The ABC's of Smoky Mountain Camping -- Huntsville, AL Photographer


"Going to the mountains is going home." -- John Muir

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It's no secret how much I adore the The Great Smoky Mountains.  From the peanut butter fudge and bluegrass banjos, to the fried pickles and rambling nature trails, there is something in them there hills that sings to the innermost core of my Tennessee-born, nature-loving soul -- and the more I visit (which is at least once a year, twice if I'm lucky), the more deeply I realize how Appalachia is my heart's home.  My spirit finds the truest, most authentic rest when my body is nestled amid wildflowers and the clean white "smoke" rising from shaded valleys and clear rivers.

My most recent trip to the Smokies was a five-day camping trip back in April.  I returned home feeling keenly refreshed, fully ready to take on life's little dramas and challenges (along with five days worth of sweat- and campfire-scented dirty laundry) -- but that good feeling has worn off somewhat.  Another excursion to the mountains is in order!  But since Real Life beckons for now, a visual trip down memory lane will have to suffice.

I present a light-hearted look at my beloved Smokies -- in alphabetical order . . .


Cades Cove, Smokey Mountains TN

"B" is for butterflies and bumblebees

"C" is for campfire cookery.

Check it out: a complete meal for five including shrimp, zucchini and squash on skewers, and baked potatoes (below on the hot coals)!

"D" is for don't.

Seriously, just don't.  It's not good for the wildlife and it's not good for you.  No one wants to be fined and/or arrested -- or be responsible for the endangerment of animals or plants.


"E" is for everyone

Anyone and everyone can become a member of Friends of the Smokies.  I'm a member, she's a member -- wouldn't you like to be a member too!?!

"F" is for flowers.

The Smoky Mountains are world renowned for their abundance of wildflowers.  From late April through early September, you can see flowers everywhere.  They blanket the whole park with smatterings of lovely color, and it's truly delightful to seek and find these beauties along paths and in unexpected places.

"G" is for green tomatoes (fried)

My husband and I have found a great little locally owned place to dine, just outside the park, in Townsend, TN called Riverstone Family Restaurant.  It's where I first tasted (and fell in love with) fried pickles, but they've also got killer fried catfish and some of the best fried green tomatoes and homemade pies ever.


H is for hot showers (or lack thereof).  Sorry, no photo for this one.  You'll just have to trust me on this: if you plan to camp inside the park take some dry shampoo and baby wipes.  And stay behind the camera, not in front of it.


"I" is for ice cream.

I swear, the store in Cades Cove campground has The Best Ice Cream.  I don't know how they do it, because it just looks like soft serve.  But it isn't.  It's a piled-high vision of creamy wonder, sweet and rich with light icy texture, and boy does it taste guuud!


"J" is for jellies  -- and wildflower honey.

"K" is for kitsch.

"L" is for laziness.

Is there anything better than simply lounging around in your camper amid the silence of a Great Smokies campground?  I think not.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

"N" is for notes, particularly those with a musical inclination and played out by banjos and bluegrass-tinged voices.

"O" is for old stuff, like Carter Shields Cabin in Cade's Cove.

Cades Cove is filled with all sorts of natural wonders -- but also man-made treasures from an era gone by.  It's a wonderfully rich place, suffused with peace and the sense of wonder that surely surrounded the everyday lives of those who once called home this beautiful valley.


P is for pigtails.

"Q" is for for quiet places.

There's a little bit of magic in the act of picking a quiet spot (or even a spot filled with the sound of a giggling stream) in the Smoky Mountains.  Just to sit.  Stay awhile.  Breathe deeply.


"R" is for ramps.

I learned something new this last time we visited the Smokies:  there's a wild leek that grows in the hills and dales called a "ramp".  We saw a roadside seller with some of these grassy-looking vegetables, and I bought some to take home.  Lemme tell ya, they made a delightful dinner sautéed in butter with some potatoes.  Yum.


"S" is for s'mores

"T" is for tiny tendrils.

"U" is for unshaven.

"V" is for verdant vegetation.

From the leaves bursting from branches to the moss clinging to every damp surface, there is abundant life everywhere in the Smokies.  Is it any wonder I love the place so much: it proudly displays en  masse my favorite color -- green!


"W" is for wandering in the woods.

There are literally thousands of miles of walking and hiking trails in the park.  We've wandered many a path, even hitting up from time to time parts of our beloved Appalachian Trail.  And other than seriously sore muscles, there's nothing to regret about getting out and enjoying nature as God intended.


"XYZ" is for examine your zipper -- that is, if you don't want critters inside your tent or camper (see "A is for...").

If you want to see more of the Smokies, then head on over to their official website.  Better yet, plan a trip!