Amy Welborn

Up in the Smokies

<em>Cades Cove, Tennessee</em>, oil on canvas, 16 x 20 inches
Cades Cove, Tennessee, oil on canvas, 16 x 20 inches

After working as an engineer, Kentuckian Amy Welborn turned to art when she became a mother. A self-described outdoors person, she enjoys painting en plein air. Here, she discusses the inspiration she finds in the mountains of Tennessee.

“Cades Cove is one of my favorite places in the whole world. It’s in the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. Before the sun really comes up over that mountain range, there’s this atmosphere—the Smokies got their name because it looks like smoke, but it’s fog. The trees give off a vapor from the forest, and it gathers in the valley. As the sun comes up, it’s like a veil lifting, and then you see the mountains. It’s magical. For a long time when our kids were little, that was our family vacation spot. We love to go hiking in the mountains—you could spend a lifetime hiking all the trails in the Smokies. Somewhere along the way, I would take my supplies and set up by the creek to paint—listening to the sounds of the creek was therapeutic. The kids and my husband would continue hiking, and I would work on the painting. Our daily lives are so hectic and digitally wired—being outside is a great way for me to quiet myself, and Cades Cove is a wonderful place to do that since it is a bit ‘off the grid.’

Cades Cove used to be a settlement. There’s an old mill, a couple of churches, and log cabins. There’s an 11-mile loop of road with two entrances to the park, on either side of the mountain range. The loop is uninhabited now because it was turned into a national park in the mid-20th century. Some of former residents were farmers, some raised bees. It was a close-knit community in this ring of mountains. When it became a national park, the government gave the settlers an option: they could live there until the end of their lives or accept money to buy new property. Every time I go to Cades Cove, I think about how sad those people must have been to give up such a magical place.”

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Noelani Kirschner is a former assistant editor for the Scholar.


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