The Great Smoky Mountains

Photographs from the Great Smoky Mountains

What I did for New Year's 1999-2000.

(Click on the pictures for a larger copy.)

The Appalachian highlands run down eastern United States and reach their southern peak in the Great Smoky Mountains, along the Tennessee - North Carolina border. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, with 800 square miles of unspoiled forest, is home to over 4000 plant and 500 animal species (mammals, birds and reptiles). It is also the most visited park in the United States, with over 9 million visitors a year.

On a clear day in the Smokies, you can see for over a hundred miles, but this drops to an average of 22 miles, and as little as one mile on bad days. The smoky haze that that envelops the mountains, gives them their name, and produces the spectacular sunsets is nowadays mostly due to sulfur pollution. (The National Park Service has more on this.)

We joined the other 8,999,990 visitors for a few days over December 1999 - January 2000, and the rest of this page consists of photographs from that trip. Tennessee was a strange mixture of gorgeous views and litter on the roadsides, ancient forests rubbing shoulders with the glitzy tourist traps of Gatlinburg and Dollywood. I expect that things improve when one gets away from the tourist destinations.

So - on with the photographs! In order: Tennessee from an airplane window, the view from Inspiration Point, the Alum Cave bluffs, and the trail leading up to them.

Tennessee from the air View from Inspiration point

Alum Cave bluffs On the Alum Cave trail

We had a rather pretty and very fancy cabin on the banks of Douglas Lake. It turned out that the lake had gone on vacation too, which meant no jet-skis (good) and lots of mud on the lake bed (not so good). Here's the cabin, and the December sky in Tennessee, seen from where the lake would be. And a pretty sunrise over the missing lake.

Our cabin on Lake Douglas Sunrise from the cabin

The people on the trip

Lined up like ducks in a row, from left to right: Rahul, Reuben, Sonia, Aileen, Sara, Vivek the Pod, Madhumita, Kalyani, and Nag of the Cheshire-cat grin. The ultimate "patel shot"! On the right: my skidding on slippery rocks is recorded for posterity by four cameras. Again, click on the pictures for larger copies.

Reuben, Pod, Nag
 in sunglasses Elwood: Its a hundred and six miles to Chicago. We've got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark and we're wearing sunglasses.
Jake: Hit it!

Surreal situations at 3 am: after having been up the last fifteen hours, Reuben, Pod and Nag decide to go for a drive in the dark.

Sara and Aileen,
 trailside Two heads are better than one, especially if they're both redheads... Aileen ("Zeke") and Sara ("the Saint") put their heads together on the Rainbow Falls trail.

How does one cross a muddy stream? Here are three approaches: the cat-like pounce by Kalyani, the studied traverse by Vivek P, Conqueror of the North Mole, and the flying leap that ends in - success? disaster? a loud squelch? This is Nag, after all: you decide.

Kalyani in mid-air P in mid-stream Nag in mid-air

Below: more Nag! Seen here saying "Hello, Dolly" in Sevierville ("Home to Dollywood!"), doing push-ups the morning after (in a futile attempt to work those beers off his waistline), and producing his famous (new! improved!) photogenic grin at Rainbow Falls.

Hello Dolly! Push-ups in the morning Grinning at Rainbow Falls

More at random: on the Mt. Le Comte trail with Nag and Kalyani (Thanks, Sonia!), soaking in the hot tub to relax after a hard day's hike, and finally, one of Reuben basking in the sunshine.

Nag, Kalyani and me Reuben, Sara and Nag
 with the jets on high Sunny side up

Oh, wait, that last one was taken at the Bronx zoo in NY... never mind. I also wish I had a picture of us stranded on the highway, with three police cars behind us and "Rusty" preparing to give us a tow - but then again, that's another story.

About these photographs:
These photographs were taken over December 1999 - January 2000, using a Canon EOS Elan II body with a 24-80 mm f/3.5-5.6 lens, on Kodak ISO 400 and ISO 100 film.

If you've browsed this far, you might want to look at photographs from New Mexico,
or maybe even visit my homepage or my NRAO work page.

Shami Chatterjee
Last modified: 12 January 2000
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