Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Beauty is Sometimes Bittersweet

One of the things that I was looking forward to doing in the mountains the most was taking the 11 mile loop drive through Cades Cove, which is one of my favorite places on earth. 

Here, you can see the low hanging clouds over the mountains that surround the cove.  This photo makes it easy to see where the name for the Smokies comes from. Clouds drift over and around the peaks all the time. On any given day, it is possible for one to drive through a thick cloud and then right back out again. 

Sorry that my photos are dark. It was overcast and about to rain. But, I wanted to show you some of the lovely valley views which are ringed by the mountains.  The 11 mile road though the cove follows many of the old wagon roads and grades made by those that settled the area after an Indian treaty transferred land to the state of Tennessee in 1819.  

Since the road follows some old wagon trails, it sometimes drops almost completely below the surrounding ground level in spots where the trail was deeply rutted out over time. 

I drove up a tiny one lane road to the Primitive Baptist Church, which was organized in 1827. The one room building overlooks grave sites out back. 

Mother died at 31. Father was 69.

 During the Civil War, this church shut its doors. The reason was given in some correspondence, "We the Primitive Baptist Church in Blount County in Cades Cove, do show the public why we have not kept up our church meeting. It was on account to the Rebellion and we was Union people and the Rebels was too strong here in Cades Cove. Out preacher was obliged to leave sometimes..."

On the way back down the tiny lane, I got caught up in a log-jam of tightly packed cars. My photo does nothing to show how many cars and how tight we were packed together. 

The reason?  A bear sighting.  I actually saw him run across the road quite a few car lengths ahead of me. The driver of the car in front of me stopped in the middle of the road and walked off taking pictures. I pulled up to his car as close as I could get to try and see more of Mr. Bear, but I only saw more cars, people, their 10 foot zoom lenses and the empty woods.

Nearing the end of my drive, I did see a rafter (flock) of wild turkeys. They meandered through a field very close to my car before they decided to cross the road.  

 I guess they weren't very worried about becoming anyone's Thanksgiving dinner.

It took me about 2 1/2 hours to make the loop and I was sad when it was over.  My son and all the children decided to come back with me the following day.  We saw over 35 deer and a few bucks as well. I'll post a few of those photos later. 

As thankful as I am that Cades Cove, and all the other wonderful spots like it in the park, have beenpreserved and taken care of so that visitors like me can enjoy it, it makes me sad to think about the families that lost their homesteads in order for the park to be established. Those not willing to move were given lifetime leases that allowed them to live in their houses, work their fields and cut dead timber. As they died their property became the part of the park service.

This poem by Louisa Walker sums up the bittersweetness of the inhabitants feelings.

There is an old weather bettion house
That stands near a wood
WIth an orchard near by it
For all most one hundred years it has stood

It was my home in infency
It sheltered me in youth
When I tell you I love it
I tell you the truth

For years it has sheltered 
By day and night
From the summer sun's heat
And the cold winter blight. 

But now the park Commesser
Comes all dressed up so gay
Saying this old house of yours
We must now take away

They coax they wheedle
They fret they bark
Saying we have to have this place
For a National park

For us poor mountain people 
They don't have a care
But must a home for
The wolf the lion and the bear

But many of us have a title 
That is sure and will hold 
To the City of peace
Where the streets are pure gold

There no lion in its fury 
Those pathes ever trod
It is the home of the soul
In the presence of God

When we reach the portles
Of glory so fair
The Wolf cannot enter
Neather the lion or bear

And no park Commissioner
Will ever dar
To desturbe or molest 
Or take our home from us there.

In 1941 the Walker sisters sold their 123 acres of land to the park service for  $4,750 and a lifetime lease. Louisa, the last living of five sisters, lived on the Walker land until she died in her eighties, in 1964.


  1. I can understand why you enjoy this scenic drive so much. Despite it being late November, overcast, and gray, there is an incredible beauty in this valley.

  2. A lovely slice of Americana. Beautiful post, Stevie.

  3. I love that it is a loop drive! So pretty and tranquil.

  4. Lovely poem Stevie, it is bittersweet isn't it.
    I grew up visiting grandparents and great grandparents in the Great Smoky Mountains. There are so many bittersweet tales in our country's history!

    I don't live withmountains now, but I do have turkey and deer roaming through...and rumors of an occasional bear sighting.

  5. It is sad that people felt thrown out of their homes. It must be a beautiful area since so many people got there for vacation. From the looks of your photos it is so.

  6. Oh yes, bittersweet indeed. Lovely photos .. and looking forward to more.

  7. Stevie I never knew the people were disposed from their land to make this National Park. How sad but also it is also fortunate this beautiful land was saved from strip malls and over development.

    There is a blogger I visit called Joyful Reflections, and Betsy showed many places in Cades Cove on her blog. She lives in Tennessee. It's so beautiful there!

  8. Awww...that is very bittersweet. I love the Smokey beautiful!

  9. it is a beautiful loop - when i went through it about four years ago it was bumper to bumper because of everyone stopping to see the deer and bear.

    i'm glad you had a good time.

  10. Great post today, Stevie! Enjoyed the photos. :)


  11. I have never seen wild turkeys before, what a sight.;) I was born under some majestic mountains and at times i miss the view of ridges and pinnacles. Denmark is very flat, even though the area I live in is hilly, but I guess we have the ocean instead. One can not have it all...
    Lovely images.;))

  12. Wow... how sad indeed... even today, people losing their homes is such a sad thing with the crunch as it is. Hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving, Stevie!
    :) Lord Thomas of Wellington (The Bach)

  13. Wild turkeys remind me of Al Capp's Schmoos

  14. I grew up way down too. I love Cades Cove and the Smokies. Where down south do you live?

  15. Beautiful photos and such history to go with it. I love the pics of the wild turkeys also. Thanks for sharing this post.

  16. What a beautiful place. No wonder you return there often. The poem by Louisa Walker was so touching. The family certainly wasn't paid much money for that huge parcel of land. Of course, it sounds like they didn't care about the money, anyway. I'm glad, at least, that they were able to live where they loved until the last member of the family died. It would have been so terrible to force them to leave.


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