Author Archives: Bill

Cataloochee: Palmer Chapel

Cataloochee: Palmer Chapel

Palmer Chapel in Cataloochee Valley
Palmer Chapel in Cataloochee Valley © William Britten use with permission only

Cataloochee Valley is one of the hidden wonders of the Smoky Mountains. The best way from Gatlinburg is to schedule an entire day for the journey to Cataloochee. Either take the back road from Cosby, or exit 20 off I40 in North Carolina, then meander into Catalochee on NC284.

Palmer Chapel dates from 1898, and is still in great condition in a very picturesque setting. The photo above was actually created from three vertical panels. I use this technique when there is not enough room to step back from a structure and level the camera to make the walls perpendicular.

Church Interior
Church Interior © William Britten use with permission only
View from the pulpit
View from the pulpit © William Britten use with permission only

The image above shows the interior of Palmer Chapel from the preacher’s perspective! Services in the chapel were conducted by circuit riders from the Western North Carolina Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

Palmer Chapel
Palmer Chapel © William Britten use with permission only

Please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountains Photography at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN.

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Bluets

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Bluets

Bluets (Houstonia serpyllifolia)
Bluets (Houstonia serpyllifolia) © William Britten use with permission only

Bluets (Houstonia serpyllifolia) are identified by the four blue petals surrounding a yellow spot. Common names for this wildflower include Thyme-leaved Bluet, Prostrate Bluet, Mountain Bluet, and Creeping Bluet. The plant is tiny, only 3 to 5 inches tall, but growing in a large group they can make a beautiful statement.

The photo above was found along the Thomas Divide Trail in late-April.  The photos below were found near Clingmans Dome in Mid-May.

Smoky Mtns wildflowers
Smoky Mtns wildflowers © William Britten use with permission only

Bluets enjoy moist conditions, along streams especially. Look for them along Clingman’s Dome Road later than in the lower elevations.

Please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountains Photography at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN.

Bluets along the trail
Bluets along the trail © William Britten use with permission only
Bluets (Houstonia serpyllifolia)
Bluets (Houstonia serpyllifolia) © William Britten use with permission only

 

How to Photograph Flowing Water

How to Photograph Flowing Water

From the Chimneys Picnic area
From the Chimneys Picnic area © William Britten use with permission only

Photographing one of the many creek scenes in the Smoky Mountains presents a few challenges. First is the desire to capture the sense of flowing water, rather than water that is frozen. To do this you will need your camera on a tripod with an exposure time of one-half to three-quarters of a second. If you go much longer than this, the water will appear foamy and surreal — which may be what you want in some cases. Take a look at the two photos below of a rock in a torrent of water.  The only difference between the two is exposure time. The one on the left was taken with a slightly longer exposure time that blurred the water a little bit more. There’s really no correct way to do it … try experimenting and pick the result that most appeals to you.

Photo Tip: longer exposure
Photo Tip: longer exposure © William Britten use with permission only
Photo Tip: less exposure
Photo Tip: less exposure © William Britten use with permission only

 

Beautiful Flowing Water
Beautiful Flowing Water © William Britten use with permission only

Another challenge with water is the glare of harsh lighting and the danger of over-exposing the whites. The simplest solution to this problem is to photograph on cloudy or rainy days or at least find a scene that is shaded from direct sunlight. In the example to the left, a close-in composition of a small cascade avoided severe lighting conditions.

A more complicated solution to harsh lighting is to take multiple exposures (bracketing). The idea is to take one or more exposures to get your shadow areas developed, then reduce the exposure time to bring the highlights (whites) down into an acceptable range. However, you will need to know how to blend your images with software such as Photoshop.

Finally, flowing water looks very dramatic if you get down low and close to the flow. Normally, the drama is increased if the stream is coming at you as in the photo below, and the one at the top of this posting. The final image below shows a creek scene with the flow going away. To me this perspective conveys peace and tranquility. You can decide when either perspective might be more appealing.

That’s my photo tip to achieve perfect flowing water for your Smoky Mountains creek pictures.

Wild Smoky Mountains Creek
Wild Smoky Mountains Creek © William Britten use with permission only
Smoky Mountains Flowing Water
Smoky Mountains Flowing Water © William Britten use with permission only

Click on the images above for a slide-show of larger versions. Please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountains Photography at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN.

