My final day in the Smoky Mountains started with a sunrise at Oconaluftee Overlook. It was totally unplanned, as I was heading to the Highlands in NC to photograph waterfalls 2 hours away (watch for waterfalls in final blog post #5). When I drove by the Oconaluftee Overlook and saw all of the photographers standing there with their tripods, I totally stopped to enjoy it too.
There are way too many things to sidetrack you while driving Newfound Gap. As I got closer to Cherokee, I knew that I might see Elk. I have heard that they are very active right now and that the rangers are keeping people from pulling over. The field where I saw this herd did not have cones, so I pulled over, along with several other cars. I used my zoom lens and was able to capture them just fine. I stayed in my car, but that wasn't the case for many people. I even saw a lady get within a few feet of an elk! How crazy are people? This was just after the bull elk chased some of the others across the street! Feeding, touching or teasing wildlife is prohibited. You may not willfully approach within 50 yards (150 feet) of elk or bears.
Lastly, I will include some of the other images that I captured while driving along Newfound Gap Road. There are so many overlooks and beautiful trees, especially on the NC side. The last image you may have seen before...it's Mingus Mill down by Cherokee. It was really a bad time of day to see it, but as I said before, you do what you can with the lighting you are given.
Again, here's the link to the main gallery page. You can find the individual folders to these and many other images from the first part of my last day: Fall in the Smokies Galleries