Scroll down to see the picture gallery and YouTube video. 
The third weekend in October has become Smoky Mountain Cabin weekend for us.   Considering that this is just a 3-day retreat, we mount a pretty significant packing effort, complete with an espresso maker and our complete propane kit to brew morning tea when we visit Cades Cove.   Marcy does most of the preparation of course.   She remains steadfast on almost 10 years of careful dieting and winds up making two sets of meals.   This year the food included turkey chili for herself and a nice clam chowder for when Rachel, Michael and the girls joined us for a while on Saturday.
We were at a record high temperature at around 88 degrees when we arrived, but there was a windy cold front predicted for Friday with some rain.    The plans were to leave the cabin at 6 AM to make the 38-mile drive to Cades Cove for sunrise pictures.   It has been so dry for the last two months that the wind and little bit of rain caused the leaves to completely carpet the highways and made the trip down our winding cabin road and along the park road slow and tentative. 
We arrived at Cades Cove at 7:50 AM, just as the ranger opened the gate with many dozens of cars already ahead of us. The blustery weather was actually a bit of welcome break from the warmer than usual temperatures, and the low clouds, rain and fog helped set a melancholy mood for our Cades Cove pictures.   There were many other photographers present.   As best we could figure there were several photography clubs and classes on outings, and everyone had the same idea for the perfect location.  Our favorite spot on Sparks Lane was crowded with tripods and DSLR cameras pointing toward the impending sunrise.   At the time, I didn’t think we got any great shots, but the bit of fog and mist gave just the right cast. 
It was back to our cabin in time for lunch and then we did a repeat trip to Cades Cove the next day, with an even earlier departure and arrival time to beat the hundreds of others cars heading to scenic park spots on a perfect fall weekend.   The focus was so much on getting to Cades Cove that we didn’t even notice that the higher elevations were covered in a beautiful white hoar frost, and we found out later that we missed a big opportunity for wonderful pictures at Clingman’s Dome.   Michael, Rachel and the girls met us at the cabin at about 3:30 and we spent the rest of the afternoon taking family pictures.
After checking out fairly early Sunday, we decided on taking a long path home to enjoy the perfect weather and colors.  October can bring a stream of cars along US 441 heading through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but we left early enough to avoid the park traffic. Our route took us 240 miles  through the park from Gatlinburg across Newfound Gap to Cherokee, North Carolina then along very scenic US 74 which part of the Appalachian Development Highway system
I am making the Highway 74 trip the subject of a separate blog entry, because it is such an interesting and beautiful drive, especially in the fall.
Given our very early morning picture excursions and the 240-mile color tour, I can’t say that we got much rest during the cabin weekend, but we arrived home satisfied and full of endorphins from enjoying our favorite time of year. 
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