Mountain Laurel Time in the Smokies

Mountain Laurel Time in the Smokies

Mountain Laurel in the Smoky Mountains  © William Britten use with permission only
Mountain Laurel in the Smoky Mountains © William Britten use with permission only
Mountain Laurel bloom in the Smoky Mountains  © William Britten use with permission only
Mountain Laurel bloom in the Smoky Mountains © William Britten use with permission only

It’s that beautiful time of year again when the Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia) bloom along the trails and in the woods of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The Mountain Laurel are similar to, and often mistaken for, Rhododendron. In the Smokies the Laurel bloom primarily during May, while the Rhododendron come along in June and July.

One of the Featured Photographs at the William Britten Gallery is Path to Serenity, which shows a hillside of Mountain Laurel blooming along the trail to Spruce Flat Falls.

Mountain Laurel bloom in the Smoky Mountains  © William Britten use with permission only
Mountain Laurel bloom in the Smoky Mountains © William Britten use with permission only

One of the best displays of Mountain Laurel can be found along the Roaring Fork Motor Trail. At the top of the hill there is a parking area to the left. In early to mid-May you can see the thickets of laurel from your car, but to get the full effect, get out and walk in among all the blooms.

I was in that spot photographing, deep in my private reverie with my eyes in the camera viewfinder. Suddenly I heard some snorting and clomping, and looked up to see that a doe had joined me in the laurel thicket. She was unafraid, and stayed close by for 30 minutes or so, even when I moved my tripod from spot to spot.

Deer in  the Mountain Laurel © William Britten use with permission only
Deer in the Mountain Laurel © William Britten use with permission only

Please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountain Photography at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN.

Mountain Laurel in the Smoky Mountains © William Britten use with permission only
Mountain Laurel in the Smoky Mountains © William Britten use with permission only
Mountain Laurel in the Smoky Mountains © William Britten use with permission only
Mountain Laurel in the Smoky Mountains © William Britten use with permission only

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Crested Dwarf Iris

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Crested Dwarf Iris

Crested Dwarf Iris (Iris cristata)
Crested Dwarf Iris (Iris cristata) © William Britten use with permission only

Continuing our theme of spring wildflowers of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, first up this week is the Crested Dwarf Iris (Iris cristata). This flower is an April bloomer, especially along the Chestnut Top Trail near Townsend. On the Bud Ogle Nature Trail there are some large colonies.

The flower gets its name from the distinctive yellow crest that is meant to guide insects towards their pollination target. Compared to the common iris that you may have in your front garden, Crested Dwarf Iris is a truly tiny plant that may only be 4 inches tall.

 

Crested Dwarf Iris (Iris cristata)
Crested Dwarf Iris (Iris cristata) © William Britten use with permission only

Please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mtn Photography at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN.

Crested Dwarf Iris © William Britten use with permission only
Crested Dwarf Iris © William Britten use with permission only
Smoky Mountains Footbridges

Smoky Mountains Footbridges

Smoky Mountains Footbridge  © William Britten use with permission only
Smoky Mountains Footbridge © William Britten use with permission only
Smoky Mountains Footbridge  © William Britten use with permission only
Smoky Mountains Footbridge © William Britten use with permission only

If you do much hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you’ve certainly found yourself in the situation pictured above.

Love them or hate them, footbridges are common along Smokies trails. Some are vertigo-inducing challenges, and others are tame alternatives to hopping rocks across the stream.

Most of them are simple log bridges spanning the creek, while others are much more elaborate, as in the snow-covered footbridge on the Ramsay Cascades Trail pictured below.

Please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountain Photography at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN.

Smoky Mountains Footbridge  © William Britten use with permission only
Smoky Mountains Footbridge © William Britten use with permission only
Smoky Mountains Footbridge  © William Britten use with permission only
Smoky Mountains Footbridge © William Britten use with permission only
Spring Snow on Mt. LeConte

Spring Snow on Mt. LeConte

Spring Snow on Mt. LeConte © William Britten use with permission only
Spring Snow on Mt. LeConte © William Britten use with permission only

A spring snow dusted Mt. LeConte  on Tuesday night, closing the road to Newfound Gap in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s not unusual to see the contrasts of winter and spring in one scene as in the picture above. The summit of Mt. LeConte is around 6500 feet, while the green trees in the foreground are down around 1500 feet.

