(WBIR-Seymour) Driving the loop in Cades Cove can be a relaxing and fun way to enjoy part of the Smokies without even leaving your car.
That's certainly true for Mike and Jackie Hardin.
"We had the inspiration to do the Cades Cove area because we love the area and the architecture and history there," Mike said.
That's why he decided to focus a hobby of his on that particular part of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
"I love old houses," he said.
He takes photographs of the old buildings then makes models of them out of matchsticks.
Of all the buildings, a matchstick model of the John Oliver Cabin is his favorite.
"It's just the detail and architecture they used on it," he explained.
His wife Jackie plays a limited yet important role in creating the models of Cades Cove building and others.
"She strikes the matches for me and I glue them on," she said. "My wife seems to like it more. My idea would be to cut the heads off but she seems to like the little burnt look a little more than me."
Mike Hardin spends months making each model.
"I'm currently working on the Dan Lawson house. And going to hopefully make all of them. If I live that long," he said with a laugh.
Underneath each building is a frame made of cardboard. He adds popsicle sticks and matchsticks and even includes tiny furniture for some of the models.
"It's inexpensive, if you mess up you can throw it away and start over, it costs... a cabin like this to make probably cost ten dollars," he said.
His inexpensive yet time consuming hobby is his way of preserving Cades Cove.
"As old as some of the structures are, they're not going to be there forever," he said.