Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Great Smoky Mountains

Before we came to the Great Smoky Mountains (GSM) we had some preconceived notions. Kim thought that we would drive through forested valleys and come across quaint, small, old towns that we could explore. I had similar thoughts as well as open valleys where crops were grown and people lived. Neither was quite correct....

There is one major road going west to east going through the Newfound Gap. No real settlements were noted along this route. The only settlements and habitations were Cade's Cove and Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.

Newfound Gap named because, instead of the old, more tortuous route, this one was found, hence New Found. We took our van up this road....not a road for RVs like ours. We did this one in the van.
The marker to the right is where the visitor's center/entrance is located. The cleared area to the far left is Cade's Cove which is about the only place that people lived and farmed in the area.

This is a close up of Cade's Cove. Notice the farm lands.
Here is what the land looked like at Cade's Cove...wide open farmland to grow corn and other crops for market.

A very unique cantilever barn that was a common design.

Compare this aerial photo of Roaring Fork Road with Cade's Cove...doesn't look too promising does it?
There is a road down there (Roaring Fork) that we took that had homes where other people and families tried to eke out a living.

Here is what the Roaring Fork families land and homes looked like...rocky, hilly, dense. They had to clear the land to grow their crops.

Barn in the background. Notice the rocks?

Another barn built amongst the rocks. Many times this would be the first building built so that their animals could be safe as well as a place to store food and wood.

These homes were all built by hand and hard labor.

Note the craftsmanship on how they put the logs together. I don't guess these people carried any fat on them!

This was a washing sink on the backporch hewed out of one log.

Believe it or not, this is where one family had their crop of corn !

"Smokey" vs. "Smoky"

If you think we spelled it wrong, you're in the majority. Wrong, but in the majority. Both are common spellings. But if you want to be correct about it, spell it the way the National Park Service does - the Great Smoky Mountains.

We spell it both ways on this web site for a reason. If you're searching for accommodations in the "smokey" mountains, you'll come across this website.

History of the name is vague at best. The park is named for the mist or blue haze that surrounds the mountains resulting from the interaction between the moist environment of streams and waterfalls and the thick vegetation. The Cherokee name for the area, Sha-co-na-qe, means "place of blue smoke." . The Cherokee Indians, the earliest settlers in these mountains, revered them as the sacred ancestral home of the entire Cherokee Nation, which at one time stretched from Georgia to the Ohio River.

Rising upward through the blue "smoke" arc thirty-six miles of mountain peaks standing five thousand feet or more above sea level, sixteen of which exceed six thousand feet

During the mid-nineteenth century, a number of American atlas publishers produced engraved maps of the United States, its regions, and individual states. Some of these maps were the earliest to show localities eventually incorporated into Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The 1861 Johnson and Browning map of North Carolina identifies the "Iron or Great Smokey Mts," as well as Cade's Cove in Tennessee, which was first settled by Americans in the early nineteenth century. Evidence of the frontier community established there is present today in the partially preserved residences, churches and other buildings exhibited in Cade's Cove, which is one of the most visited sites in the park.

Cade's Cove is inside the park where 700 people in the area lived by 1850.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, encompassing some of the oldest mountains on earth, is located in the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. The state boundary line bisects the park, which is one of the largest in the eastern United States. Measuring fifty-four miles long and nineteen miles across at its widest point the park consists of slightly more than half a million acres. Great Smoky Mountains National Park attracts the largest number of visitors annually of any national park, perhaps because it is located within a day's drive of over 60 percent of the nation's population. In recent years, more than nine million visitors have come to the park each year.

So at "Smoky" Falls we follow the proper spelling, despite that to most Americans it looks like poor spelling.

One day we drove to Clingmans Dome to see the vistas. Unfortunately, it was foggy all the way up. At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is the highest point in Tennessee, and the third highest mountain east of the Mississippi. Only Mt. Mitchell (6,684 feet) and Mt. Craig (6,647), both located in Mt. Mitchell State Park in western North Carolina, rise higher.

We could not go very fast on the way up.....about 25 miles of this.

As we climbed in elevation, the visibility got worse and worse. We were driving early in the morning so there was no traffic.

This is the walking path up to the observation tower...about 3/4 of a mile on a constant uphill....pant, pant, pant.

This is the start of the circular ramp to the top.

The tower is a terrific viewing spot...even if it does look like a spaceship.

The fog is trying lift.

So much for the sure was beautiful anyway though...with those creeping clouds.
 Kim decided to stay in the car instead of hiking up the path to the tower. As I walked up, I heard some serious rustling in the bushes to my left.

I heard three distinct "crunching" something in there was eating !

I crept closer...slowly...quietly...wondering what the heck was in there !?
All of sudden, this big mama bear pokes here head out, looks in my direction (I'm about 20 feet away!), if to say, "Well, what do YOU want"??

"Nothing to see here....I'm going to go now !!" I replied....and proceeded to hotfoot it up the trail, looking back constantly. Pretty exciting!

The next day, while driving Roaring Fork road, we came across a baby bear and a big, bad-looking male bear. WOW !

This "little" guy was right above our car. Kim yells out, "You're gonna want to see this"

Do not feed the bears !

This dumb lady went down to take pictures...she's about 15 feet from him.
Apparently, seeing the bears is one of the park's most cherished things to anticipate when visiting so we felt fortunate to see more than three.

The park had a few nice rivers flowing through it right next to the roads. We probably took about 600 photos in all. Gotta love digital cameras.

We had a very nice time...about 5 days worth of driving around and hiking. Great Smoky Mountains is a nice place to visit. Don't go in July or August. It gets PACKED !

Hope you enjoyed this one...long...but no way else to show it all...and we only covered about a quarter of what we saw.

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