The photo above was taken from the same vantage point near my home in the Glades area of Gatlinburg as Smoky Mountain Moonrise,  which shows snow on the summit of Mt. LeConte and fall foliage below.

Stop in and visit me at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN.

Click on the image above to view a dramatic hi-resolution version.

It’s Spring and All is Right with the World

It’s Spring and All is Right with the World

Smoky Mountains Spring Creek © William Britten use with permission only
Smoky Mountains Spring Creek © William Britten use with permission only

“The year’s at the spring,
And day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hill-side’s dew-pearled;
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn;
God’s in his Heaven—
All’s right with the world!”

Robert Browning


Smoky Mountains Spring Mist  © William Britten use with permission only
Smoky Mountains Spring Mist © William Britten use with permission only

Spring Leaves © William Britten use with permission only
Spring Leaves © William Britten use with permission only

Featured Photo: October Light

 

What a special moment this was.  I had been wandering along the Lynn Camp Prong in the Tremont area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was a beautiful fall day, but nothing was drawing my attention. Then I came upon this spot where some downed trees had created a dam that was reflecting the autumn canopy, and there was that small waterfall, and the creek meandering into the distance. It was a nice scene, but the light was flat and dull. So I set up the camera on a tripod and waited.

The sun was getting lower in the west, which was in the direction down the creek, so I was hoping that eventually something good might happen. I probably waited for over an hour, and finally the area was lit up with a golden glow, including a nice reflection off the water.  A long exposure time of close to one second gave the water an exaggerated sense of motion and added a softness to the golden reflection.  This light lasted for only 10 minutes or so.

Please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountain Photography at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN.

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Fringed Phacelia

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Fringed Phacelia

Fringed Phacelia  © William Britten use with permission only
Fringed Phacelia © William Britten use with permission only

Fringed Phacelia (Phacelia fimbriata) is the wildflower that covers the hillsides along the Newfound Gap Road like a late dusting of snow in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The blooms form a densely packed groundcover in April. The Fringed variety is one of four Phacelias found in the Smoky Mountains.

Perhaps the most unique characteristic of Fringed Phacelia is that the plant dies after blooming, leaving its seeds to sprout the following year. It’s an annual!

Fringed Phacelia can be viewed along the Cove Hardwoods Nature Trail, where it forms a thick understory to the trilliums and other larger wildflowers. Both the photograph above and the one below were taken a few days ago on the Cove Hardwood Trail in the Chimneys Picnic Area.

Phacelia on Porters Creek Trail
Phacelia on Porters Creek Trail © William Britten use with permission only

There is also an especially attractive cove of Phacelia along the upper portions of the Porters Creek Trail as seen in the photo above.

If you’re on a Smoky Mountains getaway, please stop in for a visit at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN, where my complete collection of Smoky Mountains photographs are on display.

Fringed Phacelia  © William Britten use with permission only
Fringed Phacelia © William Britten use with permission only
Wildflower Trails: Chestnut Top Trail

Wildflower Trails: Chestnut Top Trail

Chestnut Top Trail © William Britten use with permission only
Chestnut Top Trail © William Britten use with permission only

Just a hundred yards north of the Townsend Wye is a parking lot, and across the road is the start of the Chestnut Top Trail. In spring this is one of the premier Smoky Mountains wildflowers hikes, with opportunities for photos every few feet! The trail cuts into a steep embankment, climbing steadily for the first half-mile or so. It is this part of the hike that is packed with a huge assortment of flowers. Hike the trail often during late March and April, and you will see plenty of Trilliums. Fire Pink, Star Chickweed, Trailing Arbutus, Crested Dwarf Iris, Squawroot, Spring Beauty, Bishops Cap, Foamflower, Stonecrop, and many more. How’s that for name-dropping?

Another nice thing about Chestnut Top Trail is that the steep bank puts many of the blooms almost at eye level on the upper side of the hill, which sets them up nicely for photos.

As you climb the steep hill, the Little River runs north below you, and eventually you can spot the fields of Tuckaleechee Cove.

Please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of wildflowers and landscape photos of the Smoky Mountains at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN.  And if you are a facebook user, please “Like” either of the two pages shown on the panel to the right. On the Wildflowers Community page we share photos, bloom locations, and other tips.

