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I rarely (if ever) post “photo posts.” But this morning, we got up before the sun and drove in the dark around seemingly unending winding mountain roads at a snail’s pace (it took us an hour to go 27 miles) to sit (in the dark) in a turned off car, half asleep, in a line of 20 other cars, for half an hour in order to gain entrance to Cade’s Cove in Gatlinburg. And, if I could, I would do the same thing every day of the year. Beauty abounds in this hidden gemstone. Fog dances around the Smoky Mountains so thick that sometimes, along the 11 mile loop, all you can see is the tips of the mountains and valleys before you. Then, just when you least expect it, you round a curve and come face to face with golden light shining upon the most beautiful mountains you’ve ever seen. People, I even said: “Man, I feel like I’m in a postcard.”

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Professional photographers (whom I secretly envy) set up tripods and snap away while others, like us, ooh and ahh over the plentiful wildlife munching breakfast. Bears roam the valley (though they must have been hibernating today: we saw none). Deer are unafraid of passing cars. Y’all, I have lived in over half of the United States and have seen Canada, France and Spain and, I’m telling you, I have never run across such natural beauty. It was awe inspiring.

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Now, yes, part of that was probably due to my deep and abiding love of mountains. Mountains make me feel small. They make me feel protected and they fill me with the kind of awe that the oceans give some people. I love to watch their dips and curves and to see how each is uniquely sculpted. Basically, I could sit at several points in Cade’s Cove with nothing to do but stare at those mountains all freaking day long, and love every minute.

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I loved it so much I have to share a ton of photos with you. I hope you like them so much you get travel to Gatlinburg, get up at 5 am, take a 25 mile but 45 minute jaunt in the dark on winding roads just to sit until sunrise in a line of cars in order to see it. I promise you, it’s worth it.

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