“Measureless mountain days… opening a thousand windows to show us God.” I love that quote from John Muir, the naturalist and founder of the Sierra Club who was so instrumental in advocating for the preservation of some of our nation’s most treasured natural lands. Last fall, we traveled back to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and this week, I’ve been enjoying inspiration from the images captured there. There is, indeed, so much about experiencing the mountains that seems measureless — the views, the heights, the colors, the distance. Our drive over the Newfound Gap Road from Gatlinburg, Tennessee to Cherokee, North Carolina offered great views of the vastness and great roadside stops and climbs to discover the view up close, too.
In this trip, we saw the vibrance of the sunny skies as well as the park’s signature smoky blue views. We climbed the rocks where President Franklin Roosevelt dedicated the park at Newfound Gap, and let our toes touch the Appalachian Trail as it crosses one of the park’s most traveled paved roadways. The elk came out at the Oconoluftee Center on our return trip from visiting Cherokee, and didn’t seem phased by the camera clicks. From our cabin outside Gatlinburg, we saw sunrises and sunsets, and the full range of mountain weather — including a few sunbeams breaking the clouds that we were sure indicated the true location of Bilbo Baggins’ hobbit hole in the Shire.
I love taking pictures that I can bring home and enjoy at least some version of our experiences and discoveries again later, but I’ve also found that I tend to really absorb and reflect on time in places when I try to capture them with pen and paint. The act of “painting it out” can sometimes help me fill my heart with the refreshment of these times enjoying nature with some of the little hearts I love most. I’ve been trying to do more of that lately, so I’m sharing one illustrated mountain view today along with some of our other “measureless” discoveries. Enjoy!