Leaf Season in the Smoky Mountains

It’s that time of year again – Leaf Season in Gatlinburg. That’s what the locals call it. For the rest of the country it is simply Fall or Autumn of course. Where I live in the upper Midwest we say we are going to see the colors. Apparently, and I just learned this, in Europe they do not have the oranges and reds we have. They only have yellow leaves in the Fall. So I guess we are fortunate to have a lovely display no matter where we have seasons and deciduous trees in the Fall.

We’ve been to the cabin at all different times of the Fall and my favorite is the last week of October into the first week of November. That is when you’ll see the colors in the lower elevations, like right off the cabin porch! BONUS!

A view from a porch

A view from a porch

We’ve also been to the south end of the park to Oconoluftee. It’s worth the trip, especially if you are there later in the day when the elk show up. That was a real treat! There is a trail in the woods there where you walk right along the river, and you can take your dog/s. One of only two trails in the park that allows dogs. I’ve not done it but others tell me it’s beautiful and they even spied Elk grazing.

DSCN4272

So go, enjoy the colors, Fall, Leaf Season – or whatever you call it in your neck of the woods.

Rhododendrons

I visited Southern Serenity in early May this year. I’ve been there in late April and late May, but never early May. I was so very excited to see the Rhododendron bushes in full bloom. I’ve always seen the green bushes but never with the flowers. They were just gorgeous!

Up Close Rhododendron by Patti Stauss

DSCN4579Our front yard in May

 

At Sugarlands Visitor Center I asked a ranger about them, I thought they were something completely different. Ranger Rhonda told me mine were cultivated Rhododendrons because they were already blooming, the wild ones in the park weren’t yet in bloom. I know I’ve seen the bushes in the park along the trails I’ve hiked, I just never knew what they were.

 

The other discovery I made were Tulip Tree flowers. I did not know these even existed! They were a beautiful orange and yellow flower and were very high in the trees. This made them difficult to spot.

Tulip Tree Flower – courtesy Wikipedia

But the fallen petals were all over the ground so I dried some for my journal along with a very small tulip leaf. I dub this time The Trip of the Flowers!

Tulip Trees and Photography

Tulip Tree off the front porch of Southern Serenity

We attended “Taking Better Photos” which is a photography class conducted by Jim Eastin – it was fabulous!!  All 6 of our group loved the class and we definitely learned a lot about how to get more from our cameras.  In addition to the tips about photography Jim fills you in on Park history and the local flora and fauna.

Turns out we have Tulip trees right off the front porch of Southern Serenity.  Tulip trees grow very tall, the tallest in the eastern US.  The tallest recorded is 179 feet.  These trees  were important to the Smoky Mountain settlers, they provided long, straight trunks to use for milling the lumber that would create their homes and farm buildings.  You may know them as some kind of poplar, but I will forever remember them as Tulip trees now.

Take the photo class, it’s worth every penny.  And remember to seek out these majestic trees and appreciate their role in local history when you hike the Smoky Mountains.