Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Great Smoky Mountains
National Park
On my mother’s side of the
family, East Tennessee
connections go back to
when the first pioneers put
down roots in this part of
Appalachia. In more recent
history, my mom and dad
spent their first date in
Cades Cove, after which my
father declared she was the
woman he would marry.
I grew up in Michigan,
Washington State and
Texas, but this is where we
would come to see family.
We’d drive down the
narrow roads, skirting
creeks and rocks and new-
fallen snow. This is where
we would bring picnics and
sit in quiet churches and
walk trails dotted with May
apples, jonquils,
This is where I bring my
own family now—to
Tremont or Alum Cave or
Cataloochee or Metcalf
Bottoms or Roaring Fork or
the Chimneys or Rainbow
Falls or Fontana Lake or
Elkmont—to hike, swim,
kayak, camp. To just be still
for a little while in sacred,
familiar places. The
Smokies remain a constant
of my life, even as we move
from house to house, my
children grow up, life goes
by in its unpredictable ebb
and flow.
Of course the park changes
too. Season, fire, disease,
storm, people themselves
make their mark and take
their toll. But whether
scarred by tornado and
flame or flaming with
autumn color and speckled
by spring wildflowers, it has
always remained, a heritage
staked out for generations
past, present and future.
Always ours.
I’ve traveled all over the
country, drawn by natural
wonder. I’ve lived in the
shadow of the Rockies,
made annual pilgrimages
to the Badlands, stood
breathless on rugged coasts
from Washington to
California, lost myself in
the Outer Banks’ vast and
sandy stretches, spent days
paddling through rich and
murky swampland. But we
always return to the
Smokies. We remember.
We exhale. On the days we
see three bears or watch
wisps of cloud move swiftly
through green-clad peaks
after a summer rain, we
count ourselves among
those most fortunate to live
in such a place. This is
This is an excerpt from a
the book project Home and
was an award winning
feature article in
National Park Magazine.

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