Going Solo

I know you parents out there feel my pain. As rich as our kids make our lives, sometimes you need a little adult time. And when you spend as much time together as we do in our roadschooling pursuits, that becomes the understatement of the decade.

The entrance at Townsend, Tennessee, the self-proclaimed “quiet side” of the Smokies.

I’ve alluded to my July solo trip to the Smokies in recent posts about the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont and Cades Cove but I’ve yet to give you the full rundown. Basically I spent a week camping in Cades Cove followed by a week of SANCP classes at Tremont. It was certainly a much needed respite from constantly being on mommy duty but it also gave me some time to focus on my personal pursuits, spend my time on my own terms, and get rejuvenated to jump back into the fold upon my return. I certainly missed my little camping buddies but I knew they were having adventures of a different kind that only a Gramma can provide. (Thanks Gramma!)

My original plans for this trip included lots of naturalist practice and photography on the more difficult trails that Fred and George would balk at tackling. This was my prime opportunity! Only my plans took a radical turn when a quite literal run-in with a rock in Colorado back in June left me with a very, very broken big toe. I had to scrap my backcountry bliss for roadside exploration…along with the countless other visitors that flock to the Smokies in the middle of summer. Little did I realize how educational the people-watching would be but given better circumstances, I would have stuck to my original plans.

At any rate, regardless of having to change up my plans, it was still an epic trip and I’m just now figuring out the best way to share my rare solo adventure with you. Unfortunately, sometimes an experience is almost too much to put into words. Since I can’t show you in images what this adventure meant to me in terms of personal satisfaction, I’m at least going to share with you some of the things I saw and hopefully you’ll understand why the Smokies are a fitting place to find your happy. (Just remember, it’s a zoo there in July.)

So without further ado, here’s some of the lovely that is the Great Smoky Mountains.

Cades Cove…

One of the perks of a July visit is the volatile weather. The constantly changing light made it hard to know what to shoot first. This field is at the north end of Hyatt Lane in Cades Cove.
Many visitors to the Smokies seek out the modern attractions of nearby Gatlinburg,TN for excitement but for me this is the kind of roadside attraction that stops me in my tracks. I could have spent hours investigating these beauties if not for the car-dodging required along the Cades Cove loop.
A artifact of history blemished by modern hands.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a compelling mix of history and nature.
While standing on Sparks Lane shooting the fog rolling through the cove, I was reminded to always turn around and see the possibilities behind me. Of course, camera set on another subject, I resorted to Instragram iPhoneography.

Tremont Road and the Middle Prong River…

This was one of the many times I found a surprise while looking at something else. In this case, this harvestman was nestled in the bark of a tree I was inspecting for its fabulous lichen offerings. (Top of Tremont Road at the Middle Prong trailhead.)
This shattered puzzle of geologic awesome is located in one of my favorite little spots along the Middle Prong.
Another of those surprises I mentioned. I was examining this tree for entirely different reasons when this big, wet, seriously tough looking beetle startled me.
This Lilliputian mushroom may only be about an inch tall, but what a marvel of detail in its little world.

Foothills Parkway…

I spent hours on the Foothills, studying plants, shooting the landscape, and working away on this blog. It’s certainly not a burden to plug in and work when this is your office view.

Newfound Gap…

After yet another summer storm, mesmerizing fog drifted up and over Newfound Gap.

Clingman’s Dome…

I put the “cling” in Clingman’s Dome to get this shot! On a steep, slippery, rain-soaked roadside, I clung to the slick grass, trying not to further distress my already throbbing toe in order to catch this bee on a misshapen sunflower. No tripod possibilities in this situation. Pure iPhone Instagram action here.

Roaring Forks Motor Drive…

Roaring Forks was a first for me. While I eventually managed a quiet place to shoot , it was so crowded along this motor trail, the roads were nearly impassable. Very beautiful but I don’t recommend it during the busy season…it’s an exercise in frustration.

And now for your moment of green…

No matter where you decide to visit in the Smokies, you’ll find beautiful surprises.


  1. Lovely!! Time alone is definitely an underrated and seriously necessary commodity. I agree about it being too hard to capture in words.

    One of these days I’ll have to try and share the story of my (so far only) solo trip out camping from Flamingo… canoe trip to a platform campsite.

    1. Yes you must share that! It would make a great guest post… hint, hint…

  2. The Smokies is one of my favorite sites 🙂 beautiful pics

    1. You need to get up here and play in the Smokies with me!

  3. Very nice pictures Val and I was very happy to have my grandsons all to myself for a bit. I should be thanking you for sharing them!

    1. They have such a great time at Gramma’s and playing with their cousins, wish we could get them down there more!

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