The Great Smoky Mountains national park moves millions of visitors a year who come here. I can only imagine what it did for the thousands who lived here before it was a national park.
Though I am as close to living in the Great Smoky Mountains national park that anyone could be based upon how much time I spend in this amazing biosphere, trails that I have hiked on dozens of times continue to move me. The same goes for roads I have driven on in the park hundreds of times.
Sometimes inspiration or enlightenment can come from a wisp of a cloud blowing over a mountain top or being trapped in a valley, the sparkle of sunlight reflecting through a dewdrop on a blade of grass or the various symphonies of sounds in the woods.
The picture above was taken today along the Middle Prong River in the Tremont section of the GSMNP. No enhancements or Photoshop tricks were done to the photo. It is just a living Monet - beauty in the park that is all around us.
Here in the Smoky Mountains the prelude to fall starts with the random sounds of green acorns falling into the leaves on the ground or striking and bouncing off logs from long fallen trees on the forest floor.
Gradually the green acorns falling from the oaks become yellower and then brown as the frequency of the sound increases as more acorns find their way to forest floor.
Squirrels start to spend more time more jumping around of the branches of trees chattering loudly as they stake out their territory and then rustling through the leaves as they are gathering their fill of acorns.
The trees in the Great Smoky Mountains national park deep green leaves - more than 100 species of trees live here - start to gradually lighten and start to randomly turn to red, light green and yellow.
The air here in the Smokies is no longer as humid as it is during the summer and as the day time temperatures become cooler into the 70s and then the 60s and the visibility keeps on improving.
The cicadas are no longer making a racket and the hummingbirds with their loud aerial acrobatics that were here all summer long are all gone.
Even the deer look different as bucks budding antlers with summer velvet give way to larger more fierce rack. Their golden brown coats have now tuned grayish to better blend in with the trunks of the trees in the park and the fawns are much larger now and will soon lose the spots on their coats.
The days are starting to get shorter and the birds that used to start a racket far before the break of dawn can no longer be heard, although the birds that welcome the day are now kind enough to wait until the day has started before they start singing.
At night the air is crisp and cool and the crickets still chatter calling out to one another but the sound is no longer coming in waves of white noise is it did through out the night in summer.
Day by day the pallet of the forest colors is changing. A random red or yellow leaf gives way to branches of wild colors. The leaves colors ever widen in range and increase in brilliance and luminosity as the leaf season continues through mid November.
When walking along the paths or hiking trails in the park you notice the smells in the park are also gradually changing. Just as the best of the blackberries are ending, some of the ferns in the higher elevations are start to turn yellow and then brown perfuming the air along the trail with a sweet smell.
Along some of the old homesteads a few apple trees have managed to survive all these years. Even though they won't win a county fair prize they can be quite delicious when ripe. Especially at the break of dawn the smell of the apples from these trees hangs in the air.
It will still be a few weeks before the first frost here in the Smoky Mountains and we probably won't see any snow in the lower elevations until at least December. The squirrels, fox and coyote that inhabit the Smokies are all getting fluffier and their tails bushier as their winter coats are growing in and the bears are getting outright fat as they gorge themselves in preparation for the winter.
Even along the higher elevations of the park such as at Clingmans Dome, the Appalachian Trail and the Newfound Gap Parking area we still have a few weeks before we can melt the first snowflakes of the year on the tips of our tongues.
Yes the Great Smoky Mountains national park can be quite inspirational to those who are lucky enough to spend time here. Just make a point to get away form the crowds and just take it all in. With 800 square miles of park it is easy to find a quiet spots even in the busiest of days here. Even the most ordinary place in the park is extraordinary if you just look, listen and observe with an open mind.
Fall brings lots of visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains national park to enjoy the autumn colors and along with the increase of visitors there are also more programs that the national park offers to it guests. I strongly recommend taking advantage of as many of these programs you can while they are available.