Winter has long been a time of rest. All of Nature seems to sleep, rejuvenating and then blooming come Spring.
We (the rangers and volunteers of Great Smoky Mountains National Park) closed down Cades Cove tonight, for what will be a two month stretch. The Bote Mountain Tunnel on Laurel Creek Road leading into the Cove will be undergoing construction for the first time since it was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1948, making this the first time Cades Cove has closed for an extended amount of time since the Park opened in 1940.
It was a bittersweet day; I don’t know how to be away from this place’s embrace. It is my own personal Shangri-La, a harmonious paradise where I feel at peace.
But this wilderness… this wilderness will be truly wild again for the first time in roughly 200 years, since before white settlers arrived here in 1818. And for this… for this, I am elated.
Cades Cove, if it were its own National Park, would be the third most visited in the United States, with Great Smoky Mountains in the lead and Grand Canyon taking second place. That’s a lot of people year-round, day in and day out, with the constant rumbling of cars and exuberant commotion. I’m not sure the trees and the streams and the wildlife have heard this level of silence since before the Park opened.
I love our National Parks, and our public lands are so important for all of us to experience and enjoy. But I am also so deeply glad this gem of Mother Nature – one which consistently gives so much – is allowed to rest for a while. To breathe, long and deeply, as we do at the end of a tiring day.
So as we made one last sweep around the loop road, before darkness and silence took the reigns, I stopped to record video of Abrams Creek… and within a few moments of standing there in awe of the serenity…
It started from one direction, then others picked up the tune – all around me, in every direction, echoing off the mountains that envelope the Cove. The coyotes were serenading me. It was beautiful. It was raw. It was a reclaiming of what is rightfully theirs.
The video’s audio barely captured their voices over the sound of the stream, but if you lean in closely, you can hear them. They are there. They have always been there.
I listened until they had finished their song, smiled, and then gratefully gave them rule of their kingdom, one which no man can ever truly own, and left for the last time until March.
Now, so filled with life, She slumbers.