30, picked up another friend, and the three of us visited the most popular attraction in the most visited National Park in the United States, Cades Cove. It is a pioneer settlement, an 11 mile one way loop drive ringed in by mountains. Of course, Red had to hop out of the car each time he saw a different animal- white tailed deer, turkeys, but no bears today. He was quite the attraction himself as several dozen kids and parents wanted to make his acquaintance. After being disappointed that Berry Springs didn’t really have a nude beach, he decided to go skinny dipping in one stream we had to drive through as water was a little high from all the rain. He met us on the other side, chilled of course, so I cranked up the heat. We skipped the hike I had planned to Abrams Falls as he was just warming up, but we did stop at several of the old homesteads. Back to Gracehill Bed and Breakfast in time for sunset, the big attraction here at the highest house in the county. Red chatted up our guests this morning, but stuck to coffee himself claiming he had to watch his figure this time of year. With all the Christmas celebrations, he had packed on a few pounds. Off today for a stop at Sweet Berries Bed and Breakfast on the Tail of the Dragon, 318 curves in 11.2 miles. But that is their story to tell. Maybe it’s a good thing he did skip breakfast. I’ll pack a Dramamine for him!
Hugs and Kisses, Red, mizkathleen @Gracehill Bed and Breakfast.
A comprehensive list of events was posted in the Daily Times and online at www.smokymountains.org. The emphasis was the history of the area, and mountain music was predominant. Mom and I attended Friday afternoon’s, “Music of the Mountains” by Great Smoky Mountains National Park Park Ranger Lisa Free. It was a combination of lecture on the oral traditions of passing music down or along, playing various instruments and some singing and foot tapping! Instruments were made out of just about anything and there was a definite bias about which sex could play what instrument. For instance, a 150 years ago you normally would not see a
woman playing the fiddle or banjo as Ranger Free and Visitor Center’s Manager of Partnership Events, Jeanie Hilten, are doing in this photograph. They would have been considered “loose”! I knew Townsend was a hot bed of emancipated women!
In addition to all of the events listed above, Steve Fillmore of Miss Lily’s Cafe and the Lily Barn decided to test the waters to see if there would be interest in holding an annual craft beer festival in Townsend. National beer sales are in decline overall, but craft beer sales are on the upswing as interest grows. The event was held on Saturday at Laurel Valley Restaurant and Golf Course and was a sold out. Attendee’s were effusive in their praise! Blessings, mizkathleen@ Gracehill Bed and Breakfast
Before Mom and I moved to Tennessee 25 years ago, we left Illinois in a motor home with a motorcycle and scooter hanging off the front and back. My goal was to see every national park in the United States, and Canada from Victoria to St. John’s, Newfoundland. We were able to do that, over the course of 17 months, and even better, was the decision to settle in Townsend, TN just outside the Cades Cove Loop Road entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Of all the beautiful places on the North American continent, there is nowhere I would rather live.
I have been in the tourist/hospitality industry ever since, with the last 10 years as the owner/operator of Gracehill Bed and Breakfast. During that time, I have sent and given directions to thousands of people looking for the Cove. Furthermore, if you only have two nights, one full day in the Smokies, I say a drive around Cades Cove with a little hiking on its many trails, needs to be at the top of the list.
The Great Smokies is the most visited National Park in the U.S. and Cades Cove the most visited “attraction” in it. It is a pioneer settlement from the late 1800’s, early 1900’s, in a bowl depression surrounded by lofty mountains. (Think spacious skies and purple mountain majesties…) It’s filled with log cabins, churches, cemeteries, a gristmill and my favorite, the barns.
