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  • Betty Girardeau

Into The Woods


I am so lucky to have the Great Smoky Mountain National Park within an hour's drive, especially during this pandemic summer when many of the places to go or things to do with a grandchild are severely limited. I am also lucky that I have a granddaughter who is interested in history. It was good to get out of the house for something other than a trip to the grocery store, too. For those who are unfamiliar with the Cades Coves portion of the National Park, it is a broad, verdant valley surrounded by mountains and is one of the most popular destinations in the park. The eleven mile loop road through the Cove is one-way for the most part, and even on a day when there is little traffic, your top car speed should not exceed 45mph as sometimes there are "critters" that can be seen in the woods and fields for which you and others want to stop and watch for awhile. There are also three old churches and four or five log cabins and a one frame house. Yesterday we were among many who thought it would be a good day to spend in the Park. Most of the time you are in your car, but at the cabin and church stops the crowds were never all that large and social distancing was very easy. Even the picnic tables in the picnic area are well spaced out. And it was definitely cooler than if we had stayed at home and been outside. I love going to the Park, but have usually gone in the spring or fall. It is an uncommonly beautiful area and I enjoyed seeing it in the summer. I am always impressed by the crudeness of the buildings, which were likely state of the art for their time. Being used to tightly built homes with plenty of windows and rooms, I wonder at those who could have lived their lives in homes where you could see through the floor boards and walls; where there were so few windows that the rooms, even in the daytime, are dark and gloomy; where the stairs leading to loft sleeping appear to go straight up and with uneven risers; and where multi-generational families often shared just two or three rooms. Thinking about the mode of transportation in the early to late 1800's and the distance between the churches and cabins made it seem obvious why Sunday would have to be a "day of rest," because it could have taken an hour or more by horse and wagon for the family to just get to church, let alone get back home and still have enough of the day left to do anything. Gabi and I enjoy wandering in graveyards and reading the stones, as they tell stories of the people and times, too. The tragedy of families who lost so many young children, many of them not even a day old. And then you look up and see the surrounding mountains through which the settlers had to come to make their new homes in an untamed wilderness. That thought, too, is mind boggling to me. What amazingly strong people were these people. Today we are spoiled by the richness of our lives. We take far too much for granted. Our lives are too easy. For the settlers of Cades Cove, pandemics were a yearly event. It was good to go to the woods and be reminded of these things and put our own lives in perspective.

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