Crested Dwarf Iris © William Britten use with permission only
Crested Dwarf Iris © William Britten use with permission only

Smoky Mountain Cantilever barns

Smoky Mountain Cantilever barns

Smoky Mountains cantilever barn © William Britten use with permission only
Smoky Mountains cantilever barn © William Britten use with permission only

The picture above is from the Tipton Homeplace in Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s a great example of the vernacular architecture known as the cantilever barn. The style of hanging a large upper loft area over two cribs below is unique to the area in and around the Smoky Mountains during the late 1800s and early 1900s.  Of just over 300 of these barns known to have existed, about 290 were in the two Tennessee counties bordering the Great Smoky Mountains.

To me, this style of barn architecture reflects the Appalachian mountain peoples’ clever and practical solutions to everyday problems. In this case, the climate around the mountains was very humid, which presented a challenge to keep the hayloft dry and mold-free.  Solution: air circulation between the loft and the moist ground.

The example below is a modified cantilever, with supports on both ends. This is the John Messer barn along the Porters Creek Trail in the Greenbrier section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It stands near the historic Smoky Mountains Hiking Club cabin.

On your next trip to the Smokies please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountains Photos at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN.

 

Cantilever barn in the Smoky Mountains
Cantilever barn in the Smoky Mountains © William Britten use with permission only
Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Pink Lady’s Slipper

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Pink Lady’s Slipper

 

Pink Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium acaule)
Pink Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium acaule) © William Britten use with permission only

Pink Lady’s Slipper (Cypripedium acaule) is a member of the orchid family that grows to 18 inches tall. It’s a fairly rare Smoky Mtn wildflower to find! The ladies above were spotted stepping out just off  Twin Creeks trail near the Bud Ogle Place on the Roaring Fork. The photo at the bottom was taken along the Porters Creek Trail in the Greenbrier area of the Smokies.

Pink Lady’s Slipper is nearly impossible to propagate or transplant. The dry acidic woods are the most likely place to find them growing. They bloom in late April at the lower elevations.

 

Pink Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium acaule)
Pink Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium acaule) © William Britten use with permission only

The genus name Cypripedium is derived from the Greek, meaning “Venus’ shoe.”

After the wildflower hunt, please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mtn Photography at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN. I’m in Morning Mist Village on Glades Rd along the historic Arts and Crafts Trail.

Smoky Mtn wildflowers
Smoky Mtn wildflowers © William Britten use with permission only

 

 

 

 

Smoky Mountain Llamas

Smoky Mountain Llamas

Smoky Mountain Llamas © William Britten use with permission only
Smoky Mountain Llamas © William Britten use with permission only

A packtrain of llamas is used to carry bed linens and supplies to Mt. LeConte Lodge. The llamas are easier on the heavily used Great Smoky Mountains National Park trails than horses.

In the picture below the llamas are passing behind Grotto Falls. Normally, the packtrain makes the trip from the Grotto Falls Parking area on the Roaring Fork Motor Trail on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Departure is often just around daybreak, and return between 3:00 and 5:00 in the afternoon.

Llamas behind Grotto Falls © William Britten use with permission only
Llamas behind Grotto Falls © William Britten use with permission only

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Painted Trillium

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Painted Trillium

Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum)
Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum) © William Britten use with permission only

Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum) is one of the most attractive, and most elusive of the Trilliums.  A rare sight, perhaps because it is at the southern edge of it’s range in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Painted Trillium favors cool northern forests.

Identification is very easy, with the prominent maroon paint circling the inner bloom. This Smoky Mtn wildflower favors acidic soils, so look for it in the shade of acid-loving plants such as pines and rhododendrons.  The example above was found growing on top of a large boulder beside the Porters Creek Trail in the Greenbrier section of the Smokies.  The photo below was taken along the Thomas Divide trail, where the bloom occurs much later at the higher elevation.

 

Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum)
Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum) © William Britten use with permission only

Please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mtn Photography at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN.

 

Smoky Mtn wildflower
Smoky Mtn wildflower © William Britten use with permission only
Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Wake Robin Trillium and Bishops Cap

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Wake Robin Trillium and Bishops Cap

Wake Robin Trillium © William Britten use with permission only
Wake Robin Trillium © William Britten use with permission only

April is prime wildflower time in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so I will be devoting many posts to that springtime topic as the annual Wildflower Pilgrimage approaches later this month.

