Shenandoah, Great Smoky Mountains, Congaree, and D.C.

November 01, 2014  •  4 Comments

I recently returned from a short trip to the east coast to see my photos in the Smithsonian and check out a few parks as well. It was pretty much a whirlwind tour.

We arrived in DC, picked up our rental car, and drove towards Shenandoah National Park that night. The drive through Shenandoah was really nice. Even though the fall color in the park was mostly gone, we did find a few spots that still held their leaves. We got a chance to watch the sunrise, get out on a short hike to a couple waterfalls, and check out the new exhibits in the visitor center.

Shenandoah SunriseShenandoah Sunrise First Light on the Fall ColorsFirst Light on the Fall Colors Darj Hollow FallsDarj Hollow Falls

I was surprised to learn that both Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks were created using eminent domain. The history of both parks include some deep-seated resentment for the government, and rightly so. People in Shenandoah were told that they would be able to stay on their land in the newly created park, then that decision was reversed by the next administration. I was also surprised to learn that Shenandoah was also home to a campground that was only for "negroes." I'm glad that the national park doesn't shy away from topics that may be uncomfortable to discuss because it is a reminder that segregation is not in our too distant past and that racism was an institutional part of our government. From there we headed to Pigeon Forge to stay for the night.

Now I won't get into it too much, but WTF is Pigeon Forge?!? It's like a honkey-tonk Vegas in the middle of nowhere. As we were driving through the city to find a place to eat we were driving through a never-ending gauntlet of amusement rides, dinner theaters, and flashing signs. The entire town is a tourist-trap. I have no idea how that town exists or why people go there.

The next morning we woke up early again, this time it was cold and foggy. We made our way into the park and started driving on the one-way road out to Cades Cove. Just as we came out of the trees we were greeted to an iconic misty-morning sunrise of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Sunrise in Cades CoveSunrise in Cades Cove Morning DewMorning Dew Morning Light in Cades CoveMorning Light in Cades Cove Morning in Cades CoveMorning in Cades Cove Misty Morning in Cades CoveMisty Morning in Cades Cove

Once we made it to the Cades Cove ranger station we watched live demonstrations at the Cable Mill and Blacksmith shop. Both the guy in the mill and blacksmith shop were descendants of the people who settled the area. It was really cool to talk to the people who had a strong connection to the land that is now the national park.

Cable Mill in FallCable Mill in Fall

After leaving Cades Cove we drove south towards Cherokee and stopped to see the sights along the way.

Meigs Falls in AutmnMeigs Falls in Autmn Fall ColorsFall Colors LayersLayers

We eventually made it to Charleston and took the next day to relax and hang with family. After catching up on some much needed sleep we hit the road again for Congaree National Park. This park was initially created as a national monument and later upgraded to a national park in 2003. I had heard great things about it so I had been wanting to go for sometime now, but when I looked on the website it mentioned that the best way to see the park was on one of their kayak tours. I looked to sign up for one but they weren't being offered when we were there so I reached out to the park and asked if they were in need of some photos in exchange for a "guided tour" on the water. They were happy to oblige and Ranger Lindsey was our guide for the day. She was very knowledgeable and friendly and gave us a great tour. We were even lucky enough to see four river otters. Lindsey told us that in two years of working for the park she has only previously seen three otters before that day. So definitely a big sighting!

Kayaking Cedar CreekKayaking Cedar Creek Reflections on Cedar CreekReflections on Cedar Creek Corrie and Lindsay on Cedar CreekCorrie and Lindsay on Cedar Creek Reflections on Cedar Creek (2)Reflections on Cedar Creek (2) Bald Cypress Reflections (2)Bald Cypress Reflections (2) Kayaker on Cedar CreekKayaker on Cedar Creek Kayakers on Cedar Creek (3)Kayakers on Cedar Creek (3) North American River Otter (2) - Lontra canadensisNorth American River Otter (2) - Lontra canadensis

After our paddle we got back on terra firma and decided to go for a short hike to check out the park on foot. We saw a cardinal, a young white-tailed buck, rat snake, and some champion trees. I believe we saw the champion loblolly pine tree. It was a huge freaking tree. 

Black Rat Snake - Pantherophis obsoletusBlack Rat Snake - Pantherophis obsoletus

From Charleston we headed back to DC and dropped the car off at the airport and met up with my family at the hotel. The next day was supposed to be the nicest while we were there so we decided to do the mall that day. We went up in the Washington Monument and visited the Lincoln Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, and the U.S Marine Corps Memorial. It was a day full of patriotic sight-seeing and some real-world reminders about what this country has gone through to get where we are today.

Washington MonumentWashington Monument One of the FallenOne of the Fallen On GuardOn Guard Changing of the Guard (2)Changing of the Guard (2) Arlington National CemeteryArlington National Cemetery Sunset at Marine Corps War MemorialSunset at Marine Corps War Memorial Self-portrait Lincoln Memorial at NightSelf-portrait Lincoln Memorial at Night

The rest of the trip we spent wandering around the museums including Ford's Theater, Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, and the U.S Botanical Gardens. It was pretty awesome to see me and my photos hangin in the museum!

Ford's TheaterFord's Theater Me at the SmithsonianMe at the Smithsonian

The trip to DC was a great. I was humbled to get to see my work in the Smithsonian and it was a blast to see new parks, make new friends, and see friends and family. 


Comments

Jackie Wilson(non-registered)
And to think, we were lucky enough to share George Bumann's seminar on the wolves of Yellowstone and you were generous enough to share your pictures. Marvelous!....and thank you.
Alex Butler(non-registered)
Love these pics!! love your traveling life! hope all is well xo
Leah VB(non-registered)
Pigeon Ford sounds just like Wisconsin Dells... but maybe without the water ski shows.
Those spider web pictures are fricken cool!
There's so much diversity down south!
Thanks for sharing!
Debbie Tubridy(non-registered)
Wow, you sure are getting around ... what a life!
These images are so amazing! So excited for you about the Smithsonian exhibit as well.
May be in YNP this winter ... did it last year and it was a blast! Will let you know.
Have fun up there!
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