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Elk sighting…

We pulled the car over to join the line up of cars on the side of the road just beyond the Oconaluftee Visitor Center in Cherokee, NC. We quickly saw the female elk that everyone was getting out of their cars, toting their phones and cameras, to photograph. She had just emerged from the tree line, and was wandering into the pasture to graze. More females followed her, emerging by twos and threes, or just one at a time. I had seen elk before, but not in such a natural setting. In Yellowstone they had taken over the streets of a town, and the rangers weren’t so much herding the elk as they were herding the people who were getting too close to them. In Colorado Springs I saw them on a lawn of a business on one corner of a busy intersection, with a traffic light and constant traffic just a few yards away. The elk were not fazed by either of these situations.

First came one female elk, testing the waters perhaps?
Others followed soon after.
She seemed to lead the herd, or maybe her collar made her seem more official to me.

What was so different about this situation was the appearance of a huge buck, sporting a very impressive set of antlers. He also emerged from the tree line, and was bugling, and obviously rounding up his herd, which had scattered a bit. It’s the season of ‘rut’, so he was probably establishing his dominance to any other bull elk in the vicinity. It was interesting that a lone female quite a distance away, but in the same pasture, was of no interest to him, beyond a glance in her direction now and then. She apparently didn’t belong. Despite his attentions the females slowly continued to wander in the general direction of the road, and the dozens of people lined up beside their cars, intent on getting their pictures. And as they wandered so did the bull, right towards us, until a female ranger suddenly ran a short way into the pasture, waving her arms, and shoo’d the gals back to the center. I thought she was carrying a camera and long lens, but I was corrected, it was a tranquilizer gun. I’m happy to report that it wasn’t necessary to use it, at least on that day. I guess seeing the beautiful scenery, and having a chance to see the animals going about their business in the same way that their ancestors had done, is the entire point of a visit to our national parks, isn’t it?

He was so far away, just in the treeline and I thought a picture would be difficult.
Then he stepped into the light, he had work to do.
He was quite an impressive sight.
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Have I mentioned?

I know I mentioned that I wasn’t particularly gracious when I found myself driving the endless hairpin turns as we traveled the last 20 miles to the cabin. But I don’t think I mentioned that the entire rest of my trip was chauffeur driven, including the first part of the drive home. That’s the part with the hairpin turns and the frustrating traffic approaching Atlanta. Whew! So I spent one of the days we were there, the day that it stayed overcast most of the day so the light was soft and the colors were nice, shooting iPhone pictures out the windshield of the car. I have, on occasion, tried to shoot pictures out the windshield while also driving, a practice that I don’t recommend since it rarely leads to a good picture, not to mention the danger involved. But with a chauffeur it was hard to resist trying for shots as the scenery was gorgeous but there was nowhere to stop and take pictures. The feature photo is one of my more successful of those shots.

We were at a higher elevation, as well as the softer light, so the colors really seemed more vivid.
Ordinarily I’d have cropped out the people at the bottom of the picture. But as you can see they are aiming their phones across the parking area. I wonder if they ever turned around and looked behind themselves?
I don’t know that I stand and savor these views since I’m usually in such a hurry to take a picture, as if someone is about to snatch the view away.
Rocks and water again.
The water is so clear.
The sound of the water was nice too, and all the while you were under a canopy of gold and orange leaves.

The drive to get to the Smokies may have been long and frustrating at times, and the lack of wifi for the entire stay, as well as not even having TV for the first two days, may have been enough to spoil the trip for some people. But our focus was to get out and take ever more pictures, so that’s what we did. Plus I had downloaded books from Audible before we left, just to use my points before I quit the app, so we listened to a Vince Flynn book for the two TV-less nights. Now we need to listen to the end to see if everyone lives happily ever after. Which is what we seem to be doing…

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Mountain views…

A friend has now arrived in The Great Smokey Mountains National Park, and found quite chilly morning temperatures. I’m wondering how this will affect the color of the foliage so I decided to put up my pretty, but not peak, foliage pictures before I see hers. We were quite happy with our taste of fall, but I might be jealous once I see her pictures. I’m sure it’s a lovely place to visit in any season, but displaced New Englanders seem to miss the fall display more than any other season of the year.

