Wilderness Wildlife Week

Wilderness Wildlife Week Photos

I got an online newsletter from Jim Eastin at “Taking Better Photos” which reminded me of the Wilderness Wildlife Week in Pigeon Forge, just up the road from Gatlinburg.  This event takes place at the Music Road Hotel and Convention Center. All lectures and seminars are FREE to the public. Jim Eastin will be teaching classes there on January 12th and 17th. In addition to classes there are organized hikes and field trips as well. There is even a photo contest for you amateur photographers.

What a wonderful way to take a mid-winter vacation with the family! We haven’t attended yet but it is on my bucket list to get to some of these interesting lectures about the area.  You can view the Class List to see the subjects and find out who is presenting, or pack your lunch and head out with the group on an organized hike. There is a wide array of subjects from photography to snakes to fly fishing to music. A bit of everything for everyone including classes for kids. Sounds fun!

Hiking Map 1941

When we bought Southern Serenity, our Gatlinburg Log Cabin, we wanted to do some redecorating to make the cabin our own.  It was evident a fresh coat of paint and some updated furniture and decorations were in order.

In the loft there was a pair of decorative snow shoes hanging on the wall, but since they were hung on either side of a picture they looked more like tennis rackets!  Here is what the loft looked like before we had our way with it.


I really liked the theme of hiking and wanted to keep that going in the loft.  I had seen large maps of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park all around Gatlinburg that were really cool and interesting, the challenge would be to find a map that was suitable.

I found a map of the park that was very old looking and I loved it!  I bought it and we hung it on the freshly painted wall in the loft next to the snow shoes.  Here is a picture of the guys hanging the map and snow shoes (and being very patient!) on our freshly painted wall.

Almost After…

I often wondered where the original map was from.  It was obvious an old map was used to make this picture of a map.  I could tell it was probably an ‘official’ map as it had topographical markings, the mountain peaks are identified, and there are distances for driving and hiking.  The people in the pictures are dressed in styles from the mid-20th century I thought.  You could also see where the fold lines were in the original.

Then one day while I was trolling the internet I found it – our map!  In fact it is the same EXACT map we have on the wall in the loft at the log cabin!  How do I know this?  On closer examination it looks as though someone took a red marker to a location on the original, and that same red circle can be seen on our map.  This was probably the only copy the government had left to archive.

The first image below is the map I found while trolling the internet (you can also see it at this government website).  The second image is the map hanging in our cabin loft, you can see the red circle in the bottom right of both maps.

Map as found on Wikipedia.com

Our map as seen in the loft

The best part about the map is that we have it hanging in our cabin loft.  This means you can plan your hike in the park while playing pool or Wii and relaxing with adult beverages.  Don’t forget to use one of our hiking sticks for those steep climbs.  Happy hiking!

Sunset on a Mountaintop

Sunset starts

Yesterday was an 85 degree sunny day in Gatlinburg.  I thought it would be a good day to view the sunset from the top of the Smoky Mountains – turns out I was right.  It was breathtaking!

We drove up to Newfound Gap, not sure which direction we’d be viewing, only to discover the primary view at Newfound Gap was east.  So we decided to go to Clingman’s Dome.  This was absolutely the right decision – the views were amazing.  We didn’t even walk up to the viewing tower, we stayed in the parking lot.

Panorama prior to sun setting

There were a few groups of people in the parking lot, mostly there for the photo opportunity.  As the sun dropped lower in the sky and the photographers focused (pun intended) on their shots the chatting and sounds became less and less.  The only sounds came from the young kids and teens in the groups that weren’t using this as a photo op.  It really struck me that most of us were all taking this in and thoroughly enjoying the experience.

Sky gets darker as the sun sets

The change in sky color was just amazing!  I’ve seen many sunsets from beaches and yards and high on hills and this Mountaintop Sunset rates as one of the most beautiful I’ve seen.  To experience this from on top of a mountain and above clouds was fantastic.  And you could feel the temperature drop as the sun dropped.  The parking lot is 6200 feet in elevation, and you could sure notice the lower temperatures compared to the city of Gatlinburg.

This foray to the top of the mountain was well worth the trip.  We will do this again.  Now I will leave you with just the pictures I took as the night progressed – allowing you enjoy the view in your own silence.

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Art School in Gatlinburg – Who Knew?

There is an art school in downtown Gatlinburg, Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts.  The school is located on the parkway at stop light #5, on the left.  The school curriculum provides in -residence workshops one to two weeks in length, and night classes in the cold winter months.  I’ve not taken any of the courses but I will if I ever get to retire in Tennessee as planned!

English: The main entrance to the Arrowmont Sc...

The main entrance to the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts along the Parkway in the U.S. city of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’ve been to Arrowmont for a fundraising event.  Every fall they host the “Souper Bowl” to raise funds for the school.  For 25 bucks we got to pick a hand crafted bowl from a table of student designs and could fill it up as many times as we wanted with homemade soups and breads.  We sat on rickety old chairs at long cafeteria tables with people we didn’t know, and had a really great time.  We got there a bit late but had pre-purchased tickets so we weren’t concerned about securing a spot. Apparently there is a line out the door an hour before they open to make sure the best bowl is available for the picking!

