The Great Smokies National Park is only a little bit out of the way if you're traveling northward on Interstate 81. Years have passed since the last time I was in Cade's Cove, the showplace of the Smokies, but I could still taste the whole-grain stone-ground country corn meal they sold in the store there. I wanted some. Maybe even a tee-shirt or a patch. To get to the store you have to do the whole eleven-mile loop, but we were willing to spend all kinds of time. We were on vacation.
I managed to score a five-pound bag of cornmeal at the shop in the visitor's center, just as I remembered. They even gave me a catalog so that we won't ever have to do the eleven-mile crawl to get more cornmeal. The speed limit was 20 mph when the traffic was actually moving.
By the time we started back from the visitor's center Harold was beginning to find the drive tiresome. Cars were stopped dead in the middle of the road, blocking traffic, so that people could stand around in a circle photographing the wildlife. This is what I should have been taking pictures of: the people taking pictures of bears. Signs were posted everywhere reminding folks not to feed the deer or bears, or to approach them any closer than fifty yards. Nobody paid the smallest attention. I should have got a picture of the woman who climbed into some stranger's Jeep so that she could get closer to a bear. Instead I'll have to let you see her in your mind, corpulent, slightly sweaty, wild with enthusiasm, waving her camera and clambering over the backseat of the Jeep.
"You'd think they never saw wildlife before," Harold said. Then we discussed whether either of us had, in fact, ever seen a bear in the wild. The mere suggestion of bears was usually enough to send me fleeing in terror. Still, we were safely inside the car.
Then suddenly I caught the fever. I thought, a bear! There it is! and went to take a picture of it, just like everyone else, only from inside the car. (I'm not a complete fool.) About that time the line of cars began to move. So my bear picture is kind of blurry.
© 2015 Kate Gallison