This past Saturday was the annual Fall Cookout at Caroline Evan’s house. In the past few years it has been scheduled for either the Georgia or Alabama game, since those rotate between home and away each year. Since the Alabama game was away this year, the cookout was scheduled for the 3rd weekend in October. One thing they like to do is setup a projector and show the game. Anytime you show something outside you are going to have problems with ambient sunlight, but when the game starts at 12:30 and you are trying to show something around that time, there is little you can do to overcome it. Such was the case this year. As time passed and the sun moved west, it got a little bit easier to see.
One thing I noticed this year was the the attendance seemed lower than usual. They were fewer college kids, fewer Laurel members, and also fewer youth group kids. In past years the cookout had been in the afternoon or the evening, so I had usually scheduled a trip to get some hiking in before the cookout. This year, since it was at 12:30, there wasn’t time to head up to the mountains before the cookout. I figured I wouldn’t be able to get any hiking in after the cookout either, but I decided I was going to try and take some pictures with my dSLR. Speaking of my dSLR, towards the ends of the cookout, some of the LYF group kids wanted to take some pictures with it themselves. I was a little nervous, but I figured they would be careful because they knew they were handling something expensive. You can view the rest of my pictures, as well as some of Philip’s, Lydia’s, Connor’s, Alex’s, and Sean’s pictures here.
I hadn’t made any plans to go with anybody else, I was just going to stay in the front country and not go much into the back country. I figured I might have some time to head up to Clingman’s Dome. Technically to get to Clingman’s Dome you have to “hike” half a mile to the tower, so I would be heading into the back country, but not really, since Clingman’s Dome is usually populated by lots of people. After taking some shots at Clingman’s, on my way back I would stop at Morton Overlook for some sunset pictures.
I was a little bit late leaving the cookout, but I thought I should still have time to do what I wanted to do. Sunset on Saturday was going to be right around 7:00. To get to where I wanted to go from the cookout, there were a few options. I could head to Townsend and take 321 through Wear Valley and end up in Pigeon Forge, or I could Turn left at the Townsend Wye and take Little River Road to Sugarlands and head up to Newfound Gap from there. The way I ended up taking was to go out to Chapman Highway and then take Veterans Boulevard to bypass as much of Pigeon Forge as I can and then take the Gatlinburg Bypass to get to Sugarlands and head up to Newfound Gap.
I was wrong about the amount of time I would actually have. I figured there would be a lot of traffic leaving the Smokey Mountains, but I hadn’t expected as many people heading into them, since it was later in the day. It took almost 2 hours from the time I left Caroline’s house until I got up to Morton Overlook. That was about 25 minutes before sunset. Figuring I would have no time to get much of anything if I went up to Clingman’s Dome, I decided to just go ahead and get a spot at Morton Overlook. Morton Overlook is a popular place to photograph sunsets since it looks west. The Chimney Tops are also very prominent when looking out from Morton Overlook. Not only did it take a long time to get up to Newfound Gap, it took a long time to get back down. Traffic was backed up all the way to the Chimney’s picnic area from Gatlinburg. I guess my average speed was 5 miles per hour since it took just about an hour to get from the Chimney’s picnic area to Sugarlands (which is about 5 miles apart). After Sugarlands, I was able to get on the bypass. I got home later than I wanted, but all in all, I got some really good pictures that I am happy with, so it was definitely worth the hassle. You can view the rest of my pictures here.