Fall In The Smokies!

More adventures with my parents!

by Rachelle Siegrist

rachelle siegrist chimney tops.jpg
Enjoying a picnic at the Chimney Tops picnic area

This past week has been packed with more adventures, from boarding the Titanic, to driving over mountaintops and experiencing close encounters with Black Bear, Elk, turkey, White-tailed Deer and more! We’ve really enjoyed making more wonderful memories together with my parents here in the Smokies!

rachelle and wes siegrist at Titanic
Sharon, Wes, me, Dad and Mom in front of the Titanic in Pigeon Forge

Last Monday the four of us along with friends Tom and Sharon, went to the Titanic museum attraction in nearby Pigeon Forge. Everyone enjoyed learning about the history of this amazing ship, and getting to see numerous recovered artifacts from the wreckage.  Upon entering, each of us were given a card with a passenger’s name on it, along with a short description about them, and we were happy to learn that five of our people had survived the wreck. A big highlight of our visit for both my Mom and me, was getting to play the historic grand piano inside the exhibit!

Disembarking the Titanic, we headed to lunch before enjoying a relaxing drive along winding mountain roads leading to Carvers Apple Orchard, where we were met with the delightful aroma of fresh apples and other fall crops.

fall color in the smoky mountains.jpg

Tuesday afternoon we headed into nearby Smoky Mountain National Park to the Elkmont region, where we spent time walking through several cabins that have recently been beautifully restored.

elkmont cabins
One of the restored cabins inside Elkmont

It was a gorgeous afternoon, with ample sunshine and a gentle fall breeze as we meandered through the cabins.  Afterwards we took a relaxing stroll through the woods, while watching a mixed flock of warblers migrate through.

An immature White-eyed Vireo

Waking up to another beautiful day Wednesday, we decided to spend it in Cades Cove. So we packed a lunch and headed to the Cades Cove picnic area before driving around the loop road. We stopped half way around the loop to see the Becky Cable house and other historical buildings before continuing the drive.  By that time we had already seen a couple of bear, as well as several deer and were anxious to see what else we would spot!

black bear in the smokies.jpg
Crunch . . . crunch . . . crunch!

Getting stuck in stopped traffic along the loop road for at least half an hour or more, I came up with the clever idea of driving across Hyatt Lane and leaving the Cove by means of a winding, gravel road.  This proved to be a wonderful idea, as we got to watch a black bear searching for, and eating acorns, a mere 10 feet from the truck!  Close enough in fact, that we could even hear him crunching! Later along the peaceful drive, we spotted a group of turkey just before one flew right over the truck while we were stopped! Returning home that evening, we decided even though the Cove was packed, it had still been a great day!

cades cove from rich mountain road
A stunning view of Cades Cove

The next morning my Dad, Wes and I took a nice walk around Townsend to enjoy yet another day of glorious weather!  Later that afternoon we were joined by my cousin and his family for a nice visit. Since it had been 20 years or so since seeing him, it was a delightful time to say the least, and we were all very well entertained by his adorable three-year-old granddaughter Madeline!

rachelle siegrist dancing bear lodge
Enjoying one of our local fall displays

Not having much fall color at our elevation here in Townsend, we decided to brave the traffic in the park and headed to the upper elevations in search of the iconic red and golds of the Smokies in the fall. Although some trees in the upper elevations recently hit by freezing temperatures had turned brown, we did find some nice areas of color. It was another gorgeous day with clear blue skies as we drove through the park, stopping to enjoy the stunning views of surrounding mountains!

wes and rachelle siegrist in smokies
Enjoying some of the color in the upper elevations
rachelle siegrist smokies
Most of the trees were already bare at this elevation

We visited historic Mingus Mill, where the gentleman working there explained how the turbine-driven mill worked. Leaving there, we drove to nearby Oconaluftee Visitor Center and Mountain Farm Museum.  We ended up being there at the right time and I got a kick out of watching as two beautiful resident white hogs, worked themselves into a frenzy while waiting for the Park Ranger to mix up their delectable supper, consisting of fresh ground corn and apple butter, with some pig pellets mixed in. They really carried on, and no wonder, as it probably tasted like a trough full of cake!

cute pigs at okunaluftee
Here comes supper!

Minutes later we were walking past the blacksmith shop and my Dad noticed one of the beautiful resident roosters preening in a most picturesque setting.

cute chicken photo

Delighted with these two encounters, I couldn’t believe it when a herd of Elk we had been watching in a far off field, began crossing the stream mere yards from where we were sitting at the water’s edge! Needless to say I was ecstatic, as we watched about 35 Elk gracefully enter and stand in the frigid water, in a sunlit location no less, creating one magical second after another as they continued crossing! Several older calves in the herd called out, and then the big bull elk descended into the water, striking a majestic pose in the sun, before walking up the stream.  Doe elk followed behind, until the group eventually disappeared around the bend. What an amazing encounter we experienced, creating a memory that will never be forgotten!

elk in the smokies
Part of the herd crossing

Yesterday, Dad and I enjoyed hiking to a beautiful waterfall.  Walking along the path, we talked and laughed, stopping  occasionally to enjoy the views and take photos.  We explored different areas nearby the falls and of course I couldn’t resist wading in the icy water at the base of it!  We sat there, relaxing and soaking up the surrounding beauty, deciding we could easily spend the entire day right there!  Nonetheless, we eventually had to leave the peaceful falls and hike back to join friends for supper at Pizza Hut.  We said goodbye to my parents early this morning as they left for their home in Okeechobee, FL, and I’m already looking forward to their next visit!

rachelle siegrist by waterfall.jpg
Dad and I enjoying the sounds of the waterfall


~ Fresh off the Easels ~

Wes and I are both delighted to have paintings accepted for the 2018 SEWE Art Book!  These paintings will be featured in the catalogue and will be available for purchase at the 36th Annual Southeastern Wildlife Exposition.

My “Lion in the Shade”
“A Scissor-tailed Flycatcher” by Wes
“Waiting For High Tide” by Wes

~ To Commission A Painting by Us Click Here!

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Until next time . . .

~ Rachelle


2 thoughts on “Fall In The Smokies!

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