Smoky Mountain Memories
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in America. If you have never visited it before, make it a point to plan a vacation soon to include it. Located in Tennessee and North Carolina, the scenery is some of the most beautiful you will ever see. If you are looking for serenity, this is the place you will find it. I was fortunate to grow up only 50 miles from the Smokies, so we visited often.
I’ve hiked most every trail in the park and enjoyed it’s beauty in every season of the year. I’ve eaten many a picnic in every designated area and even in a few undesignated areas. Our favorite picnic site is the Chimneys and the location of our annual family reunion. One thing was for sure. In the 1950’s, if you were in the Chimneys picnic area in late afternoon, you were going to see a bear! We’ve encountered mama and papa bear, the three little bears, and even old granddaddy bear on occasion.
Jumping from rock to boulder is a favorite activity when you visit anywhere in the Smokies, but particularly in the Chimneys. Along with packing food, you should always have dry clothes and a first aid kit on hand, because someone is sure to fall into the water and possibly skin a knee.
Daddy loved to tease people. That was his favorite pastime. We were having a picnic in the Chimneys. Everyone had been in the river jumping rocks all afternoon, just having a ball. Daddy would run up behind us and yell “There’s a bear behind you!” The person would pick up their pace and commence to screaming. He would then laugh hysterically, because there wasn’t a bear at all. Oh, how funny it was to him, but nobody else was amused.
Later in the afternoon, Daddy was jumping rocks. He was 6′ 6″ tall and very skinny. He almost walked in sections, we would tell him. We all watched as a bear made it’s way into the river and began to trace Daddy’s footprints with his own paws. Everybody started yelling “There’s a bear behind you!”. Daddy would just laugh and yell back, “Oh sure there is!” After hearing the warnings multiple times, he finally turned around and looked behind him to see the bear following him. Mother said she had never seen him get out of anywhere so fast! It was definitely a sweet payback for all the people he had taunted all day.
The bears are still wandering around the Chimneys, so keep your eyes peeled, as Daddy would say and a word of warning…they are not tame! Do NOT feed the bears!