Friday, March 18, 2011

Spring to winter and back again

Snowy slopes at Sugar Mountain Ski Resort near Boone, NC
When we headed north for a visit to the Smoky Mountains recently, husband Walter and I anticipated that the trip would take us from the spring like weather of coastal Mississippi to more wintry environments.

What we didn’t expect was to go from spring to winter in a matter of a few miles in the Smokies.

A drive around the 11-mile Cades Cove loop in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park was blissfully lacking the summertime traffic. We enjoyed watching the abundant deer and wild turkeys, and they kept an eye on us. Throughout our drive, yellow daffodils created spots of sunshine in the cloudy day.
Daffodils were brightly colored evidence of former human residents of Cades Cove.

Staff at the Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, TN, said the daffodils are not native to the Smokies. Settlers brought them in and planted them around their homesteads.

The next day we headed to higher elevations via U.S 441, the road to Newfound Gap, elevation 5,046 feet, and the lowest drivable pass through the park. It straddles the Tennessee-North Carolina line and is on our usual route home and to and from some of our favorite spots in the Smokies. 

On the way we made a stop at Chimneys picnic area for a lunch of sandwiches and fruit. Cove Hardwood Nature Trail there is a great place to see the spring ephemerals that begin the Smokies’ annual extravaganza of wildflowers. The National Park Service site here says ephemerals appear above ground only in late winter and early spring, then flower, fruit, and die back within a two-month period.

No flowers there for us this year. Last year we were in the Smokies in late March and early April, in time to see some of the early bloomers (pictured in my April 6, 2010 post here). Just a few curves above the picnic area we were greeted by snow flurries. A little farther and the trees and bushes, newly dressed in white, created an enchanting monochrome fairyland.
Snowy wonder for southern eyes

We continued on to Newfound Gap. Husband Walter parked and shot some photos. I stayed snug in our van.

We retraced our way back to Gatlinburg, out of the snow and into a light rain. The next morning U.S. 441 to Newfound Gap was closed due to snow. The bypass above Gatlinburg gave us one more drive through a little snowy scenery as we headed toward Chattanooga and our alternate route home.
Above Gatlinburg

We arrived home late Saturday, March 12. When we ventured outside Sunday, the first blooms of our azaleas greeted us. Spring weather again!
Azaleas welcome us home.

6 comments:

Ginny said...

Your azaleas are georgous!!! Goodness, you experienced a whole year of weather just in a few days!

maddie/cadesmimi said...

I have to say that as beautiful as the snow is, I prefer those azaleas :)

Sandra said...

you have stirred up my longing for the mountains and thanks for the trip from my chair.

Arkansas Patti said...

Think you only missed Fall in that trip.
I love Cades Cove and it would be nice to see minus traffic.

Freda said...

I love to see the contrasts between the black and white of the snowy tree slope and the daffodils and azaleas. A few spring flowers are starting to bloom here in Scotland too, but the azaleas are still a couple of months away.

schmidleysscribblins.wordpress.com said...

Beautiful drive. I haven't been through the Pisgah Pass in years, but I did love it. Maybe I will get inspired to revisit. My Dad once lived across the mountains in TN. Dianne