Introduction to “Under the Smoke”

Since I was a young boy, a certain place has not only held a special place in my heart but maintained a constant pull at my soul. Nestled in the Southern Appalachians, it straddles two states along high peaks which tower over the landscape interspersed with coves and valleys. Wildlife thrives in this unspoiled wilderness found within just a few hours of most of the East Coast. I have considered it my second home throughout my life. Now as a parent, I have shared it with my own kids in the hope they might one day do the same.

In these pages, you will find memories of this place written so they may endure indefinitely. Here you will find stories of wildlife, backwoods trails, quiet moments, and humorous escapades. Explore cabins and high peaks or stand eagerly in anticipation of the perfect picture.

This place of which I speak is one of the most visited national parks in the country, but most people only give it a cursory drive through so they can say they have been there. I hope this book results in your decision to take the extra time to stop your car, enjoy, and create memories of your own. Maybe it will trigger your own memories from earlier days temporarily forgotten by the passage of time.

After it rains or sometimes at dusk or dawn, thick smoke-like vapor clings to the ridges and valleys here. The Cherokee referred to this area as Shaconage or “place of blue smoke”. Fall in love, as I have, with this land Under the Smoke – the Great Smoky Mountains.


To our Lord and God,
for creating such beautiful places for us,
for blessing my life to experience what I have,
for the gift of writing,
for through Him all things are possible,

To Aimee,
my wonderful wife,
my soul mate and companion,
for believing in me so I could once again believe in myself,
for showing me my own dreams are worthwhile,
for sharing the passion of the outdoors,
for wanting to see just beyond the next ridge,
for loving what we discovered together,

To my parents,
for sharing this place and giving me
the chance to make it part of my life,

To ALL my kids, blood or otherwise,
for they are all part of me and part of my life,
for without ya’ll many of these memories would not exist,
nor would the chance of others yet to come,

To all my grandchildren,
whom I have yet to share this with fully,

To my closest friends who have always been there for me,
for sticking with me through it all,
for your love, guidance, patience, and faith in me,
for never holding back and for always being honest with your opinions,
each of you are family as well…

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