As the name implies, the Wake Robin Trillium (Trillium erectum) is an early bloomer and heralder of spring. Another inhabitant of the moist woods, you might look for Wake Robin along the Greenbrier Road or Roaring Fork. The main features of the Wake Robin are the single flower rising erect over three large leaves.

Wake Robin Trillium with Bishops Cap © William Britten use with permission only
Wake Robin Trillium with Bishops Cap © William Britten use with permission only

The bloom of the Wake Robin Trillium is typically maroon in color, but it may also be cream or white, as below.  In both the picture above and the one below, the delicate Bishops Cap (Mitella diphylla) is rising on a frail stalk nearby.

Please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountain Photography at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN.

Wake Robin Trillium with Bishops Cap © William Britten use with permission only
Wake Robin Trillium with Bishops Cap © William Britten use with permission only
Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Dutchmans Breeches

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Dutchmans Breeches

Dutchmans Breeches
Dutchmans Breeches © William Britten use with permission only

Dutchmans Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) is a unique early spring wildflower found in the Smoky Mountains.  The name of course comes from the blooms, which look like pairs of tiny pantaloons hanging from a clothesline. Look for this stunning wildflower along the Cove Hardwoods Nature Trail in the Chimney Tops picnic area on the Newfound Gap Road. Like many of the wildflowers, Dutchmans Breeches is so small and delicate that it helps to know what the leaf looks like. The photo below shows the finely dissected deep green leaves, which you may have to separate with your hands to find the blooms.

Dutchmans Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria)
Dutchmans Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) © William Britten use with permission only

Dutchman’s Breeches looks similar to Squirrel Corn (Dicentra canadensis), which you can also find on the Cove Hardwoods Nature Trail. Look closely at the pictures of the two, and you will see the difference in the bloom. The genus name Dicentra is Greek for “twice-spurred.”

As with many wildflowers, this one has a use by humans. Legend has it that Native Americans used Dutchmans Breeches as a love charm, and that a man’s breath after chewing the root would attract a woman even against her will.

Dutchmans Breeches
Dutchmans Breeches with leaves © William Britten use with permission only

Please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountain Photography at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN.

Dicentra cucullaria blooms
Dicentra cucullaria blooms © William Britten use with permission only
Night Work

Night Work

Resort log cabin at daybreak
© William Britten - use with permission only

One of the ways that I survive here in the paradise of Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains is by taking photographs of the many resort rental properties in the area.  I love to get up before daybreak, get a log cabin all lit up and wait for those rosy fingers of dawn to just begin to appear.  For a short 10 minutes or so the lighting is perfect for a dramatic showing of the cabin.

Dawn comes to the log cabin resort
© William Britten - use with permission only

I have to confess that I also love the Thomas Kincade effect that is possible with a modern log cabin in a glorious Smoky Mountain setting.

Sunrise behind a Smoky Mountains resort cabin
© William Britten - use with permission only

If you would like to see more, there is a larger gallery of cabin images.  But for now on this page, the sun has come up and the mountains are calling their song of being miles away from any cares and worries …

Deck chairs offer a log cabin view of the Smoky Mountains
© William Britten - use with permission only

Deck chairs offer relaxation and a view of the Smoky Mountains
© William Britten - use with permission only

Cabins line up for a Smoky Mountain View
© William Britten - use with permission only

Cabin decor
© William Britten - use with permission only

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Showy Orchis

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Showy Orchis

Smoky Mtn Wildflower: Showy Orchis
Smoky Mtn Wildflower: Showy Orchis © William Britten use with permission only

Showy Orchis (Galearis spectabilis) is, as the name implies, in the Orchid family. It’s a spectacular discovery, when you find it. But as a matter of fact, both times I’ve stumbled on this beauty have been at the edges of parking lots. Not exactly the distinguished presentation that might be expected for such a regal flower. But sure enough, the wildflower books say that Showy Orchis likes the disturbed edges of roads and trails … so start your search there!

I’ve seen Showy Orchis near the first parking area in the Chimneys Picnic Area in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and also at the edge of the parking area for Porters Creek Trail, which is where the photo above was taken. The Bud Ogle Nature Trail is also a good area to look.

