Breland: God’s beauty and peace in the mountains

Published 10:34 am Friday, May 27, 2022

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A trip to the Smokies is always a special treat for Robert Ard of Bogalusa. This year it was even more special as he anticipated a return to a favorite place, first visited a long time ago.

My brother-in-law first went to the Smokies on a senior trip with students at Dexter High School. While there, he had his photo made on May 17, 1960, while riding up the Sky Lift in Gatlinburg.

This year, he took the 62-year-old photo along with him. Showing it to the people in charge at the lift, they made a great to-do over it, especially considering it was now May 17, 2022! Comparing it to the one made this year, quite a few changes have been made — both to Robert and the top of the mountain in Gatlinburg.

In days past, there was very little to see at the top, but now there is a suspended sky bridge across to Crockett mountain. Quite a little jaunt across thin air, looking down on Gatlinburg. There is also a lot to see and do on the big new sky deck up there.

My sister, Sharon Ard and I were along for this trip, but we only walked a little way across the 680-foot-long suspended bridge. The distance looked a little too far for us. Robert made it across and enjoyed it.

Robert has been a regular visitor to the Smokies over the years, and has made it to the sky lift several times since 1960. He has a photo made with his five-year-old son in 1975. A couple of years on May 17 he would be there, but once the sky lift was closed and another time the line for tickets was down the street after the opening of the sky bridge.

When this memorable event was over, we visited in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, also went to Cade’s Cove where we say one deer, two turkeys and heard a crow “caw” a little way off. No bears were out. Then we made our way across the mountain to the Blue Ridge Parkway, a beautiful way to see those glorious Smoky Mountains. We’ve experienced a lot of local activities in the past, so mountain watching was the plan.

We drove to the Asheville area, to Black Mountain, N.C., stopping many times along the way to see and photograph beautiful mountain scenes. We also made a tour of the Folk Art Center near Asheville, seeing arts and crafts made by people in the Southern Highlands. I saw some interesting art techniques and I’m anxious to find more information.

One of the areas we were interested in visiting was Mt. Mitchell State Park. Mt. Mitchell rises to 6,684 feet, and is the highest point east of the Mississippi. We were going at least a mile high! What a sight we would see! Mt. Mitchell is a part of the Black Mountain Range, and sees over 400,000 visitors each year.

However, driving up, we noticed clouds gathering and then we were in the clouds! Apparently eight out of 10 days, the summit is covered with clouds and fog … and it was cold! We didn’t see what we expected and a lot of construction was going on. It is a great place to visit on a fair day!

We spent our last night in Boone, N.C., a really pretty college town. I didn’t realize until I was home and got out a road atlas, just how close we were to Virginia!

There was a lot to see and do during the week. I can’t cover it in this little space. We tried to keep overuse of leg movement at a minimum and we rode more than we walked! Such is our time of life.

There is always a desire to visit the mountains, finding great peace while seeing the marvelous beauty God has given us to enjoy.

Retired as Associate News Editor, Bob Ann Breland writes a weekly column for The Daily News. You can email her at