I know we tried more than once to get the morning clouds sitting in front of the mountain views. This was my only successful attempt.
I had a polarizer filter on the camera for this picture. It will help enhance the sky, or so I was told. To be honest my iPhone pictures were just as good. I find that annoying in a way, like using the phone is cheating since it does all the work. But it is a more expensive camera than my Canon, so why am I surprised?
These are from Clingman’s Dome, just the parking lot level, we didn’t climb to the observation tower. I will find out what I missed when my friend posts her pictures since I know she’ll be up for the climb.
I would look at a view and think how pretty it was, and then if I looked again I thought it was prettier the second time. Hence so many similar pictures.
From one of the observation stops along the drive through the park.
Every stop was beautiful when shared with a friend and while enjoying perfect weather.
Endless views as you drive through the park.
Those hillsides will be so gorgeous soon.
Another stop for lunch with a rocky stream to photograph.
There are many waterfalls in the park but most of them requite an uphill hike to get there, so we didn’t attempt them. But this little one was right on the roadside.
I imagine that there are times that a lot more water is tumbling down that hillside.
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Oconoluftee Visitor Center…

This feature photo needs a title. How about “The Little Outhouse in the Smokies?” We were still on our first full day of our trip, and we had heard that this visitor center had a great farm display, as well as occasional visits from elk. We thought we could plan our trip, acquire some maps, and, hopefully, see some elk. We didn’t see them that day, but stay tuned because we did eventually see them. I look at these scenes and think of how hard life must have been in those days…

Here you have the farm house, amazingly devoid of tourists. Like us! LOL.
The house again. It was explained that the owner split the logs and used the halves on opposing walls. A skilled technique.
Further signage pointed out that pigs were essential on a farm in those days. They had large litters of piglets and they provided sustenance.
This rooster really did seem to be ruling the roost, but he did tolerate all the visitors well.
I liked this view of the barn from the walking path better than any of the other photos of it that I took.
Here we have the barn and some of the equipment that might have been used. The fencing surrounded the corn crop, another essential to the quality of life in those days.
More farm buildings, those are corn cribs in the back.
Flowers along the river.

Another objective of the trip was to practice using filters to improve your landscape photos as well as to photograph falling waters and make the water appear more silky. I was new to long exposure photography, but I did manage to get a couple of pictures. I had to toss most of the ones I attempted to take. It seemed that every bend in the road revealed a scene that made you want to stop the car and take pictures. And we were still on our first day in the park.

It will take a lot more practice to figure out this technique.
There were rocky little waterfalls in every stream along the roadside. Many opportunities to take even more pictures.
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Arriving in the Smokies…

Finally it was time to depart on our long awaited trip to the Great Smokey Mountains Nation Park. The 10+ hour drive culminated in a last 20-mile stretch of relentless hairpin turns. According to the sign we saw later there were 10-20 turns per mile! I will admit that I was less than gracious about finding myself to be in the drivers seat on that last stretch of the drive. And it didn’t help to see that the long awaited fall foliage wasn’t quite what we had hoped. Upon arriving at the cabin we found that the TV didn’t work, and that there wasn’t any wifi either, but we were too tired to worry about it, at the start at least.

The next morning we set out a little later than we had planned, but rested and fortified with coffee, and then stopped along the river not far from the cabin to take the picture of the row of teepees across the way. It felt like fall, we wore jackets that morning, but didn’t need them again the rest of the week. It smelled like fall, too. There was a crispness to the air, and the carpet of leaves on the ground was beautiful. We drove through tunnels of gold and orange leaves. On second thought the foliage was beautiful, and we hoped that it would develop some more as the days passed.

Hillsides were mostly green, but the leaves on the ground were so pretty.
We seemed to be driving along side a river everywhere we went.
I was excited to see the sunlight lighting up the leaves on this tree. So excited that I managed to not notice that my finger was in front of the lens. I cropped it out, mostly…
If the string of fish that this guy had was any indication then the fishing was good.
I’m glad I took this picture because there wasn’t a lot of red in the foliage.
More leaves in the sun
Geese in perfect v formations were heading south.

The owner of the cabin brought us a new TV and hooked it up, but, sorry to say, wifi was coming, just not yet. The local weather forecaster was assuring people that the fall color was late due to the unseasonably warm weather, but that it would be coming. It may not have been the ultimate in fall color, but we were quite pleased with what we saw on only our first morning in Bryson City and Cherokee, NC.

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In the Smokies…

We are enjoying lovely weather in the Smokies, but not having WiFi has prevented me from working on my pictures and sharing them. It hasn’t prevented me from taking tons of pictures however, so I will have lots to keep me busy when we get home. The fall foliage we hoped for isn’t at it’s peak, but it smells like fall, and there are enough beautiful trees to make me happy. And we still have a few days.