This wildflower blooms in April at the lower elevations.

Showy Orchis (Galearis spectabilis)
Showy Orchis (Galearis spectabilis) © William Britten use with permission only

After your wildflower hike, please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mtn Photography at theWilliam Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN.

 

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Toothwort

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Toothwort

Smoky Mountain Wildflowers: Toothwort
Smoky Mountain Wildflowers: Toothwort © William Britten – use with permission only

Toothwort (Dentaria diphylla) is another one of those tiny Smoky Mountain wildflowers that look so inconsequential when you gaze down on them from above. But get down to their level, especially with a magnifying glass or macro lens, and the delicate beauty is breathtaking.

The Toothwort leaves were used as wild salad greens by Smoky Mountains folk. Below is the Broadleaf variety of Toothwort, found along the Bud Ogle Nature Trail and many other areas of the Smoky Mountains during April.

Toothwort (Dentaria diphylla)
Toothwort (Dentaria diphylla) © William Britten use with permission only

Toothwort blooms early along the damp, rich woodland hillsides that border so many of the trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Look for the scalloped three-part leaves and the little four-petal blossom. The photo below shows the Cut-leaved variation of Toothwort (Dentaria laciniata), identified by the deeply-cut narrow leaves. It was found along the Chestnut Top Trail in late March.

Toothwort (Dentaria laciniata)
Toothwort (Dentaria laciniata) © William Britten use with permission only

Please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountain Photography at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN.

wildflowers photos

Those Crazy Kayakers

Those Crazy Kayakers

Kayaking in the Smoky Mountains
Kayaking on the Little Pigeon River in the Greenbrier

Smoky Mountain Kayaker
Kayaking in the Smokies

Whenever the creeks of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park swell with rainfall, which is often in the springtime, the kayakers come forth.

It seems like a daring adventure to me, and a paradoxical compromise between going with the flow and aggressively making your own path.

These folks must watch the weather like tornado chasers, ready to strap the kayak on the roof of the car at a moment’s notice.

The confluence of  the Ramsays Prong and Porters Creek in the Greenbrier section seems to offer an attractive, boulder-strewn course. And similar conditions can be found with a good launching area in the Chimneys Picnic Area.

Please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountain Photography at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN.

Kayaking in the Smoky Mountains
Going with the Flow
Kayaking in the Smoky Mountains
Kayaking near the Chimneys Picnic Area

Green Rocks of the Roaring Fork

Green Rocks of the Roaring Fork

Moss-covered rock of the Roaring Fork

Something green for St. Patrick’s Day. Nothing greener in the Great Smoky Mountains than the moss-covered rocks of the Roaring Fork.  Conditions on the north face of Mt. LeConte create an extremely wet environment and a rich lushness of plant life. There may be no better example than the amazing green rocks and boulders along the Roaring Fork creek, with moss so thick  that it becomes a world unto itself.

Moss-covered rock of the Roaring Fork

Detail of moss on a boulder

The Roaring Fork makes it’s steep run from the summit of Mt. LeConte to the condos of Gatlinburg through a jumble of green-carpeted boulders. See the Featured Photo: Place of 1000 Drips for another example of how constant moisture gives the moss an exceptional foothold along the Roaring Fork.

Please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountain Photography at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN.

Roaring Fork creek in the Smoky Mountains

Detail of moss and flowing water

Fog Comes on Little Cat Feet

Fog Comes on Little Cat Feet

Smoky Mountain Trail in Fog

I think fog gets a bad name. It’s typically about what fog can obscure: living life in a fog, the fog of war, the fog of depression. Well, like our neighbor over in the mountains of western North Carolina, Carl Sandburg, I think fog has delightful qualities. For example, in the picture above, a dash of fog can actually be a clarifying factor for the beautiful muddy road in the foreground. For the photo below, it’s the opposite, with the fog in the foreground, giving a nice contrast to the clarity of Mt. LeConte, rising above the fog.

It’s that time of year … Is it winter? Is it spring? …  warm and cold and damp … welcoming conditions for fog.