It helps to know some things about the Cove. It features a newly paved 11-mile, single lane, one-way loop road. It opens at sunrise, closes at dark, and those are the two times you will see the most wildlife. If you are the type to take home a pic of every deer, pull over so the car behind you can pass. It is closed to vehicular traffic on Saturday and Wednesday mornings till 10am, May through September, for bicycle and foot traffic. You can rent bikes at the entrance or bring your own. In the winter or early spring, with no stops, the drive can take an hour and 15 minutes. Weekends in the summer plan on a couple of hours. In October, arrive very early and preferably during the week. I’ll pack you a picnic breakfast to go. Bring your camera and tripod for the mist rising off the water shots. A Saturday afternoon in October, could take four hours. Make sure you have enough gas. The last gas station at the Townsend entrance is the Marathon at the KOA Campground. If you make it out of the Cove on fumes, you can just about coast the nine miles back into Townsend. The only tricky spot is the stop sign at the “Wye.” I tried coasting once. Was probably a little irritating to the driver behind me, but what the heck, I was in pursuit of empirical knowledge!
There are two gravel roads that bisect the Cove going in both directions. If you start going through sugar withdrawal, hang a left on Sparks or Hyatt Lane and it will shorten the trip. A little more than half way around, by the Cable Mill, is a visitor center and restroom facilities. The last 1/3 of the drive is more heavily wooded, but my favorite. Everything is closer to the road and most of the barns are there.
Books have been written about Cades Cove and the history of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, many of them here on the library table. You can Google Cades Cove and come up with 100s of articles from many different perspectives. The Park puts out a good brochure with numbered stops. You can pick it up at the entrance for $1, or I have multiple copies here, if you want to read it before you go. My intent was to write an article on the Cades Cove Preservation Association, with a little history of the Cove first. Hmmm. Next installment another day. Blessings, mizkathleen@ GracehillRead More
While the Cades Cove loop road or Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail are big draws for our guests at this East Tennessee Bed and Breakfast, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is doing some needed repairs on these heavily trafficked roads starting March 1st, 2010. Roads affected and the targeted completion of these repairs are:
Cades Cove Loop (that will also close one-way Parsons Branch & Rich Mountain Rd) 5/21 (an update from the Park, the Loop Rd. will open a month early on 4/24!)
Clingman’s Dome 5/28
The Sinks parking area 5/25
Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail 5/28
& Cherokee Orchard past the Noah B Ogle cabin 3/19
While these are some of the Park site seeing highlights, these closures will not affect normal “drive through” traffic on the artery roads. Trails accessed from the roads under repair will be closed also, but with 900 miles of trails in the Park, you have a plethora of choices to choose from. As always, for up to date information on closures call the National Park at 865-436-1200. Extension 631 will give you road closures, and extension 630 is the weather report.
So you might ask yourself WHAT IS A PERSON TO DO while we deal with the face lift? Jeepers, :-O not to worry! There are enough outdoor nature activities besides the shop till you drop experience in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge to keep you busy for a week. Or, why not order a picnic lunch or appetizer tray and stay here? Come to breakfast in your robe and curl up in front of the fireplace with a good book, game, or watch a little satellite TV afterwards.
Several years ago on New Years Eve, guests Craig and Ashley stayed here while their friends Allen and Jodi got married in the area. The next year they came back and brought Allen and Jodi with them, appearing to have become a yearly tradition. (Lucky me…) After breakfast on New Years Eve this year, Jodi dug a 1000 piece puzzle out of the game cabinet and said she thought she would put it together. This was the last full day of their stay and honestly I was thinking she is out of her mind. It would take me the whole three days of their stay just to pick out the straight edge pieces and get the perimeter put together. A few hours later I took the middle photo you see on the left. They broke for dinner and went out and about; afterwards, with the four of them watching TV, Jodi continued. Occasionally someone else would plunk in a piece. By midnight she was down to the last couple of hundred pieces and had the full attention of all of us. I think we/SHE finished around 2 or 3 AM. I believe the government is missing the boat by not offering her a job. (“Should she choose to accept…”) I can see her sitting in a room with no windows, low light, and piecing together something that saves us from ourselves. With five minutes to spare. What a gift. mizkathleen@ Gracehill