Trips: Smoky Mountain Snow, December 2020

An early December snow swept across the ridges of the Great Smoky Mountains and into the Cades Cove valley. For a couple of days, the snow and following hoar frost created a magical winter wonderland, a great respite from the Covid pandemic.

A small herd of horses stand in the predawn cold at the entrance to Cades Cove.

Guardian of the Cove

A small herd of horses stand in the predawn cold at the entrance to Cades Cove.

Cades Cove is quiet and still under slate gray skies and a fresh coat of snow.

Cades Cove Snow

Cades Cove is quiet and still under slate gray skies and a fresh coat of snow.

Snow drapes the hemlocks and pines that line Sparks Lane.

Sparks Lane Winter Splendor

Snow drapes the hemlocks and pines that line Sparks Lane.

A large mountainside of rhododendrons is covered in a winter coat of snow.

Rhododendrons in Snow

A large mountainside of rhododendrons is covered in a winter coat of snow.

Yesterday's snow has largely melted across the cove except in the shade of some oaks and maples.

Snow in Shadows

Yesterday's snow has largely melted across the cove except in the shade of some oaks and maples.

A heavy hoar frost has etched overnight the old trees along Sparks Lane.

Sparks Lane Hoar Frost

A heavy hoar frost has etched overnight the old trees along Sparks Lane.

Snow coats the trees alongside and the boulders of the Little River.

Little River Snow

Snow coats the trees alongside and the boulders of the Little River.

The snow-covered Little River courses around the Smokies.

Little River in Snow II

The snow-covered Little River courses around the Smokies.

Abrams Creek flows through the snow-covered rhododendrons and trees that grow along its banks near the picnic sites of Cades...

Abrams Creek and a Winter Picnic

Abrams Creek flows through the snow-covered rhododendrons and trees that grow along its banks near the picnic sites of Cades Cove.

The golden light of morning glows behind the snow-covered hemlocks in Cades Cove.

Golden Hemlocks

The golden light of morning glows behind the snow-covered hemlocks in Cades Cove.

A narrow dirt road cuts through the snowy woods in Cades Cove.

Sparks Lane in Snow

A narrow dirt road cuts through the snowy woods in Cades Cove.

Hemlocks bow under the snow above Sparks Lane.

Sparks Lane Cathedral

Hemlocks bow under the snow above Sparks Lane.

For all those who have shared the journey with me, who have graced my soul, kindled my heart and who kept believing that over...

Sparks Lane Panorama

For all those who have shared the journey with me, who have graced my soul, kindled my heart and who kept believing that over that hill, we can find a better place to build together something anew.

Sunlight streams through this winter scene.

Winter Warmth

Sunlight streams through this winter scene.

A quiet winter walk in winter through the snow.

Sparks Lane in Winter II

A quiet winter walk in winter through the snow.

Set in the shade of a beautiful clearing, the Carter-Shields cabin sits quietly, peacefully in a glen of trees cloaked in an...

Carter Shields Cabin in Winter

Set in the shade of a beautiful clearing, the Carter-Shields cabin sits quietly, peacefully in a glen of trees cloaked in an early December snow. There is uncertainty when it was built, but some records suggest it was around 1820, when George Shields fled to Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains to flee the typhoid epidemic. From 1910-1921, this simple one bedroom cabin became home to George Washington "Carter" Shields, who had been injured in the Battle of Shilo in 1862. Another century later and this simple cabin remains a place to find serenity and quiet repose.

A wet snow clings to every branch and limb in Cades Cove.

Snowy Embrace

A wet snow clings to every branch and limb in Cades Cove.

The woods have a new beauty under a fresh snow.

Winter Woods

The woods have a new beauty under a fresh snow.

Usually crowded, the road is empty after a winter snow.

Cades Cove Loop Road in Snow

Usually crowded, the road is empty after a winter snow.

One of America's most beautiful drives curves through the pines and snow.

Cades Cove Loop Curve

One of America's most beautiful drives curves through the pines and snow.

This ancient mill where settlers in the Cove had corn meal and flour ground stands eerily quiet in the snowy solitude of winter...

Mill in Snow

This ancient mill where settlers in the Cove had corn meal and flour ground stands eerily quiet in the snowy solitude of winter.

