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Travel: The Smokies and its fascinating forests

Last updated on: September 1, 2011 12:20 IST

Travel: The Smokies and its fascinating forests

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Poornima Guruprasad

The Great Smoky Mountains of Tenessee may be one of America's best natural attractions but the real magic lies in its deep forests and wildlife says Poornima Guruprasad.

The Great Smoky Mountains of Tenessee are one of the best natural attractions in the US.

Though the local attractions and the Ski resorts in the city (Gatlinburg) are good enough to keep you busy for a week, the true beauty of the Smokies lies in exploring its deep forests and wildlife!

So, we tried to tread the nature's path for a change and drove straight into the lap of Mother Nature in the Smokies.

We started our trip from Charlotte, North Carolina at around 9am. It was a three-hour drive to Gatlinburg in Tennesse. But to enjoy closeness to nature, we had booked a wooden cabin located amidst the amazing mountain range, far from the city.

So, it was another three-hour drive from Gatlinburg to our cabin and the drive up the mountains was as thrilling as it could get. We drove on the mountain roads passing through the stunning Cades Cove valley and several river streams on the way.

We got lucky enough to spot a few deer grazing in the woods and wild turkeys running about in the valleys.

The roads, though, got narrower and steeper as we went higher up the mountains. To add to this adventurous drive, it started raining too!

After many 'heart in the mouth' moments, we finally reached our destination at around 5pm that day.


Image: A view of the Smokies from the cabin
Photographs: Poornima Guruprasad
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The cabin was extremely welcoming. Fully-furnished rooms, a kitchen to a game room (which had a foosball table, a pool table and board games) which made for complete entertainment.

One of the main attractions in the cabin, though, was the hot tub on the deck overlooking the gorgeous mountains. Since this place was totally cut off from the city, we had to stack our food supplies etc for the duration of our stay.

Tired as we were from the strenuous drive, we spent the rest of the day chilling out -- playing games and pampering ourselves with a warm bath in the hot tub!

The next day, we woke up early to the sweet sounds of chirping of birds and cool morning breeze blowing through the enormous trees.

I was reminded of what a Tamil poet once said: "Kaatru vandhadum kodi asaindadha,kodi asainthathum kaatru vandhadha" which roughly translates as "I know not if the trees sway to the wonderful breeze or does the wonderful breeze blow because the trees sway so beautifully?".

The view of the Smokies in the morning was simply breathtaking. True to its name we could see the clouds kissing the mountains and the place seemed covered in white smoke all around.

After a sumptuous breakfast of pancakes, eggs and toasts, we set out on our nature trail for the day -- the Laurel Falls.


Image: The forests around the Smokies are as beautiful as the mountains

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After driving a couple of hours, we reached a parking lot near the road leading to the Falls. From there, it was a two-mile steep hike to the Falls.

We started our hike not knowing the adventure that we were to encounter on the way. Being the beginning of Spring, the path was laden with exotic wildflowers.

We had hardly reached half way when we suddenly spotted a black bear with its cub resting under a tree just 20 feet away in front of us!

We had been warned about the bears and the things we needed to do to keep ourselves safe. And foremost of the instructions read -- Do not run when you spot a bear!

Apparently, they get a notion that we are their prey when we try to run and they start chasing immediately.

Though not unexpected in those places, we sure were a little shaken to see a bear in the wild for the first time and a chill ran down our spines!

Thankfully, we had enough presence of mind to remember the rules of the game, and slowly retreated our path down the mountain and since there was nobody in sight, we decided to wait for sometime.


Image: The wild flowers in the path leading to The Laurel Falls

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As minutes rolled by, we were losing the hope of seeing the beautiful falls! Finally, our patience paid off and soon enough we were joined by a group of trekkers who seemed to be well aware of the path.

We informed them of the lurking danger ahead but instead of showing any signs of fear, they got even more excited and energetic!

They told us that spotting black bears in their natural habitats was something every trekker looked forward to.

Anyway, we joined with them and again started our hike up. The mother bear (sensing human movements) had already taken her cub a little down the slopes of the mountain.

We could still see her playing with her cub but felt comfortable seeing her from a safe distance. Now I thought was the right time to capture her on camera, so I took a quick snap in spite of the many trees that stood between us.

We reached the waterfalls without any further incidents.


Image: Sensing human presence, the bear moved away from the trail with her young one

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The water was cool and fresh and flowed rhythmically from the mountains down the slopes. Whoever named it Laurel Falls has named it right because we did feel a sense of achievement when we felt the first splash of its cool waters on our faces!

After having quenched our thirst (for nature) under the beautiful waterfalls and having spent the afternoon exploring the places in and around the Falls, we started to head back to our car.

The way down the slopes was a lot easier and we reached down pretty fast.

Having enjoyed another relaxing evening in our cabin, we checked out the next day. And promised ourselves that we would come back again to continue our exploration of one of Mother Nature's Most Beautiful Gifts -- The Great Smoky Mountains.


Image: Finally, The Laurel Falls

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