“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.“
~ John Muir
Monday morning we headed down to Sweetwater, TN, where we enjoyed another visit to the Lost Sea. You begin the cave tour after walking down a very long yellow tunnel, at which point you find yourself inside the cave. We were fortunate and our group was very small and intimate making it more of a personal experience, and our tour guide was great and quite funny! As we walked along, things of interest, such as unique formations, like odd shaped stalactites or stalagmites were pointed out. One such point of interest featured a very nice collection of cave crystals (flowers), of which there are only a few found in caves around the world. There is a lovely stream with small cascades that run through part of the cave, as well as a beautiful waterfall in one area, all eventually feeding the four acre lake further down in the cave. We walked up and down switching back and forth as we climbed and descended through areas of the cave, and at times stumbling around a bit in the darker areas. After walking another half an hour or so, we reached the lake, where we all loaded onto a small boat. From there we began our journey out and around the lake, while the tour guide threw food to the many trout that call this unique lake setting home. We’re they ever thrilled to receive the food, as they jumped and splashed about, sometimes even leaving the water!
Me standing under what looks like a great big crab claw!
Shortly thereafter, the boat ride came to an end and it was time to unload and begin our journey back to the surface. Before long we arrived at the top and exited out the long yellow tunnel designed specifically to readjust ones eyes to the light. A drizzly rain was falling as we quickly made our way to the van, where we continued along on our one day journey. After driving along a meandering curvy country road, lined with old barns, farms and fields of yellow and lavender wildflowers, we found ourselves at the Mayfield Dairy, where we went on a tour after enjoying a cone of fresh Mayfield ice cream . . . yummy!! From there it was time for a relaxing drive back home.
Some of the gorgeous cave crystal formations
Tuesday, we had planned to visit a historic home in Knoxville, but found it closed when we arrived, so after making a couple of short stops, we returned to Townsend, at which time we packed a picnic supper and drove into Cades Cove. The picnic area was fairly empty, so we got our choice of tables, and chose one adjacent to the stream. It was a lovely spot, one just perfect for a picnic supper. With full tummies, we began driving the lovely loop road that winds through the cove, and came first to the horses that had just been turned out to pasture from the riding stables. They were full of energy and zeal as they ran, rolled and basically shook off the cares of the day! We had some carrots left from supper, so we had great fun feeding several of the muscled beauties! After filling some tummies and giving out lots of petting, we continued on our drive. We saw several turkeys, some strutting, some preening as we drove along, as well as deer scattered throughout the open fields. A little over half way around, we saw a very young baby Black Bear resting in a tree directly above the road! Several more curvy stretches in the road were passed before coming into an open area, where we enjoyed seeing a beautiful sunset, as the sun went behind the mountains, turning the scattered clouds above rich salmon and pink colors!
Enjoying our lovely picnic in Cades Cove
Two happy campers!
Enjoying their evening freedom!
A gorgeous sunset in Cades Cove
Wednesday morning, we drove along the curving road that leads through the Smoky Mountains National Park over to Cherokee, NC. It was another gorgeous drive, and quite cool when we stopped to get a few photos of the beautiful mountain ranges showing the first signs of fall. Sometime later after a picnic lunch, we arrived at the new Oconaluftee visitor center near Cherokee, where we enjoyed seeing the historical artifacts and information on display. From there we headed on a driving tour that began on the Blue Ridge Parkway. As we were driving along enjoying the lovely scenery, we were surprised to see a female Elk right by the road, with a bull just a short distance away! A few minutes further down the road, and we came up on two big bull Elk lying in the small grass patch by the road, each sporting impressive racks. After driving a short distance on this scenic drive, we turned onto a one-lane gravel road that started a twenty-eight mile drive along the side of the mountains. It was one beautiful scene after another as we switched back and forth ascending and then descending the slow traveling road. Only the sound of the fall breeze rustling the leaves on the trees and the occasional call of a Crow, or other birds could be heard as we drove along, with windows down, enjoying all of the fresh crisp air! A little over two hours later found us back in the middle of modern day noise, as we entered Cherokee, where we had a quick bite to eat before starting the journey across the mountains leading back home.
What a handsome boy!
Two handsome boys taking it easy
Thursday morning, it was time for goodbyes, as Wes’ parents left to return to their home in southern Indiana. That afternoon we got caught up with the pressing business necessities, and Friday we spent most of the day painting. Saturday morning, we were at the airport in Knoxville where we picked up my parents and began our several days of fun and adventures with them, of which I’ll share photos and stories on my next post!
A scenic place along our drive
A gorgeous view from the Blue Ridge Parkway
Fresh off the easels: I finished my commissioned miniature portrait painting “Sweet Sampson”. He has received his final approval, has been framed and will soon be shipped to his new home! Still on the easel for me is a miniature in progress of a beautiful Wolf that I hope to finish this week. Wes is working on a miniature of a Bison out in Yellowstone.
Upcoming Events and Exhibitions of Our Paintings This Week:
~ Evento Artistico Culturale – We had two of our miniature paintings, as well as copies of our two books, on display recently in the Chiostro di San Francesco, San Giovanni In Persiceto, Italy. Our miniature paintings are currently on display at several museums, galleries and shows this m0nth. Please visit our website for the listings.
Our miniatures on display at the Evento Artistico Culturale
~ The Art of Miniature Painting Workshop as part of the 5th Annual Miniature Fine Art Show October 22 – November 19, 2011: Artistic Designs Gallery, Brownsburg, IN. We will be attending the ticketed opening reception on October 21st from 7-9PM. On Saturday, the 22nd, Wes and I will be giving a demonstration/workshop from 10AM until 5PM. (Demo from 10-Noon with full workshop continuing until 5PM). For more information, or to sign up, please contact Laura at the gallery.
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Until next time ~ Rachelle