When you get out of town, the parkway leads you straight into the park, and Rob and I were enamored with the fall color and the pristine woods. All of it seemed even more glorious after leaving the stifling confines of a town that seems an affront to the nature that surrounds it. We stopped at the Sugarlands Visitor Center to get a map, some directions, and a plan for the day. We decided to drive through Cades Cove and hike to Abrams Falls.
I’ve never been to Cades Cove, but a friend said I had to see it and I’m so glad she did. The 50 minute drive to the Cove loop was an adventure in itself. There are lots of pull-offs where you can stop and meander along the rambling river that wends its way next to the road.
The water was rushing in chilly currents through the forest, carrying bits of gold, red, and fiery yellow leaves with it. Green moss blinked out from the tree roots and blanketed the river rocks.
Every bend had me saying, “ooh, that’s pretty” to the point where “pretty” just sounded inane because every part of what we were seeing was simply gorgeous. There were parts of the road where the sunlight lit the trees on fire, showcasing the brilliance of the golden leaves that were so prevalent throughout the hills. As soon as we entered the scenic loop around Cades Cove we found ourselves in a bumper to bumper line of cars that wended its 11 mile way through an outdoor museum of sorts paying homage to the simple pioneer life of the families who lived in this portion of Appalachia.
Some pre-Thanksgiving turkeys having a snack in field. No big deal.
Rustic log cabins dotted the cove, along with simple churches that spoke to a time when church buildings consisted of 4 bare walls and rough hewn wooden pews. The sound systems in today’s churches would have blown the minds of the people who once worshiped here. The simplicity of this way of life, the self-sustaining culture that dwelt here spoke deeply to me as we drove through. This is a simplicity I have never known.
Halfway through the loop, we stopped at the Abrams Falls trail head for a 5 mile waterfall hike. Up and down the rocky trail we walked, through rainbows of fall colors, breathing in the crisp air of the river beside us.
The trail was a moderate one and we enjoyed the entire walk. Once at the falls, we were able to sit and eat some apples, watch a rainbow trout, and listen to the rushing water plummet over the rocks into a deep pool below.
Heading back we threw our backs into the uphill climb and made the entire round trip in exactly 3 hours. Perfect timing! Plenty of time left to check out the Cades Cove visitors center and historic grist mill.
The colors of the trees stood out even deeper as the light started to fade. We crawled along at a snail’s pace out of the cove, passing more cabins, imagining more empty fields swaying with wheat, rye, and cotton. Coming back into Gatlinburg town was a bit of a shock to the system after being surrounded by such pure beauty the entire day, but we already had a plan for the next day that included more waterfalls.