One of the best things about getting up and at it so early in the morning, other than having some privacy on the trails, is that you always get to see a beautiful sunrise!
During the entire week we were in the Smokies we kept trying to stop at the Visitor's Center. It's usually a good idea to go to the Visitor Center the first day of your trip, but every time we tried it was so insanely busy we couldn't even get IN the parking lot. But now that we were out and about early, I thought, "Here's our chance! Let's stop at the Visitor Center!" And guess what? They were closed! They didn't open till 9:00 am. I tell you, I loved the Smokies but I was constantly frustrated. Every blog post or website you read says "Get up early to beat the crowds!" but then it seemed nothing opened early enough to beat the crowds! Most restaurants in town didn't serve breakfast until 8:00, only two restaurants opened at 7:00. We would have needed to eat by 6:00 am at the latest to hit the trails on time, so we ended up having breakfast in our room every day. Cades Cove Loop has a gate that doesn't open until 8:00 am. It says open from "Sunrise to Sunset"on their website, but I think they have a different opinion of sunrise than I do because we were driving in the light long before we got there, and the gate was still closed when we arrived. Then, one scenic road, Roaring Forks Motor Road, was closed most of the week we were there, and didn't open up till the last day of our vacation. That was disappointing, because many of the popular trails are accessed from Roaring Forks Motor Road. I hate to sound like a whiner. It truly was a wonderful vacation and a blessing to be able to visit the Smokies, but because I am reviewing a travel destination I have to be honest, and my readers need to be prepared if they are planning a trip to the Smokies. My husband and I have been to many National Parks in our travels, and I felt of all the parks I've been too, the Smokey Mountain National Park has done the least to help with crowd control. I do realize, the Smokies is the most visited park in the nation, but that fact alone should encourage MORE things to be done for crowd control. Having Visitor Centers and restaurants open earlier would help immensely. Also, park shuttles from Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge to the park's most popular trails would clear up parking lot space. I also feel even more trails, especially more family-friendly trails, would be beneficial.
But enough preaching, while at the closed Visitor Center, hubby spotted this beautiful crabapple tree and wanted to take a picture. So here is the pretty tree with the outside of the Visitor Center in the background.