Cades Cove, Dec. 2011

January 11, 2012 at 2:14 am | Posted in For the Family, The Wild Side | Leave a comment
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Back in December my husband and I took our son to Cades Cove in Tennessee. It was a chilly day for us Floridians but a rather warm winter day for Tennessee. Cades Cove is part of the Smokey Mountains National Park and home to a ton of wild life including deer, fox, coyotee, otters, beavers, turkey, and bears. You can drive, hike, bike, and even visit the stables and ride horses through the park. It really is a great park for anyone.

During the winter months the riding stables are closed. Usually it’s a little too chilly to really enjoy yourself riding anyway. The nice thing about the winter is that all the horses are usually turned out, enoying their “off season.” Out in their field grazing, they resemble a herd of wild horses and are quite a beautiful sight.

                  
 

The wild turkey seemed to be everywhere in the park! There were some hainging out under the “Welcome to Cades Cove” sign as we entered the park and pretty much around every turn. We saw them traveling together in pairs of two up to flocks of about a dozen or so. Most foraging for food, we even saw some getting a little fiesty with one another over territory, flaring out their tails and hopping up into the air.

The deer were out in numbers today! All of the females we saw were traveling together. The deer in the park are used to seeing tourists so they’re typically not shy at all, which will help you get some pretty cool pictures. The trick is getting them to lift their faces from grazing long enough to get a shot of their beautiful faces.

This was the first buck that we saw. Bucks are more timid than the does are so it’s a little tougher to get a good shot of them. (As you can tell by this shot.) This big boy was clear across a field just strolling along. He stopped for this brief moment to show us how handsome he was before disappearing into the woods.

We spotted these two girls were over by the old Baptist Church in the park. The beauty of Cades Cove is, even if you’re driving the loop, there are plenty of opportunities to park your car and get out. We parked in the lot (you’re not supposed to just park at the side of the road, but no worries, there are plenty of designated parking places throughout the park) and quite literally walked right up to them, “So close you could smack them in the butt.” While admiring them, I spotted buck #2 across the field…

This handsome boy was a lucky find. Grazing some distance behind the two girls, I could only imagine he was keeping an eye on potential girlfriends. True to buck form, he was a little more shy than his lady friends, but still allowed me to get near enough to get a few pretty great shots. Obeying the park rules to respect and not disturb the park animals, I retreated before he felt the need to.

After jumping back in the car, just minutes up the road, we came across another herd of deer. This group was right at the roads edge, some even crossed in front of us as we sat and watched them. Just as I felt satisfied with our visit with them, my husband noticed antlers walking our way…

Buck 3 for the day, how awesome! He seemed interested in the pretty girls we had been admiring as well, but was soon distracted by all the grass that was just screaming to be grazed on. (What a boy!)

This handsome fella was much less shy than the other bucks we had encountered. He must have known how good looking he was! He marched himself right up to the road and continued his grazing like nobody was there. I give him credit, I can’t eat if anyone is wayching me, he pulled it off gracefully with about 4 or 5 cars stopped and watching his every move. This 8-point buck (measured by the ammount of “points” that measure 1 inch or longer on their horns) gave us a great view of his antlers. I don’t know how long he put on a show, we left so that others could enjoy this uncommon close of as much as we did. I later spoke to someone photographing a pair of does, he was quite jealous of our close encounter as we compared shots from the day.

As we were nearing the end of our drive through Cades Cove, my husband looked out the window and spotted buck #4. This adorable little guy was walking through the woods toward the road. We rolled down the window for me to snap a picture, but before I could even get to the window my 1 year old son looked out, waved, and said “Hiiiiiiiiiii” to him, like he identified with another youngin’. You would think this would be enough to scare away any wild animal. Not this guy! He went about his business, crossed the road behind our car, and continued into the woods toward the stream.

Aside from the awesome wildlife, you can also find some very beautiful scenery in Cades Cove. There are beautiful fields, mountains, rivers, creeks, and waterfalls that can be stared at all day. To go with the beauty, the sound of rushing water is just so peaceful, you may never want to leave. You will also find old historical buildings like churches (with cemetaries), barns, homes, and schools.

While this is not from my latest visit to Cades Cove, it’s still worth sharing! A few years ago my husband and I visited Cades Cove during the late spring with my best friend and her boyfriend. We were lucky enough to see a momma bear out and about with her cub. They were precious! They also drew quite a crowd, until momma bear came down the tree, at which point the crowd scattered like a school of fish that spotted an aproaching shark. (With a few exceptions, myself included, I don’t run from wildlife until they’re chewing on me, and sometimes not even then.)

IF YOU GO…

We visited this past winter. Winter time is usually the least crowded time to visit, and this place can (and will) get packed! It’s numerous activities, plentiful wildlife, and free admission make it a desirable place to visit by a variety of people. Go during the early morning (around sunrise) for the most activity by the resident animals and for thinner crowds. Pack a cooler as the concession stand is only open seasonally. THROW AWAY YOUR TRASH, don’t litter! Garbage attracts hungry bears so watch where you’re putting it. There is a rest room near the enterance (by the barn) that you may want to visit before you get too deep into the park, as well as a visitor center with tons of reading material. Pets are welcomed but, as in all parks, must be leashed and under control. Also, make sure you fill up with gas before you head to the park! The nearest gas station is, well, not close… better be prepared.

Enjoy your visit!

http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/cadescove.htm

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