April 24, 2014 – Even though I’ve been obsessed with Cades Cove since I started exploring the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I always passed by the side road, Rich Mountain (Stop 8), which is adjacent to the Missionary Baptist Church (Stop 7). Since it’s a one-way road that goes back to Townsend with no re-entry into the Cove, I wanted to wait until I was ready to head home that way without seeing the rest of the cove from there.
It’s closed in the winter, so I took the first opportunity in spring to check out wildflowers I’d heard bloom on the roadside there.
The road itself is worth the trip – tiny, gravel and winding, but oh-so-beautiful as you climb the mountain.
Dogwoods were blooming and they always make me happy to see them poke out among the growing greenery.
There are a few small pulloffs where you can take in the more distant views, including this little scenic Baptist church nestled in the trees.
There wasn’t always pull-offs convenient when I saw wildflowers, so sometimes I’d just stop in the middle of the road, jump out and capture them as best I could. Thankfully, there was little traffic that day, and other people I came across were doing the same thing. This happy yellow guy is a Mountain Bellwort.
At one pull-off, though, I got a little more than I bargained for…
Not the greatest picture, but can you find the 3 bear here? There was another cub, but I never could capture them all together. Mama is in the right corner and my car was parked right in front of her.
I had spied some flowers on the side of the road, saw a pull-off just past them, jumped out and started to get my camera and tripod out. It wasn’t until then that I saw a mama and 3 cubs practically right in front of my car! I bolted back inside the car, but by then mama started heading back up into the woods with the cubs following behind.
I’ve never been so bummed that I didn’t have a decent zoom lens – or knew how to use manual settings effectively for the light!
This was the best I got of mama as she looked back at me, and I think she was calling to her cubs to hurry up.
I think this cub was playing hide and seek!
As they got further away, I rushed to get out my little point & shoot with better zoom and got a few more:
Mama still calling for cubs to come away from the crazy flower lady!
One down – two still dawdling
This little rebel was still close to the side of the road, but finally bounded up and off they all went. What a special treat for me!
When I was sure they were gone, I was still a bit shaken, but got this shot of a flower I hadn’t seen before during the Spring Wildflower Photo Workshop last weekend. Its name is Spotted Mandarin and I was told by my friend, Gail, whom I consider my best source for wildflower identification, that I was especially blessed this day because it’s rarely seen. Don’t know if I could find it again, but she cautioned against revealing the location because of poachers. Flower poachers, for shame!!!
I was happy to see hillsides of Dwarf Crested Iris, though!
I sure did appreciate the tiny, delicate blooms of this Carolina Vetch.
It’s a little over 12 miles from where you turn off from Cades Cove to the intersection of Hwy. 73 (E. Lamar Alexander Parkway). It took me almost 3 hours with all the ooh-and-aah stops I made, though!
More info about Rich Mountain Road:
BlountWeb.com – Tells us it was once an Indian trail across the mountain, and from 1830 to 1930, the wagon road was the main access to Cades Cove from Townsend. (My GPS still calls this Old Cades Cove Road.)