Enjoy a Thanksgiving Holiday Blessed by Nature
Want to make some great holiday memories away from home? Your Thanksgiving in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park can include some walks in nature that change the way you see our heavenly world up here where the air is clean.
Whether you have young children with you or the very elderly, anyone who can walk can get out on some of the park’s easier hiking trails and look for signs of fall in the park. It’s a great idea to make up a scavenger hunt-style game for the little ones…include trees, the songs of specific birds or other special sights within the park in a list of items to be checked off. The reward could be a traditional Thanksgiving dinner cooked in your rental cabin, or a wonderful holiday meal at everyone’s favorite area restaurant!
If you have any budding biologists in your entourage, you may want to check out areas in the park where salamanders are abundant. Known as the “Salamander Capital of the World,” the Smokies are home to thirty species of this creature, including the “Hellbender,” which can grow up to nineteen inches in length. Mountain streams are alive with these sometimes very colorful creatures. They can be reclusive, but that will make the hunt through the fall colors even more exciting!
The park is replete with wild turkey. These rather large birds are resplendent when fanning their tail feathers! They are often seen in large groups in the ever-popular Cades Cove (a great place for picnics AND easy hiking). For tips on where to find these birds and other wildlife in the park, go to the National Park Service’s website and look for their “species mapper” tool! Great fun! Select a species and watch the map light up!
The Smokies are known worldwide as a haven for birders. Every season differs a bit. Late fall sees the arrival of the winter birds such as the Purple Finch, the Swamp Sparrow and the Evening Grosbeak. Different elevations of the park offer totally different species lists! Have fun and listen out! There are many websites with recorded bird call libraries you can listen to to get acclimated to their calls so you can check them off your listening list!
Your Thanksgiving in the Smokies will undoubtedly include a lot of great food, fabulous entertainment and, of course, a stellar holiday shopping experience. But why not tuck plenty of the area’s natural beauty into your soul as well?