Cades Cove is a beautiful valley and a popular destination for wildlife viewing at the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. We didn’t get much luck during our visit — except for a few cows and horses, the only wildlife we kind of see is a running deer in the woods. But Cades Cove by itself, with the endless mountains and grasslands and a couple of cabins along the way, is already pretty fabulous, although late summer is probably not the best timing for visitors yet. Imaging how gorgeous it would be in autumn, with trees and shrubs being colored in different ways and interleaving with each other!
First day’s task, hiking. The Chimney Tops Trail is listed as one of the top three “must-go”s at the Great Smoky Mountain on TripAdvisor and it naturally becomes our choice. It’s a pretty enjoyable walk in the woods, with quite a few waterfall sights along the trail, until the very end of it — to see the summit, you have to actually “climb” the rocks, literally on your hands and knees!
Before the trip, which is my first visit to a National Park in US, I always thought we were going to have a trip in North Carolina. It turned out that I was completely wrong — the Great Smoky Mountain sits on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee, and we actually drove for almost five hours from Charlotte to Gatlinburg, a resort city in Tennessee with the nickname “gateway to the Great Smoky Mountain”. The night was falling when we arrived there, but Gatlinburg surely surprised us. With all kinds of candy stores, chocolate factories, restaurants, cinema and theaters along the parkway as well as all the bright lights and logos shining, this lively small town looked just like a paradise for kids, families and all the visitors.
Palm Springs is said to be “the best vacation destination” in California, but for me, the most impressive things about Palm Springs are the ever-lasting sunshine and the amazing landscape of this small town. Looking from the air, this city is really “growing” out of the desert: it is surrounded by rocky mountains and even just a few miles from the downtown, what you will see is simply desert. Yet there are still fancy things going on here: golf courses, swimming pool, luxury hotels…And by the way, Palm Springs is sunny more than 300 days a year!
Thanks to a reunion of my high school friends, I visited Rhode Island for the first time last week. We went to Newport to visit a couple of historic mansions including the Breakers and the Elms, both of which are remarkable for their architectural style and all kinds of elegant arts and collections. Walking in these mansions kept reminding me of scenes in Downton Abbey, which in turn always reminds me how the world changes dramatically in the past century. Before we left, we decided to visit this famous bridge at Newport — we’ve seen its picture pretty frequently but didn’t really see the real bridge even once in a whole day. And right before the sunset, we somehow managed to get close to the bridge by driving to a dead-end, and the wind there was just too strong that I almost can’t take any pictures!
Mt. Washington is the highest peak in Northeastern United States and it holds the record for highest wind gust directly measured at the Earth’s surface — 372 km/h. For me the most impressive part of Mt. Washington is the “alpine zone”. Along the auto road we drove through towards the summit, the view became quite different, though it’s not exactly as what we had imagined — full of colorful leaves. What we actually saw was mountains hiding in the sea of clouds and primitive roads built up with rough rocks heading into the clouds. And we found quite a few piles of rocks which we didn’t know what it was for. Mysterious as it is, we shall probably think of it as a witness of all the brave hikers who conquered Mt. Washington and probably a symbol of a old culture or tradition.
At one of the parking lots that we pulled over the car and walk into the scenes. When we came out of the scene and were ready to head to the next destination, this fantastic view jumped into our eyes. The tip of the mountain was still surrounded by cloud and mist, but the foot of it had already showed us a variety of different possibilities of foliage colors in the beautiful fall. Isn’t it like an oil painting?
Although the recent trip to New Hampshire was defined as a “foliage trip”, it was actually way more than that — and waterfalls were definitely an important element in this trip. Like all other people driving on the Kancamagus Highway, we stopped almost every a few miles to walk into the forests, to see the running water and to breathe the fresh air. But we almost missed this one even though Sabbaday Falls are said to be one of the most popular and most frequently being visited waterfalls in New Hampshire! When I took this picture, one of our companions said that it looked like a wedding gown. Indeed!