GSMNP

Is there a blue tree path in the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee?

There’s yet another wild rumor making its way across the Internet about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee.

It involves an image of what appears to be a park trail surrounded by blue and purple trees. It usually appears alongside the caption: “Blue Tree Path in Tennessee”.

I first happened upon the spectacle on Pinterest. And there’s no doubt that it’s a beautiful image. But is it real?

For years, I believed that the classic Coen’s comedy O Brother Where Art Thou? was real life. 

No. I didn’t believe the Soggy Bottom Boys, Pappy O’Daniel or Big Dan Teague were real characters, but the golden Mississippi foliage caught on film or digital camera by the Coens? I assumed that was real. 

I’ve got to go to Mississippi, I told myself. 

Then, I went to Mississippi on other business and realized that not only was there no Santa Claus, but Mississippi itself wasn’t a golden foliage wonderland. 

So I fired up the Google machine and found out the Coens took plain old green Mississippi trees and digitally changed them through a fairly laborious process, adding to the allegory or the irony or some other such thing that you need when you’re adapting Homer’s Odyssey into a Great Depression-era, bluegrass-tinged screwball comedy. 

As the years have passed and photo editing technology has reached the masses, I have tried to hone my skeptical radar. 

Is it real or is it fake?

“Wow. There’s a picture of a giant fish swimming through a mall in a flood,” they say.

“Photoshop,” I reply. 

“Look at this photo of a manbearpig racing through an Arkansas bog,” they say. 

“It’s Photoshop,” I reply, adding a little sing-songy thing. 

“Hey. Look at this photo of a diver next to a shark that’s bigger than a bus,” they say. 

“Photoshop, or forced perspective or some other dang trick that I am not going to fall for,” I explain. 

“Have YOU seen this Smoky Mountain trail where the foliage turns bright blue and purple?”

“Oh, for the love of Mike.”

That’s when the old Facebook feed starts chiming in. 

“Is that real? That’s amazing.”

“No. Not real. It’s Photoshop.”

“But it’s on Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook. It’s one of the latest trending pins on Pinterest. It has multiple shares. I mean, 20,000 blue tree path fans can’t be wrong. Look there’s even a YouTube link.”

“It’s fake news. The YouTube link doesn’t even go to a blue tree path video, it’s some kind of weird trap-beat music which, according to the comments, goes hard as heck, bro.”

“But it’s so beautiful. It has to be real. I want it to be real.”

“It’s a Smurf fever dream. Somebody took a photo of a mountain trail, played with the hue and saturation and is out here selling you a version of reality that doesn’t exist. Gargamel is not walking through that door.”

So is there really a blue tree path in Tennessee?

Friends, I am sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings. There is no such thing as a blue tree path in the Smoky Mountains. I’m fairly certain there’s no such thing as a blue tree path outside of James Cameron’s Avatar sequels and quite possibly a Grateful Dead black light poster.

The funny part is, the world is full of wonders, as is the Smoky Mountain National Park. You don’t need a forest path colored like wicked elves broke loose at night and spray-painted the trees unnatural colors. 

A couple of years ago, I finally found the beauty the Coen brothers had teased me with in Mississippi, but it wasn’t in the Deep South. 

In fact, it was about a 30 minute drive from where I grew up. 

We don’t need blue, we’ve got gold

As you’re climbing the mountains to Cades Cove, when you’re in the tall trees not far before you get to the picnic area, there’s a spot where a certain kind of tree has taken over the forest. If you’re there at the right time, under the right conditions, those tree leaves turn a vibrant shade of golden yellow. 

When the sunlight hits that part of the forest just so, everything lights up like you’re suddenly inside a painting. You’re living artwork.

Blue? We don’t need blue. We’ve got gold, baby. 

Read Also: How to visit Cades Cove, 7 things to know before you go

Of course, truth is often stranger than fiction.

Here in Tennessee we don’t have blue trees but in the mountains of Kentucky, where the grass is blue, there were blue-skinned people. The Fugates of Troublesome Creek suffered from a genetic blood condition that turned their skin blue.   

Why we tend to fall for Internet hoaxes

I’ve never understood the impulse to perform such a mundane Internet hoax.

Attention, I suppose. Clicks. But I think what people are drawn to is beauty, not reality. Maybe engaging their skepticism keeps them looking at it longer. 

“What? Is that real?”

Read Also: Are there volcanoes in Tennessee? Your burning questions answered

Taking the natural world and adjusting it, even digitally, is a form of art and we are drawn to that beauty, even if we know it is an adjusted version of our world. 

Artists have made their living selling idealized versions of the natural world for years. I don’t think we need blue tree truthers to get people to examine your art.  

Have you ever fallen for a Photoshop hoax regarding the Smoky Mountains? Let us know in the comments!