Happy Now?

Fall color and early snowfall from the Deep Creek Valley Overlook on US 441 in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

In my last post I ruminated on the fact that the weather over the past few weeks had been “too perfect” and as a result I was having trouble getting motivated creatively. Well, as if on cue, like someone was telling me to be careful what I wished for, this past weekend…We Got Weather.

We often have a tough time deciding whether to get up early and hope for a good sunrise or just head someplace we want to shoot in nice light. That decision can be especially difficult in the fall because often the places for good color and the places for sunrise are mutually exclusive. We were in Cherokee, planning to shoot color in the lower elevations of the Smokies, especially in the Deep Creek area which is one of our favorite places. It’s generally quiet and out of the way this time of year since the water is too cold for the tubers and the outfitters have closed for the season.

Fall color and early snowfall from the Deep Creek Valley Overlook on US 441 in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The weather on Friday was rainy, and the forecast for Saturday called for clearing in the morning, followed by partly cloudy in the late morning and rest of the weekend. Hearing a perfect recipe for a possible “clearing winter storm” scenario we headed to Clingman’s Dome hoping for a good sunrise. On our way up 441 we could actually see stars in places, but at about the Kephart Prong parking area we started to see snowflakes. By the time we got to the Deep Creek Valley overlook it was snowing hard. Luftee Overlook was snowing and socked in, so we headed on up the road to the “Dome.”

Clingman’s Dome Road was getting snow covered in a hurry, but it wasn’t accumulating too much at that point, but the higher we got the more snow we saw. At the parking area the thermometer in the car said that it was 26 degrees. The wind was howling, snow was blowing across the pavement and visibility was about 20 feet. We pulled along the curb figuring that we might as well wait and see what happened, even though I don’t think I could have opened my car door with the wind. As we sat there several other cars pulled in, but most of them just kept going, heading back down the mountain. There were a few cars parked, but most of them looked like they had been there overnight.

Fall color and early snowfall from the Deep Creek Valley Overlook on US 441 in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

About 7:30 a snowplow came into the lot. I figured he was checking out the road and would be back around in a minute or two. After about 5 minutes the plow pulled up next to my car, the driver got out and came over to our car and said “I’m heading down to close the road.” I said, “OK.” He evidently wasn’t satisfied with my answer so he said, “If you leave now I’ll make sure you get down OK.” I said, “OK.” He evidently wasn’t sure I got it so then he asked , “So are you coming?” To which I replied, “YEAH!” No stupid tourists in THIS car!

We drove down to Newfound Gap to use the restroom and could barely walk in some places because it was so slippery. But the roads were generally OK so we drove down to Luftee Overlook, hoping it would be a little more sheltered there, which it was. The weather never really cleared though, so we headed a little lower until we finally got to some overlooks where we could see. And what a sight! It was still really windy, but the snow on the mountainsides along with the fall color was amazing! I hope I made a few photographs that do it justice, but for a guy who doesn’t get to see much snow any more this was a lot of fun.

The rest of the weekend was back to more sun and blue sky, but you won’t hear me complaining!

Early snowfall on Clingman's Dome from US 441 in Great Smoky Mountains National Park