Labor Day weekend is also eventful at Arrowmont.  This year is the 8th Annual Gatlinburg Fine Arts Festival at Arrowmont, August 31 to September 2nd.  Admission is free and there is ample room on the campus for the artists to display their wares and mountain musicians to entertain.  There will be demonstrations and an area for the kids to express their inner artist.

If you can’t make it to the Labor Day weekend festivities you can attend other events or tour the galleries any time of year.

Have you ever taken a class at Arrowmont?  Or would you like to?  Tell us about it…

Creekside Log Furniture Store

We LOVE to visit Creekside Furniture, and do so almost every time we are in Gatlinburg.  You’ll find them east on Hwy.321 in Gatlinburg at traffic light 3A.  Brandy and Tim own the store, make beautiful custom log furniture, and are really nice people to boot! We discovered this place quite by accident.

Black Walnut Larry

Although they have a few pieces on display there is no fancy showroom or big gawdy sign, but they make great furniture or they can outfit your cabin with log woodwork, cabinets, railings, or anything else you can think of.  Custom furniture designs are their specialty it seems.  Here’s a video with their showroom and some furniture items.

We have gotten a black walnut carved wood spirit from them (named him Larry), walking sticks, and are soon to install a custom made black walnut fireplace mantle.Brandy and Tim also create beautiful stone showers and bathrooms.  Just the kind of cool stuff you only find in this part of Tennessee.Creekside Furniture is right next to a shop that does chainsaw carvings, I don’t know the name of it but you may want to stop there too.

Art in the Smokies

There are a number of art galleries in Gatlinburg, most of which are on the Arts & Crafts eight-mile loop in Gatlinburg.  Two of my favorites are Jim Gray Gallery, which also has a store in Pigeon Forge, and The Paul Murray Gallery.

Paul Murray Gallery

Aunt Emily

Paul Murray is my absolute favorite Smoky Mountain artist. Paul Murray spent part of his early life in the deep mountains and captures the essence of what the mountain people represent; simplicity and joy. He uses pencil, watercolor, oil and pastels. His art can be very haunting like this pencil sketch of Aunt Emily, but there is no other artist’s work I’ve seen that captures the essence of people as much as Paul Murray’s.

The best part of seeing Paul Murray’s art however is experiencing his ‘gallery’. You’ll find it on Glades Rd. Look for the old house with the dilapidated porch. Don’t be afraid to go in, you’ll experience not only the art, but have a better idea of the simple way of life of these mountain people.

Jim Gray Gallery

Jim Gray gallery is also found on the eight-mile loop that begins on Glades Rd. and is part of the Arts community. In addition to his own work Jim features the art of family members and other artists as well. Jim Gray paints watercolors of a lot of different subjects. Of course my favorites are paintings of the Smoky Mountains.

I love his water colors of the Smokies. He is really able to evoke the feelings you get when you are touring in the park or experiencing a stay in the mountains. There is nothing like waking up to seeing the ‘smoke’ in the mountains, and Jim captures this beautifully.

Useful Links:

Paul Murray Gallery on Glades Road

Lil Miss

For many years on Glades Road I had driven by an old barn with Paul Murray’s signature piece, Lil Miss, on the side. The black and white portrait of a small girl is beautiful and haunting at the same time.

I never saw the gallery however, so I thought perhaps it was on a side road. Then one day I was traveling the Artist’s loop with a girlfriend and told her I wanted to find his gallery. And we did. And I now know why I never noticed it. I had no idea the old dilapidated looking farmhouse was in fact an art gallery!

We pulled into the gravel parking area and got out of the car. As we walked past the split rail fence I noticed a steel washtub hanging on the side of the house. We passed an old out building and what looked like a garden, although it was March so there was nothing growing just yet.

As we approached the steps to the porch leading into the gallery I noticed the railing for the steps was secured with string to a vertical post stuck in a concrete block. The steps were very worn and in need of a paint job. A picture of Lil Miss  was on the porch, along with a lot of old chairs and other odds and ends. The rickety screen door had a sign that invited us in, so we opened it and entered the main area of the gallery, a former living room with a fireplace.

As you look around at the gorgeous drawings and paintings in this farmhouse it is hard to believe this is a gallery with some of the most beautiful portraits of the people of the Appalachian Mountains you will see. EVER. And therein lies the charm, we were mesmerized.

The walls had old newspapers as wall coverings. The back room contained a picture of a mountain man with a shotgun across his lap and a look that could kill. Never mind the shotgun! I believe that painting is sold now, but it sure made an impact on us when we walked into that back room. Paul Murray’s portraits capture the essence of these mountain people like no others I’ve ever seen.

If you travel to Glades Road the gallery is a must in my opinion. If you can’t get to the gallery at least take a look at the Paul Murray website, watch the video, and browse through his gallery. His work is unbelievable and well worth the trip. I get there as often as possible, and every time I’m amazed at what Paul Murray captures with just a pencil and paper.

Additional Links:

Paul Murray Gallery Website
What Trip Advisor has to say about Paul Murray Gallery
GeoTourism MapGuide
Paul Murray Gallery Facebook Page