We've been avoiding this area of the park for a long time. Cases Cove is one of its most-visited areas, and we usually avoid those, preferring to seek solitude.
We were doing it wrong.
From up here on Rocky Top, the park looks like a tiny playground. Fire towers look like toys on distant ridge tops. The view stretches for dozens of miles to well past the southern end of the park, and well past Clingman's Dome and Mount LeConte to the north. All of the mountains and ridges that we've suffered climbing over the years look like tiny hills from here. The adjacent Thunderhead Mountain earns it name by drawing a raincloud every 30 minutes for hours, even as the other mountaintops remained clear.
We found a grassy clearing and read from a collection of Norse mythology as the sun began to set, then hiked back down to our campsite as the forest was bathed in golden light.
It's always great to visit the Smokies, but magical days like this one are special.
We'll be back.