As much as I love nature and the Smoky Mountains, it’s hard to believe I have never made my way to the Wildlife Wilderness Festival until 2015. Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the festival has been held in Pigeon Forge at the LeConte Center, a modern facility with nice rooms big enough to accommodate decent crowds (although one class I attended was standing room only.)
If you like hiking or sightseeing there are plenty of guided events scheduled. The signup is the afternoon before the event.
The exhibition hall is worth a look. Vendors selling one of a kind crafts, sponsors of the event, and a photo contest that covers all levels of expertise. I bought hand painted and signed gourds and handmade Valentine’s Day cards.
A good variety of speakers and a wide range of subjects, from history of the Smokies and the culture to experts on birds and other wildlife. Programs run from 8 to 7:30 daily.
There is no admission fee. I plan to make this an annual event. Beginning in 2016 the festival moves to May. Mark your calendars.
As a side note I did one solo hike from the Sugarlands visitor center to the Sugarlands Cemetery and back, which is around 4 miles total. When I left the cemetery I felt a pull in my back, and I walked slowly back to my car. I alternated between muscle relaxers and Advil the remainder of the week and had to cancel the group hike I had planned, and after I returned home I began chiropractic treatment. Didn’t realize how long the rehab would be. Might be the result of an auto accident I was involved in January 2014, not sure, but I am just now where I can think about hikes again as April has eased its way in and almost left, with beautiful flowers and warmer temperatures. I missed wildflowers in the Smokies this year because of my back, but I’m planning for 2016. Here is a photo I took at the Sugarlands Cemetery. And an image of frozen water on the trail surrounding trees. Such a lovely place to hike, regardless of the season.