Wilderness Wildlife Week offers excursions to various places in the Smoky Mountain National Park and the surrounding area. These excursions are highly desired, and you have to enter a lottery to get a seat on one of them. On lottery night, Hub and I got tickets, and mine was one of the first ones called. You could register up to four people, so Hub got to go with me. Two excursions are allowed per ticket; I chose the American Eagle Foundation/Bush Beans trip and a photography trip with a professional photographer as our guide. Today, I am going to tell you about our photography trip, which turned a little differently than originally planned.
We were scheduled to be at the LeConte Center at 8:15 AM for the 8:30 departure. After we got there, we were told the trip would be delayed for at least an hour. (The bus driver told us later that the tour company didn't bring enough buses, and he had to go to Knoxville to get the one we were on.) It was about ten when we finally got on the road.
What a lovely day it was; blue skies and warm temperature with a breeze. Our bus driver took us down Wears Valley Road to the Cade's Cove entrance. If you have traveled that road, try to imagine those curves on a big tour bus! Our driver did a stand-up job, and I suspect he had driven this road many times before.
While en-route, our most excellent guide, professional photographer Colby McLemore, kept us entertained with lessons on taking photos. One thing I learned was that you can take wonderful photos with your cell phones, but you really shouldn't use it for selfies, since it has a wide-angle lens.
We entered Cade's Cove on the narrow one-way loop, and all of us were looking for wildlife. We saw some turkeys first thing, but the usually copious deer were no where in sight. We stopped at the old Methodist Church, everyone with their camera ready.
This is the church steeple that I shot; I love putting leaves in the foreground.
Same steeple that Colby shot with my camera. The steeple is more defined than it is in my shot.
We enjoyed seeing the church and grounds. In a few minutes, we were loaded and counted and ready for our next adventure. The driver cranked the bus, and with a shutter and a big belch of black diesel smoke, the bus died. Graveyard dead.
There is no cell phone service in Cade's Cove. We got off the bus, which was a little stuffy with 24 people and no air conditioning. In twenty or thirty minutes, a park maintenance crew member came by on his tractor, which had a radio. He called in to the park office, and they were able to contact the people at the Wilderness Wildlife Week. They quickly set about getting another bus for us, and rescued us about three hours later.
If you have to be stranded, you couldn't pick a more beautiful place than Cade's Cove. We used our time working on our photo skills, and visiting a little.
We had watched this black bear for a while, but it was not until she came out of the high grass that we were able to see that she had her babies with her.
This is the replacement bus they found for us. It was old enough to have comfortable leg room, and it seemed to have no fear of traveling narrow roads where the tree limbs were hitting us on both sides.
To insure that nobody went home in a bad mood, Colby bought us all ice cream cones at the end of the day.
Pretty sure it will take many moons and the loss of multiple brain cells before I forget this day.