Mt. LeConte in fog

Late winter branches with fog

Favorite Trails: Porters Creek

Favorite Trails: Porters Creek

Porters Creek Trail © William Britten use with permission only
Porters Creek trailhead © William Britten use with permission only

Porters Creek Trail is a delightful meander in the Greenbrier section of the Smoky Mountains. Head east out of Gatlinburg on Route 321, then after about 6 miles, the Greenbrier entrance will be on the right. Eventually the road will turn to gravel and you’ll pass the bridge to the Ramsay Cascades Trail. Continue straight ahead until the road finally dead-ends at the trailhead parking lot. The trail follows Porters Creek for most of the way, and as you can see from the sign it is one of the many trails leading to the summit of Mt. LeConte.

rters Creek in the Smoky Mountains
Porters Creek
Smoky Mountain footbridge
Porters Creek Trail footbridge

The first mile of the trail is a well maintained jeep road with an easy walking grade. Along the way are many opportunities to slow you down and take photos. Watch to the right for many signs of pioneer homesteads. There are rock walls, chimneys, house foundations, and even a primitive cemetery.
These echoes of early settler life in the Smoky Mountains testify to the harsh realities of scraping a life out of rugged and isolated terrain.

Rock wall in the Smoky Mountains
Rock wall remnant from pioneer days
Stone steps
Rock steps from pioneer homestead
Smoky Mountain cemetery
Smoky Mountain cemetery

In April the Porters Creek Trail becomes one of the the best wildflower hikes in the Smokies.

White Trillium © William Britten use with permission only
White Trillium © William Britten use with permission only

For a nice two-mile round-trip hike, continue on up the trail and bear to the right when the jeep road enters a turnaround. At this point you can take a short side-trail over to visit a small group of log buildings, including the John Messer barn, which was built around 1875, and the Smoky Mountain Hiking Club cabin, which was constructed from 1934-36.

Please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of photos of the Smoky Mountains at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN. If you are a Facebook user, you can get my daily Smoky Mountains news and photos by becoming a fan of the William Britten Photography Facebook Page.

Pioneer barn © William Britten use with permission only
John Messer Barn © William Britten use with permission only
Smoky Mountain Hiking Club cabin © William Britten use with permission only
Smoky Mountain Hiking Club cabin © William Britten use with permission only
The Life of Wood

The Life of Wood

Smoky Mountain Cabin detail

There are many old pioneer cabins in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Most of them were constructed from native wood, shaped with hand tools such as the broad ax, froe, adz, and drawknife.

The wood in these buildings seems unique and different, with a life of its own. Or perhaps it is the life of the pioneers that remains within the wood. The example above is a classic dove-tail joint used to stack the log walls and keep them tight. The cabin is one you can see in the Cades Cove area of the Park.

The two images below are from cabins at the Mountain Farm Museum near the Cherokee entrance to the Smokies. Notice the nifty crude hinges made from  horse-shoes on the barn door in the lower right image.

Smoky Mountain log barn detailSmoky Mountain log cabin detail

The final two pictures below are from the Smoky Mountain Hiking Club cabin on the Porters Creek Trail in the Greenbrier Section of the Park. The first image shows another example of a dovetail joint.

Smoky Mountain log cabib dovetail joint

Smoky Mountain log cabib detail

Miles Away on Monday: Winter Sunrise

Miles Away on Monday: Winter Sunrise

Welcoming cabins at dawn © William Britten use with permission only

Bare trees, the welcoming glow of Smoky Mountain cabins at dawn … a warm and friendly Kinkade-colored scene. It’s that time of year when, surprisingly, winter has already started to lose its grip in the Smoky Mountains and Gatlinburg area. In a few short weeks the early flowers will be staking their tentative claim on the new season. But for now, it’s still chilly and bare, with more snow always a possibility. A great time to enjoy some solitude in the mountains.

If you can get away, you’ll find the streets of Gatlinburg are less crowded, and there will be very little traffic in the National Park. You can drive the Cades Cove Loop unimpeded by gridlock!  And I’ll look forward to visiting with you in the William Britten Gallery where you may view the entire collection of Smoky Mountains photos.

Smoky Mountain Spirituality

Smoky Mountain Spirituality

Snowy footbridge

The picture above is the footbridge leading to the Ramsey Cascades Trail in the Greenbrier section of the Smoky Mountains. Yes, it’s still cold and quiet around here. Another cold, snowy scene from the Greenbrier is below.

