Please tell me, Dear Reader. Can anything in the world be more inviting than a lonesome country road?
Folk songs, pastoral poems, inspirational quotes, and pop culture pseudo profundities are awash with both visions and words expressing the quaint charm of the country road. Many of these roads are entirely mythical or just a state of mind. More than one over-worked and frazzled old soul has fantasized about ditching the computer, cell phone, and the lousy desk job to follow one of these rustic byways to a simpler way of life. Going native, they might say.
Others country roads are every bit as real, but are perhaps more perilous and less inviting than the sentimental John Denver song might suggest. The road might indeed lead to an idyllic log cabin by the river with smoke billowing from the chimney, a front yard tire swing in a big oak tree, and a friendly dog to welcome you home after long days of travel. It might also lead to a clutch of wild-eyed hillbillies operating a makeshift meth lab from a single wide. Try fashioning a set of song lyrics around that word picture.
Where an old road like this could ultimately lead probably lies somewhere between those two extremes: a pleasant picnic spot perhaps, the cosmic swimming hole, or a dead end where a trailhead for hikers leads deeper into the wilderness. Or maybe, as the bumper sticker suggests, it’s not about the destination of that country road, but the journey that matters most. I highly doubt it.
The road pictured above goes nowhere in particular but simply connects two opposite sides of the one-way-only Cades Cove Loop Road in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. Sparks Lane, with its twin, Hyatt Lane, are gravel roads that allow visitors to Cades Cove to shortcut the continuous 11-mile paved loop that circles the broad, picturesque valley.
Photographically speaking, the magic of Sparks Lane is not fully revealed and appreciated until you arrive the morning after a cool, still evening when a layer of heavy fog forms in the cove. On the morning this image was captured, these were precisely the conditions. The fog bank settled down along the river and migrated from right to left from the direction I was standing. The fog would slowly intensify and build before suddenly dissipating and starting the cycle all over again. This gave me several different versions of the scene from this vantage point. The fog helps simplify the composition as it hides and obfuscates the trees in the background. As a result, the foreground trees stand out stronger and more prominently because of the clean and simple background when the fog was in place.
The road and fence posts help pull the viewer into the image and through the small tunnel of trees with multiple leading lines and a sense of diminishing scale. The mid-telephoto perspective crops out any bright sky from the very top and minimizes the amount of road and immediate foreground down at the bottom of the frame.
Take Me Home can be licensed or purchased as a print here.