“If a lifetime love affair could be adequately expressed, it would include fascination and respect, thousands of miles by air, car and foot, and a package of notes and photos delivered from the heart (and several years of exhaustive research). Such is the affection Tim Barnwell, Asheville photographer and author, has for the Smokies – all wrapped up in his visually-stunning book “Great Smoky Mountains Vistas: A Guide with Mountain Peak Identifications, for What to See and Do In and Around the National Park.” The book has been released just in time for the centennial of the National Park Service, and serves as a companion to his “Blue Ridge Parkway Vistas”, released in 2014.
The timing is perfect for the rush of fall leaf-peepers, already flooding the Smokies, the most visited national park, with 107 million visitors last year. The two books answer most-asked questions from visitors – and locals – in stunning photographs taken from key overlooks as well as from the air, especially, “What mountain is that?”
…Barnwell, who grew up in Bryson City, was up for the challenge of the books. He spent a childhood camping in the park, and spent his honeymoon camping in Cades Cove, where he and wife Kathryn return each anniversary. The part has deep meaning for Barnwell, and he wanted to return the favor….In the Smokies book, he identifies peaks and landmarks from places within the park, such as Newfound Gap Road/US 441, Cataloochee, and Clingmans Dome, from the ground and the air, but also identified places in the Smokies from outside the park, such as the Blue Ridge Parkway, Max Patch in Madison County, and the Foothills Parkway in Tennessee, that have views into the Smokies. Barnwell also includes history, tips for photographs and safe driving, places to camp and picnic, waterfalls and old homesteads, and other places of interest and things to do in the Smokies.
Where to go: Picks from “Smoky Mountains Vistas” for enjoying a color-draped outing this fall:
- Smokemont Campground. Barnwell calls this his favorite place…it is on Newfound Gap Road (Milepost 27.2 coming form Gatlinburg, or Milepost 4.4 coming from Cherokee) on the North Carolina side.
- Greenbrier Cove. A secluded and less visited area of the park, accessed on the northern boundary from Hwy 321, about 6 miles east of Gatlinburg. There is a 3.9 miles drive through the woods along the Little Pigeon River, and a strenuous 8 mile trail to the 100-foot Ramsey Cascades waterfall.
- Cataloochee. Elk were reintroduced in the Cataloochee Valley, after being exterminated through over-hunting centuries before. From Asheville, take I-40 West to Exit 20 onto Jonathan Creek Road/US 276. After 0.2 miles, turn onto Cove Creek Road and go 1.2 miles. Stay right at the Smoky Mountains Park sign. After 5 miles the road turns to gravel. The road is steep and narrow – watch for elk in the valley and hiking trails.
- Bryson City. This Smokies gateway town in Swain County is a perfect jumping off point to the national park. Catch a leaf-peeping tour on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, visit shops and restaurants. Drive north 3 miles to Deep Creek in the Smokies, where there is a campground, picnic, area, ranger station and three waterfalls. (Downtown Bryson City is also the starting point for travel on the locally-famous “Road To Nowhere” running along the north shore of Fontana Lake. Google “Road To Nowhere” for history and further information. It’s a lovely drive of just a few miles to its terminus, and fall colors should be about peak right now.)
- Max Patch. One of the best places to view fall colors in the Smokies is from outside the park, at Max Patch. Looking west from the mountain bald you can see such Smokies landmarks as Mt. Sterling, Mt. Guyot and Mt. Cammerer. The 360-panaoranic view is depicted in a six-page spread, with all the visible peaks pointed out. (Max Patch is one of the most loved spots on the Appalachian Trail, and can be accessed from the main highway running between Waynesville and Hot Springs, NC).
SOURCE: Karen Chavez for the Asheville Citizen-Times