But to warm things up on the waning days of winter, there’s a gallery of quotations down below. If the words are hard to read, click on any image, and you should get a full size slide show. (put your mouse over the right or left side of each picture to rotate through the slide show) I’ve tried to set each of the quotations within a supportive image.

Winter bridge

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Favorite Trails: Big Creek to Midnight Hole and Mouse Creek Falls

Favorite Trails: Big Creek to Midnight Hole and Mouse Creek Falls

Waterfalls photos: Midnight Hole
Waterfalls photos: Midnight Hole © William Britten use with permission only

One of my favorite Smoky Mountains hikes is in the Big Creek section of the National Park, located on the eastern side, with the easiest access being from Interstate 40. Take the Waterville exit (451), which is the last Tennessee exit going east. Proceed through a hydroelectric plant, crossing into North Carolina, through a four-way rural intersection and into the Park. There is a campground and picnic area as well as excellent hiking. This area was heavily timbered in the early part of the 20th century, and as a result, the trail is a wide berm with an easy grade created to remove the trees with a rail line. This hike features two fine waterfalls!

About a mile up the trail you’ll pass a jumble of huge boulders known as Rock House.  Another half mile up the stream is Midnight Hole, which is one of the most picturesque waterfalls in the Smoky Mountains.  It flows into a deep green pool that gives the waterfall it’s name. Be careful not to miss the short side-trail that detours over to the bottom of the falls. It’s an excellent swimming area in summer, and as you can see from the picture, a beautiful spot in the fall. This is a good hike any time of year.

The picture to the left is one of my Featured Photos, and is a perennial best-seller.

But don’t stop now!  Another half-mile up the trail is a second gem, where Mouse Creek plunges dramatically down a steep hillside and into the creek. This is another great spot in the fall, and the boulders will beckon you to sit down and eat your trail mix, take some photos, or just meditate on the wonder of it all.

Smoky Mountains waterfalls: Mouse Creek
Smoky Mountains waterfalls: Mouse Creek © William Britten use with permission only

If you continue on for several hundred yards, there is a footbridge that crosses Big Creek and another very attractive pool.

Please stop in and visit me to see the complete display photos of the Smoky Mountains at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN.

Featured Photo: Midnight Hole

Featured Photo: Midnight Hole

 

Midnight Hole © William Britten use with permission only
Midnight Hole © William Britten use with permission only

Midnight Hole is a petite waterfall with a twelve-foot deep emerald pool that gives the waterfall its name.  Located in the Big Creek section of the Smoky Mountains, this is a popular swimming hole in the summer. This photo is often paired with Creekside Sweet Gum, making an attractive set of vertical pictures.

Midnight Hole is a featured photo at the William Britten Gallery. It is offered in all sizes up to 20×30. Details of sizes and prices can be found on the How to Buy page. You can also purchase framed or unframed versions of this image from my online store

The trail to Midnight Hole is one of my favorites. It’s a little out of the way but the compensation is two waterfalls in one hike!  Mouse Creek Falls is just a half-mile further on the trail. In summer you might find swimmers jumping off the rocks here. But my favorite time for this waterfall is in autumn.

Please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountains Photography at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN.

Finding Deep Peace in Wild Places

Finding Deep Peace in Wild Places

Deep Peace in the Smokies
Deep Peace in the Smokies © William Britten use with permission only

These are stressful times. So much strife in the world, polarized beliefs, and intolerance. Some days it’s too much for a sensitive person, and I have to turn off the news and turn off my thoughts. I use nature, and the grand expanse of Smoky Mountains at my doorstep, to recalibrate and rebalance. I feel lucky to live in such a spiritual place.

My Smoky Mountains photos reflect this search for deep peace and reassurance in nature. The image above especially captures the dark and moody woods juxtaposed with the bright and hopeful morning sunlight. It’s a place to sit by the never-ending cascade and contemplate the cycles of life. The sunlight changes by the minute and yet is forever the same. The rocks sit in the stream for eons, and yet they too are following a cycle of upheaval and settling.

The next time you visit the Smokies, try pulling off the road to sit by the deep woods cascades of the Roaring Fork or the awesome views of Cades Cove. And please consider a stop at the William Britten Gallery on the historic Arts and Crafts Trail along Glades Road in Gatlinburg. In my complete display of Smoky Mountains photos you may find a special memory to remember the peace of the mountains.

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