Mike’s Great Smoky Mountains Adventure – Final Day

Don’t y’all hate when it’s the last day of a vacation or trip? Yah, me, too. But today is bittersweet. Of all the days I’ve spent here in The Great Smoky Mountains, today (Wednesday June 28th, 2017) was THEE best for pictures and sightings! Yee Hawe, indeed! 🙂
smoky mountains, great smoky mountains, great smoky mountains national park, bryson city NC, steam trains, railroad, railway,
I started out in Bryson City, NC with a visit to The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad. Much as I DO like train rides, I didn’t venture over there with the intent of riding. I wanted to take my own photos of the railroad and a few of Bryson City itself But more than just that, there are several trestles where the GSMR Trains cross – one of them not too far from the downtown depot. I’d hoped to get a few good ones of the train traversing the bridge. But as luck would have it, I captured about 10-12 GOOD ones – so rare for even the best photographers. It was too hard to choose which ones to put herein this blog. Therefore, I just posted one herein. The rest I plan on including in another post which will contain a slide show video. More on that later.

After the railroad shots, I headed over once more to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Just after entering the park, I ran into a traffic jam. I knew tis either meant a car accident or a wildlife sighting. I got lucky – it was a herd of elk on the side of the road as well as crossing the road. Must’ve been about 20 of `em. Again, YEE HAWE!!! 🙂

As if the herd of elk sighting wasn’t enough, I drove about another 3 miles down (well, UP) the road. What do I spy there you ask? ANOTHER 2-3 elk. Luckily, there was a small roadside turnout where I could stop my car. I jumped out and clicked off about another 50 shots of these beautiful animals grazing in the high grass.

Did it all stop there? NO I SAY 🙂 I headed to a place called Newfound Gap Overlook. The plan was to stay long enough to capture a sunset. This was at the suggestion of a friend of mine, Alta. The idea was good and I had every intention of staying another hour or two to make this happen. But my luck began to run out, The clouds kept growing and thickening all around the gap and beyond. So I made the best of it and shot about 2-3 different locations (including Newfound Gap) in long exposure with a neutral density filter (which lets you take long exposures in the middle of the day etc…). One of them I’ve included herein this post. However, I will admit there are several more that are ‘fine art’ quality and will be a for sale item at a later point (as are several other shots I’ve shot over the last few days … hey I like y’all and wanna share some of these images, but I gotta save some to offset the cost of these trips LOL).

AND THEN – – – As I was about to depart the park for the day, I was finally able to locate one of the roadside attractions I’d been looking for the last few days. It’s an old fashioned, historic Grist Mill. I got there a little late in the day and the mil itself was already locked up. But again making the most of it all, I captured several pictures of the Grist Mill and the grounds. I included one for now in this post.

Anyhoo – that’s about it from the Smoky Mountains. Headed back to Florida tomorrow (Thursday). I may do a recap video slide show in the next few days. We’ll see how that pans out. Wanna make sure I have enough shots to make a short video worthwhile.

Thanks for stopping’ by and following these last few posts about  mIke’s Great Smoky mountains Adventures! 🙂

Peace – Mike T.

Smoky Mountains Adventure – Day 2

“In every walk with nature, humankind receives more than is sought” – John Muir

great smoky mountains, smoky mountains, cases cove, wildlife, nature, deer, elk, mooseWell, today (Tuesday June 27th, 2017) was one of those ‘outa sync’ days. Meaning – my timing was off, mother nature was off, even the wildlife was off :). Lots of driving through and around the mountains but I just couldn’t make more than a few good photos happen. But it’s really hard to be that unhappy while up here in this beautiful place!!! And that ‘outa sync’ thing … well … I guess it isn’t 100% accurate anyway as you can see by the four pictures herein this blog post.

While visiting Cades Cove (within The Great Smoky Mountains National Park), I chose to drive the 11 mile scenic loop. For those not familiar, this driving loop encompasses a vast area in Cades Cove where all kinds of wildlife are known to live, come out and feed etc… But here’s why I reference that ‘outa sync’ thing. Even though I saw a mother bear and two cubs, they were so far into the forest, trees blocking my shot, plus it was rather dark where they were, hence, no photos of that little family :(. I also saw what I believe was a fox that came prancing right in front of me. By the time I had my camera at the ready, he / she was gone in the high grass and into the woods . I mean it was really cool to see the two aforementioned. The memories will live in my brain and my heart & soul forever. I just wish I could’ve shared those visions here via my photography. Ahh well.

