So it's only the first day in the Smokies and I'm feeling pretty good about the shots I have so far. I do a little editing and post-processing in the hotel room after dinner and decide I'm going back to Cades Cove in the morning. Animal activity is generally greater in the early morning and in the late afternoon/evening, so I should be able to get a few more good shots if get there early. I wake up the next morning at around 6:30, realizing that I've overslept. I get dressed, grab my gear, skip breakfast (!), and head for Cades Cove again, hoping I'm not too late. I get to the entrance of the Loop Road around 7:30 and head into the Cove.
A few white-tail does and yearlings were out and about, but no bucks. Certainly no bears. It seemed I had hit the jackpot on the first day. I continue driving around the Loop Road, hoping I'll find something, but again, mostly deer and a few wild turkeys.
At this point, it was nearly 10:00 a.m. and most of the wildlife had high-tailed it into the forests to beat the heat. (Despite being November, it would be 74° F today.) I decided to head to Gatlinburg to get some lunch, then drive the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail to try a few landscapes and maybe some macro work. The last time I was in the Smokies—in April with JoEllen—I got some pretty cool shots of the rocky streams and spring flowers, so I was hoping for something along the same vein, but perhaps with some fall color. Instead, I found something else.
[caption id="attachment_61" align="alignnone" width="392" caption="In Flanders fields..."][/caption]
I stopped along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail at the Jim Bales place, an historic homestead of one of the early settlers in the Smokies before it was a national park. A bridge crosses the Roaring Fork here and I hoped to get some good shots of water rushing between the rocks in the stream. However, I noticed a little trail from the parking area going the other direction from the bridge and the homestead. I decided to see where that trail led.
A short distance form the parking area, there was a small cemetery lined with many old and broken headstones, with an occasional complete one. It was fenced and closed off to the public because it was in the process of being renovated. From where I stood on the trail, though, I could see an Arlington-like headstone standing tall in the back of the cemetery. The sun was now behind the trees and would soon descend behind the mountains, but for the moment, it was illuminating that headstone so that it almost glowed. I set up quickly and got a few shots before the sun faded from the headstone and the ethereal glow was gone.
It's funny how sometimes you go looking for one thing and you find something surprising and completely different. I'm glad to have this image to remind me of that fleeting moment. It remembers the sacrifice that Private Harrison L. Bales and many others since have made on the battlefields of Europe, Vietnam and others. We remember them, "though poppies grow in Flanders fields."
May they rest in peace.