Mother Nature’s Palette, Oh the traffic, and so much History
Great Smoky Mountains and Cades Cove
You know you have patience when you wait hours in traffic to arrive at your destination. Maybe patience is not the right word, it was more like determination. We only had that afternoon, so we needed to make it count.
Cades Cove is a one-way, 11-mile loop road. And if traffic is at a crawl, so are you. It took us approximately four hours to visit Cades Cove, most of that was due to traffic. We waited in a long line of cars to enter and a long line of cars to meander through the cove. There was a traffic sign, miles from the entrance, which stated 2–3 hours at Cades Cove, they were certainly close to their estimate of time.
An 11-mile, one-way loop road circles the cove, offering motorists the opportunity to sightsee at a leisurely pace. Allow at least two to four hours to tour Cades Cove, longer if you walk some of the area’s trails. Traffic is heavy during the tourist season in summer and fall and on weekends year-round. While driving the loop road, please be courteous to other visitors and use pullouts when stopping to enjoy the scenery or view wildlife.
Once you enter though, the feeling of being stuck in traffic fades away as you enjoy every mile and every minute of the loop. The slower traffic provides you with the best excuse to just “live in the moment” and enjoy every second of it as each car crawls around the loop.
Most of the time when there is a traffic jam, it is due to too many cars or it is caused by an accident, something that catches the attention of lookie-loos, well, the beginning of the loop had both, the Park Rangers were slowing traffic down because a mama bear and her three cubs were enjoying a little afternoon snack close to the road.
There are a variety of stops once inside the area, places of history, a look back in time. There are a handful of trails for those more adventurous. And a large selection of wildlife to be seen but from distance. There are pull-outs along the route and quite a few parking areas. The only restrooms are about 3/4 of the way into the route at the Cable Mill Historic area and Visitor Center. Pack a picnic and water, there are few parking stops along the route that are good places to enjoy the view as you sustain your body with nourishment.
Cades Cove was a farming community and around 1900, 125 families were living in this most beautiful setting. They say its history dates back to no later than 8,000 B.C. The Cherokee and their ancestors once inhabited the area. A few of the cabins of prominent families still exist and are wonderful stops on the loop, taking you back in time when life was more dependent upon the land and living sustainably.
In the various cemeteries located throughout the cove are the graves of families who built a new community in the late 1800s — the Olivers, Tiptons, Shields and more.
The families in this area relied on the cove to provide them with all they needed, most farmed and grew what they needed. It was a small and tight community, where neighbors helped each other and social events were a great place to gather. One of the items of history, which caught my attention, was the tolling of the bell upon the death of a community member — they would ring a church bell to get attention, pause, then ring the bell for each year of their life. What a great way to celebrate the life.
“I can only note that the past is beautiful because one never realises an emotion at the time. It expands later, and thus we don’t have complete emotions about the present, only about the past.”
― Virginia Woolf
In 1934, the National Park Service officially established the National Park and many of the farmers were bought out. Most of the history is gone, but what remains has been well preserved and is now a national treasure where visitors can go and catch a glimpse back in time.
Cades Cove is one of the Smoky Mountains most visited and treasured places to visit and I can see why.
“History is a symphony of echoes heard and unheard. It is a poem with events as verses.” — Charles Angoff