I wanted to end my series on Spring here in East Tennessee with this stream scene, and a story of high-adventure on Tremont Road. For those uneducated on the Great Smoky Mountains, Tremont Road is photographers playground that sits just off the main road that leads back to Cades Cove. The road follows the Middle Prong of the Little River, past the Tremont Institute, where it turns to gravel and travels several more miles before ending abruptly at a small parking lot for hikers and horse-back riders that wish to travel the Middle Prong trail. The stream offers a plethora of nice settings, which we all deem as being “classic Smoky Mountains”. I had been aiming to make it up there for a few weeks while the trees were still donning their foliage; the time of year offers a nice contrast of greens and yellows that tend to make images “pop”. The Spring is also when the streams are generally flowing their best, which also plays wells for photos, however I had yet to find the time.

On this particular morning, my friend Paul and I decided to abandon the sunrise in favor of heading to Tremont, as the coming storms had already blanketed the sky with thick clouds. It was windy, something you generally try to avoid, but we opted to go anyway if for no other reason than to find some spots to come back to on a more favorable morning. Plus, we both had trips coming up, so it was possible we’d miss out altogether if we waited much longer. In any case, found our spot and began working our way up the river banks. Did I mention it was windy? I eventually pulled my hood up because I kept getting hit with flying debris and I thought the little bit of fabric may save my scalp a little bit. After a while we both decided it was probably time to leave and conceded that, had our wives been with us, we’d have probably left a long time ago because the wind had gotten so bad. We chuckled and I said, “Man, it’s like high-adventure back here on Tremont road!” Little did I know what lie ahead!

As I was putting my stuff in the car, Paul had already drug some sticks out of the road so we could get through without them scraping the side of the car. We proceed on and found some large limbs laying in the middle of the road, no big deal. Then a tree down… then another; this was worse than we thought! I joked and said that I kept waiting to round a corner and find a tree that was so big we couldn’t move it… then it happened. A giant tulip poplar tree had fallen from the other side of the river, all the way across the road. We both hopped out and started trying to break limbs and move pieces to the side. Slowly we got a clearing almost big enough to get Paul’s car through… almost. He pulled up and it was obvious it wasn’t quiet big enough. There was one branch that was too big to break, and too high to try to just drive over. I was able to push it back far enough that Paul got the nose of this car through, and then was able to push off his car to get it move just a little more. He eeked the car through as I held my body, and the limb, off his car with one arm, then I let go once he got through and the limb snapped back into place. Craziness! We definitely earned our photos that morning!

–Dan Thompson

Middle Prong Little River