There were plenty of places to shoot more majestic scenery of these spectacular mountains (see the two photos herein).

And of course the two shots of the two elk (or moose – not sure 😉 ) atop this page helped make up for anything I might have missed for whatever reason. And by the way, those shots (of the elk/moose) were taken right alongside the roadway as I was leaving Cades Cove.

Well, that’s about it for tonight. Hopefully more pictures to share after tomorrow’s big adventures :).

Peace – Mike T.

Mike’s Great Smoky Mountains Adventure – Day 1

“Going to the mountains is going home” – John Muir

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I’ve planned and attempted several time to make a trip to The Great Smoky Mountains. I cancelled once due to a projected forecast of heavy rains for like 5-6 days in a row. The last time I chose not to go due to the massive & destructive wildfires they were experiencing. But this time around, I just said to heck with all that, booked it about 3 days before my departure (from central Florida) and just went. God shone down and made the weather perfect for my adventure.

And a big adventure it’s been so far. I can’t explain it. It’s more of a feeling inside my soul. But in just one day (and night) I’ve spent here, I fell like … I dunno … like I’ve taken a step back in time, but in a good way. So many past emotions, experiences and peaceful moments. More on all that stuff in another blog post ;).For now, please read on and view the rest of today’s ‘select shots’.

So here I now sit in my hotel room at the ends of day 1 (which began for me at about 6:30 AM) just in time to watch the sun rise over the mountains. Side note – didn’t get any shots of the sunrise TODAY as I didn’t realize until it was too late that I was basically on the ‘wrong side of the mountain’ for that. But here’s hoping for tomorrow or one of my other days I’ll be here. I managed to visit many of the beautiful and historic areas or venues throughout The Great Smoky Mountains National Park as well as some bordering views just outside the park along The Blue Ridge Parkway.

There are lots of old, historical heritage locations like these last two shots in and around the mountains here. The plan is to visit them over the next 2-3 days. Once again, more on all that in more / other blog posts.

 

These pictures are just a few ‘teaser’ images. At the end of this trip, I’,planning on putting many more photographs on this blog (and elsewhere – i.e. – Instagram (@MikeThomasImagery) etc… For now, enjoy these and let your mind wander into the peace & QUIETNESS of these wonderful mountains!

 

Peace – Mike T.

Honor Flight – Central Florida Chapter – June 3rd, 2017

(to view ALL photos by yours truly from this latest event, please click the link below at the end of this post)

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This makes the third Honor Flight Welcome Home Event I’ve ben blessed and lucky enough to be present for – and got to photograph it! Tell ya’ what – I’m LOVING this!!! I estimate about 250-300 people showed up voluntarily to welcome these World War II, Korean and Vietnam Veterans back home. If you haven’t had the chance to read any other of my blog posts about Honor Flight or perhaps aren’t aware of what Honor Flight is, let me briefly explain.

Honor Flight is an entirely volunteer organization that flies United States Military Veterans up to see their respective memorials in Washington, D.C. (i.e. – WW II Memorial, Korean War Memorial etc…). It’s a 1 day trip up and back that starts pretty much at the crack of dawn and ends with their return back home (in this case to Orlando International Airport) at around 8:30 PM +/-. The tradition of having good hearted, well meaning, Patriotic people at the arrival gate area at the airport when they return has grown immensely since Honor Flight first started. I’ve spoken to many of the folks that come regularly to these things. They tell me they’ve made so many new, supportive friends at the events. It’s like a mini reunion or get together each time an Honor Flight gets set in motion. But it’s not really a social gathering or a personal meet & greet. Everyone is there for one purpose and that’s to welcome home and say thanks to these great Veterans. The emotion and outpouring of love is beyond words. You really need to be there to feel it, not just see it.

Thank you to all who came to lend their support tonight. And of course a huge THANK YOU to all the heroic, Patriotic Veterans who served for America. May God Bless You and this still great country!

To view all photos I managed to capture tonight, please click HERE.

Peace – Mike T.

