By Bennie McCann © 2009, All Rights Reserved
Warmer weather and longer days are sure signs that spring is on the way. The reawakening of trees and flowers replaces the gray of winter with a rainbow of color. Whether you're an avid gardener or simply someone who appreciates natural beauty, you'll be delighted at the opportunities that await you during the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
According to Ken McFarland, botanist and professor of the University of Tennessee, “It’s a rare opportunity for those with a personal love of flowers to have the same access to leaders in the field as researchers.” That’s exactly what happens at this five-day event. For over 50 years the serious and not-so-serious plant enthusiasts have enjoyed everything from artwork and photography to lectures by leading ecologists.
Meet Mother Nature on Her Turf
For those that take pleasure walking through the woods, guided hiking tours are available from short leisurely strolls to longer treks. As you walk, you will look for and learn about the variety of wildflowers, exotic plants, trees and ferns that can be found in the Smoky Mountains. Information is also provided about the medicinal qualities found in some of these plants that have been used for generations.
Other walks give you an up-close look at various bats, birds, bugs and butterflies that make their homes in the park. The black bear is one of the main animals associated with the Smoky Mountains and is also the subject of one of the nature walks available during the Pilgrimage. Spring is the perfect time to see these magnificent creatures as they awake from months of hibernation. Participation in one or all of the tours is an awesome way to stretch your legs while you admire the beauty of the Smokies.
Take a Walk Back in Time
Created in 1934, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park contains 78 historic buildings and has a rich background. For the history buff, the pilgrimage offers numerous ways to explore this historical side of the Smokies. Examine sites such as Cades Cove, Porter’s Creek Trail and the Old Sugarland Homestead. You can even spend an evening with well-known Smoky Mountain historians Margaret Lynn Brown, Michael Frome and Daniel Pierce to discuss the history of the park and what the future holds. These discussions offer exceptional opportunities to learn not only about the park itself, but also about the life of the Appalachian people.
Attend Hands-On Workshops
There are many workshops that make it possible to capture the spectacular sights of the Smokies. If drawing is your talent, register for one of the sketching clinics conducted by artists that specialize in botany. Bring your own pad and art supplies and learn insider tricks to creating lifelike sketches of the amazing wildflowers you'll find in the park. Not artistically inclined? Don’t worry. Trade that sketchpad for a camera and join the photography classes where you’ll learn professional techniques of outdoor photography. Once the workshops are finished, spend some time admiring the display of artwork ranging from watercolors to colored pencils and oils.
Each year more than 1,000 people make their way to Gatlinburg to celebrate the advent of spring. With over 150 different programs on the agenda, the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage provides a week of opportunities to see and appreciation the incredible flowers and wildlife of the Smoky Mountains. Make plans now to attend.
Bennie McCann is Reservations Manager of Volunteer Cabin Rentals specializing in Smoky Mountain rental cabins in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, TN. Visit out main website today at www.volunteercabinrentals.com to book cabins for weddings, vacations, reunions and other special events.