My Newest Love - The Great Smoky Mountains - Part 1

 "After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, and so on–have found that none of these satisfy, or permanently wear–what remains? Nature remains. " –WALT WHITMAN

To some folks there is only one love. To others, there are many.  For me,  I've always had a driving passion for the wilderness.  Living here in South Florida, it is easy to understand how my first love has been and continues to be Everglades National Park.  As a photographer,  my passion for the park grew stronger after seeing the work of Clyde Butcher (B&W Landscapes) and Art Morris (avian), and I've been headed out there now most frequently.  My passion took on a different course one day when I saw a post on a photographer site back in the days before Flickr of images from Arches National Park and the Wave in Coyote Buttes South in Utah and Arizona, respectively.  I made a note to myself that I had to see these sites with my own eyes.  I made it to the Southwest US for the first time in Spring 2007 and immediately fell in love with the Landscape, having seen and photographed the Nevada Desert, Zion, Bryce, and Page, Az. I vowed to return, which I did.  In 2008 and 2009,  I managed to visit Death Valley National Park,  Red Rock Canyon Nat. Mon. in Nevada, Sedona, Flagstaff, and the crown jewel,  Grand Canyon National Park.  The Grand Canyon was so amazing, I visited it twice in 2009.  But what truly was an amazing experience for me was finally seeing the Wave in February 2008 and Arches & Canyonlands National Park in February 2009. To this day, those have been some of the most amazing landscapes I have ever seen and of course I've vowed to return.  

Now in the Fall of 2009,  while on a family trip, I discovered a treasure much closer to home; totally different from the southwest. Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.  Seeing the lush mountains and forests and waterfalls in Autumn stroke a new chord in me.  But,  this new love for the mountains of Appalachia did not come to full fruition until I decided to stay in the car and spend 10 days in the Smoky and Blue Ridge Mountains.  You cannot compare it to the landscapes of the Southwest, because it is not the Southwest. It is a different state of mind, but beautiful nonetheless. As you head west down the interstate in North Carolina and you start to see the landscape change, with the mountain range in front of you, you realize you're not in the flat boring east coast anymore. 

Arriving in Cherokee, NC and entering the park via US-441 is like a trip through Eden.  Lush rich forests, rivers, streams all intertwined between the mountain road. And when you find a place to stop, and you head down to the river or an overlook of the landscape,  you see wilderness and the beauty of lines and curves formed by the mountainous landscape outlined by summer wildflowers.

Going down to the side of the rushing river and stream and hearing nothing but the sound of the rushing waters and it was pure love for me.  I truly hate civilization.  Our modern day civilization is nothing but a cacophony of noise, violence, pollution, hatred. Being in the National Parks and especially in the Smokies is an oasis away from man's cesspool.  You breathe clean air and most of all, you get away from the sound of man.  I cannot tell you how much I appreciate quiet. Just hearing the sounds of the earth and of nature.  While photographing these streams under the canopy of the lush green forests, I could see eastern bluebirds all around me. Not something we tend to see in South Florida.  In fact, there was no shortage of songbirds all around me in the hills of Tennessee and North Carolina. I have found my new place to get away from the world. It wasn't the desert. But it truly is another corner of Heaven.
All images © 2010 by Michael Pancier Photography


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