AFTER Memorial Day

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As you might have surmised by the title of this blog post, this is about not forgetting those whom we remember on Memorial Day. In other words, I waited purposely until the day after Memorial Day to create this post. It’s sorta like when lots of folks go and work in the soup kitchens right at Christmas or Thanksgiving time. Yes, it’s admirable for anyone to go and do charitable work. But in conversing with some homeless folks, one of the common denominators they agree on is that after whatever Holiday comes and goes, those folks I talked to say they feel forgotten (again). They’re not bitter. It’s just that for some reason, people feel charitable and giving at the Holidays. But not so much after. Now before anyone gets upset or takes issue with me, I’m NOT saying everyone who helps out in the shelters and the like falls victim to this mentality or behavior. Nor am I knocking anyone who has the decency and kind heartedness to give of themselves. But with society and times changing constantly, trends just seem to take some folks’ thoughts and actions away from doing good things or remembering the fallen, the forgotten, the homeless etc… That’s the basic premise in posting this article immediately after Memorial Day 2017.

So to get back on track as to what this post is about, I have a question for you the reader: Did you know that there was a National Cemetery in Florida? I’ll adit it – I didn’t. I thought the only notable National Cemetery was Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

I was searching on the web for things I could go and pay tribute to via my photography. I found several celebrations within a 1 to 2 hour drive of my location in Central Florida. But the one that jumped out at me was this National Cemetery up in the town of Bushnell, FL. For various reasons, it was going to be a real stretch for me to get there on Memorial Day Itself. Hence, the idea of ‘AFTER Memorial Day’ came to fruition in my brain. What I discovered when I got there was pretty astounding!

Arlington National Cemetery is approximately 625 acres with about 400,000 interned there. Florida National Cemetery is approximately 512 acres with 129,000 interned. Arlington was established in 1864. Florida National Cemetery was established in 1988. Let that sink in just a bit. Spanning about 150 years, Arlington has managed to have 400,000 buried therein. But Florida National Cemetery in just shy of 30 years has managed to welcome home 129,000. Pretty high ratio.

Florida National Cemetery is in a very rural area of the Sunshine State. The landscape is nothing short of beautiful. American Flags line all the roadways on both sides throughout the property. It’s very evident the staff take extreme care in monitoring and beautifying the land.

I’m well aware that it may be considered a little off beat to even do a blog post on a cemetery. But given my flag-waiving Patriotic beliefs and my deep set appreciation and recognition for our Military Personnel, to me it’s not that obscure. Especially if it brings the needed attention to educating in any way possible what our fallen Military heroes have done to allow ALL of us to do what we do every day in this still great United States Of America!

If you have reason (or not), make a trip out to Florida National Cemetery. It is, dare I say breath taking and will set your Patriotic heart & soul afire. Florida National Cemetery might not be as big as Arlington. But it’s every bit as majestic and emotional!!!

God Bless all our fallen Military people. You will never be forgotten by this blog writer!!!

Peace – Mike T

Honor Flight: Space Coast Florida Chapter – Saturday, May 20th, 2017

honor flight, military, veterans, ww ii, world war ii, korean war, vietnam

So if you don’t know or haven’t read my blog of late, I finally got to attend an Honor Flight return / arrival at the (Orlando International) airport on Saturday, May 6th, 2017. Briefly, Honor Flight is an all volunteer organization that transports American Military Veterans who served in World War II, The Korean War and The Vietnam War to see and experience their respective memorials that have been built over the years in Washington, D.C. It’s become sort of a tradition for good, flag waiving, patriotic American people to welcome the Veteran back home after their rather long day traveling to and from D.C. Today – Saturday May 20th, 2017 (also Armed Forces Day Weekend by the way), I was so lucky and honored to attend yet another Honor Flight Return. This one was from the Space Coast Honor Flight Chapter from the Titusville, FL area.

honor flight, veterans, military, ww ii, world war ii, korean war, vietnam

Last time I posted on the May 6th, 2017 event, I included a fair amount of pictures. This time around, I’ve included only the two most heart warming photos I was able to capture, both of the same little girl welcoming home two different Korean War Veterans. But there are many other photos I’ve put up online for viewing at THIS LINK. Please make just a little time and check out the story behind each photograph. Try and feel, or at least imagine the emotion just overflowing for these guys and gals who served in battle as they were welcomed back and celebrated by the good souls who gave of their time to drive to the airport on a Saturday night just to say ‘thanks’ or ‘welcome home soldier’.  By the way, what did you do Saturday night? No guilt trip here. Just trying to plant a seed in your heart & soul to perhaps think about going out to attend one of these events. Much as I try and convey both in text and in pictures, I don’t believe I’ve yet captured the experience that takes place at one of these things. Ya’ have to bee there. And with  that, I’ll leave you for now.