In 1867, a young farmer, John Cable built this grist mill in Cades Cove. This mill, powered by water that flowed from an adjacent...

Resilience

In 1867, a young farmer, John Cable built this grist mill in Cades Cove. This mill, powered by water that flowed from an adjacent stream that turned the great wheel, allowed John to mill the flour that would provide sustenance to the hearty families who scratched out a living in this mountain cove. It was also a place where families would gather, where people could socialize and share their stories and talk about how - together - they would endure. There was a lot of heartache and tragic losses. But also some laughter. Now, after an early December snow, the mill stands quiet, the people are all gone but if you listen carefully, quietly, you can hear their voices in that nearby stream, and in the creaking boards. There will be better days. Together.

It is nearly zero and the Cove is serene and quiet.

Winter Chill

It is nearly zero and the Cove is serene and quiet.

The original experience of the early settlers can be glimpsed when walking before dawn along the snow-covered loop road of Cades...

Before Sunrise

The original experience of the early settlers can be glimpsed when walking before dawn along the snow-covered loop road of Cades Cove.

The gates are closed and Cades Cove is deserted. A several mile hike in the dark has brought me to the fields that buffer the...

Waiting on Sunrise

The gates are closed and Cades Cove is deserted. A several mile hike in the dark has brought me to the fields that buffer the old homestead of John Oliver to await sunrise. The temperature is in the teens and a new day is breaking. In minutes, the sun clears the horizon, striking a golden glow just across the frozen, snow-covered ridgelines of these mountains. Nearly 150 years ago when Lawson built this place, with assistance from his neighbors the Cables, I suspect there was a morning just like this. Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains NP. Dec.2020.

One of the oldest historical structures in the Park, John Oliver cabin sits quietly in the snow and shade as dawn breaks above...

John Oliver Cabin in Snow

One of the oldest historical structures in the Park, John Oliver cabin sits quietly in the snow and shade as dawn breaks above.

A distant moon twinkles in the pre-dawn cool, high above Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains. Winter's first snow has coated the...

Cades Cove Winter View

A distant moon twinkles in the pre-dawn cool, high above Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains. Winter's first snow has coated the valley floor, nearby mountain slopes and every tree and shrub. The Cove is incredibly quiet this morning. There is no one around and even the wildlife is bedded down.

A few rays of light bring a strong glow to a slice of this snowy mountain ridge.

A Slice of Sun

A few rays of light bring a strong glow to a slice of this snowy mountain ridge.

A gentle stream passes below snow-covered dogwoods.

A Snowy Stream

A gentle stream passes below snow-covered dogwoods.

A heavy wet snow blankets the hemlocks and first along Sparks Lane.

A Place for a Quiet Walk

A heavy wet snow blankets the hemlocks and first along Sparks Lane.

Snow provides a new experience on the Loop Road.

Snowy Loop

Snow provides a new experience on the Loop Road.

Carter Shields cabin, one of the most beautiful in the Cove, sits quietly and fresh this winter morning.

Carter Shields Cabin

Carter Shields cabin, one of the most beautiful in the Cove, sits quietly and fresh this winter morning.

Rarely experienced in snow's regalia, the Loop Road offers new visions around every turn.

Around the Bend

Rarely experienced in snow's regalia, the Loop Road offers new visions around every turn.

With the roads closed, Cades Cove is stunningly quiet on this winter morning.

Hiking the Loop

With the roads closed, Cades Cove is stunningly quiet on this winter morning.

The Tipton Place homestead was initially settled by Revolutionary War Veteran William “Fighting Billy” Tipton in the 1820s...

Tipton Place in Snow

The Tipton Place homestead was initially settled by Revolutionary War Veteran William “Fighting Billy” Tipton in the 1820s. Some 50 years later, this cabin was built by Bill's relative and Civil War Veteran Colonel Hamp Tipton where his two daughters, who taught school in the Cove, resided for years. Still intact, the cabin sits quiet on this snowy December morning.

A small dirt road leads to one of the numerous historic churches in Cades Cove.

A Snowy Road to Church

A small dirt road leads to one of the numerous historic churches in Cades Cove.