The hearthfires are gone - and yet they keep coming back. Young and old, and older still. Back from cities and towns and faraway places. Back to ‘reune’ in the Smokies.
— From "Roaming the Mountains" by John Parris

Our National Parks are our greatest treasure here in the United States. They are magical places which thankfully our forefathers had the foresight to set aside in perpetuity for their children and our children and their children. They preserve some of our most amazing landscapes and ecosystems and protect all manner of flora and fauna. From the Everglades in Florida to Denali in Alaska, even the names call forth wildness in our imaginations. Have no doubt, these are our lands, and if we want to keep them that way, we need to protect them. But most of all, we need to enjoy them. This is the second post in a series I have titled In Focus, which will take a look deeper into our National Parks. These are primarily photography posts, trying to show you the beauty of our parks and take you inside of them with me. My hope is that you will get out and see them for yourself. After all, they belong to you too. 

This In Focus will look inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park which straddles the Tennessee/North Carolina border and protects a massive tract of this range within the Appalachian Mountains. It is our most visited national park, drawing in 11 million visitors last year, almost double the number for Grand Canyon. The Appalachian Trail cuts through the park, and you can access many areas by car as well. There are beautiful hiking trails, driving tours, picnic area and campgrounds. GSMNP is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is part of the International Biosphere Reserve. It's a busy place in summer, but if you can get to it off-season, or even better mid-week and off-season, you can have it much more to yourself. I enjoyed my time there both in the southern section near Cherokee and Bryson City in North Carolina and in the northern section from the Tennessee side. Here are some of my favorites from this visit. 

Soon After Dawn on Clingmans Dome

Me on the Trail to Rocky Top

Juney Whank Falls off of Deep Creek Road in NC

Mingus Mill in NC

Tom's Branch Falls, NC

Black Bear in Cades Cove

Black Bear Cub

Cabin in Cades Cove

Baptist Church in Cades Cove

Cades Cove Mill

Water is Everywhere in the Park 

From Big Trees to Tiny Flowers

On the North Carolina Side

Gravel Road in Cades Cove

Sunrise Touches the Trees on Clingmans Dome