Thanks for stoppin’ by.Again, please check out the rest of the photos at THIS LINK.

Peace – Mike T.

“Honor Flight”- An Outpouring Of Love & Respect At Orlando International Airport – May 6th, 2017

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(click the link at the bottom / end of this post for 40 more beautiful, heartwarming photos)

Where do I begin? Well, anyone that knows my other career and life’s passion (that being music, writing, performing) – specifically those that have been able to catch my live concerts between 1992 through 2016 have seen the segment in the show dedicated to America, it’s heritage and history and most of all, The United States Military. This has always been a soft spot with me dating back to when I was a youngster, though I may not have been able to recognize it or put it into words at such an early age. But in retrospect, the heartfelt passion began way back then.

america, united states, military, army, air force, marines, navy, coast guard, americana, ww ii, Korean war, Vietnam

Skip ahead and enter present day. I learned of something called, “Honor Flight,” a few years back. Basically, they are a large, high class volunteer organization that puts together and executes these trips / flights to the World War II and other  Memorials in Washington, D.C. As I’m told, the whole thing originated just after the construction & completion of the WW II Memorial. The plan was (and still is) to take as many WW II Veterans up to see the Memorial as a thank you & recognition for their service – a service which a lot of folks felt they never truly were given their just appreciation for.

Currently, Honor Flight also transports other Veterans (such as Korean Vets and Vietnam Vets) on the trips to D.C. as well. The tradition of welcoming the Veterans home as they returned from the trip(s) to Washington at the end of their respective day has grown in numbers over the last several years. I’ve always wanted to do my (small) part in welcoming those Veterans home at whatever airport they were arriving. Tonight, Saturday May 6th, 2017, I finally got my wish as I had a Saturday night off and had the honor and privilege of attending one of these Welcome Home events at Orlando International Airport.

america, united states, military, army, air force, marines, navy, coast guard, americana, ww ii, Korean war, Vietnam

The outpouring of love, affection and respect from everyone who came to welcome these guys and gals home goes beyond words of any language! My best ‘guesstimate’ is that there 300-350 people in attendance. Additionally, I noticed lots of folks who were just traveling or passing by stop and pay tribute as well. Most folks were all smiles and clapping etc… But even within that group of people, the tears I saw running down people’s’ faces was overwhelming. Almost too much for this old flag waiving, American Patriot. Ever try and shoot photos looking through the eye piece of a camera with your eyes ‘drooling’? Try it sometime. It’ll change your perspective on so many things in life 😉 .

Thanks to OIA, Jet Blue, the local TSA folks and of course the Honor Flight personnel, I got to witness and be a part of one of THEE most enjoyable, heartwarming, emotional events I’ve ever been a part of in my entire life!!!!!!! The pictures I was able to capture below do it all some justice. I tried to capture as much story & emotion as possible. But nothing will ever beat being there in person. And I’ll say right here, if you ever had a desire to do something – ANYTHING – to show your appreciation in honoring and thanking the people that gave you the freedoms you have here in this still great country, you should seriously think about coming out to one of these events. They happen pretty regularly all around the country, not just Orlando.

america, united states, military, army, air force, marines, navy, coast guard, americana, ww ii, Korean war, Vietnam

Please enjoy and take to heart the story of what these photographs are saying. The story contained within shows that even though there’s still of kinds of varying opinions on Government, the leaders & politicians in America, these people have found the way to rise above all that and make a positive statement recognizing what these great folks have done for The United States over decades of time. It’s a wonderful place to be and you’ll walk away feeling like a million bucks. And it really takes so little on your part when you measure it all up.

Thanks for stopping by and reading this. Hope I, and of course the folks in these pictures were able to tap into your emotions and maybe make you consider coming out to an Honor Flight event. Or at the very least, make you wanna’ go thank a Veteran.

america, united states, military, army, air force, marines, navy, coast guard, americana, ww ii, Korean war, Vietnam

 

To view about 40 additional photos from yours truly of this event, please click HERE.

Peace – and THANK YOU at all you Veterans I met Saturday night as well as every other Veteran for your services. Please believe and trust me when I say, “You’re not, nor will you ever be forgotten!”

See y’all at the next Honor Flight! – Mike T.