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The Great Smoky Mountains
These mountains are a part of the Appalachian Mountains in the USA and they are along the Tennessee-North Carolina border in the southeastern United States. The mountains are part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which was established in 1934 This park we were told proudly while we were in Tennessee is the most-visited national park in the United States which is probably because of it position near the most populated areas of the USA. It is also free to enter which is another attraction and a bonus for all visitors as there are not many places you cam go to for nothing.
The creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park took quite some time, money and delicate negotiation as the land here was not all federally owned like in other parks such as Yellowstone and Yosemite The government had to convincing logging firms to sell lucrative lumber rights, Many small farms and communities were bought and moved outside the National Park limits. The Smoky Mountain national park opened in 1934 and President Franklin D. Roosevelt presiding over the opening ceremony at Newfound Gap. So this was one of the first National Parks in the USA and has since been visited by thousands, in fact millions of visitors every year.
We stayed in Gatlinburg which is not too far from the highest peak in the National Park called Clingman's Dome. We spent a week in this area but having spent three days getting to and from Memphis and another day in Dollywood we didn't have too many left as we had to drive to Atlanta for our flight on the last day. One of the reasons we came to stay in the area was to explore the Smokies and the day we spent doing this was just perfect.
We got up really early as we had had a tip as to where we might see some bears. As we drove into the National Park the view of the Smokys was just as you might imagine - they had the smoky haze sitting just above the mountain tops just perfectly. The name "Smoky" comes from this natural fog that often sits over the mountains and gives the impression of large smoke plumes from a distance. This fog is most often seen in the morning and after rainfall and it is formed because warm humid air from the Gulf of Mexico cools quickly as it reaches the higher elevations of Southern Appalachia known as the Smokys themselves.
Whilst we do love spectacular scenery we are really attracted to seeing native animals in their natural habitats and so the aim of our trip was to see Smoky the bear or his near relatives although we were aware this was a matter of luck. We drove straight to the area not too far from Clingman's Dome and kept our eyes peeled. Like all National Parks you are limited in your speed and some areas you had to slow down even more. There were lots of false alarms and then finally we came across several parked cars and knew they must have seen something of interest.
There was a mother bear so close to the road under a tree. Unbelievably there were people out of their cars and in the open space beyond the bear!! I like a good photo but I am not prepared to risk my life in its pursuit. We were amazed at the stupidity of these people, this was a mother bear and her three cubs were up in the tree so she was feeling very protective and here they were in open space beyond the bear with their car on the other side of this mother bear. We stayed either in our car or very close with the door open ready if she decided to move our way.
We sat and watched her for about 10 to 15 minutes before driving on in awe of the experience we had just had.
On we drove until we saw some beautiful, white-tailed deer in the clearing with the smoky fog around them. We got out and had a closer look and while we were crossing the road a male deer strolled across the road just in front of us. We could have stroked him he was so close. But by the time we had managed to sort out the camera lens cap etc he had moved into the vegetation on the side of the road. Apparently the population of these deer has expanded rapidly since the creation of the national park which is nice to hear.
Other than our lovely mother bear and her cubs in the tree and these truly beautiful deer we saw herds of turkeys which are something you don't often see and took us by surprise. These were really all the animals that we saw but we didn't care as we had managed to see our bear.
We moved on to enjoy the scenery after this and made our way to Clingman's Dome which is 6,643 feet or 2,025 m and the highest mountain in the Smokys. It is also, the highest point in the state of Tennessee as well as the highest point along the entire 2,174-mile Appalachian Trail. The peak is reached by the paved road which is closed in the winter months from the start of December till the end of March each year and this road connects to U.S. Highway 441.
At the top of the peak they have built an observation tower or sort of walkway which is easily accessed by people in wheel chairs or with push chairs but you would need someone strong pushing as it is quite a steep climb up. This tower was built in 1959 and from this tower it is possible on a clear day to see for some distance in every direction but being the Smokys it is often foggy so be prepared not to see too much. Although the access is all paved it is a half mile or so steep climb so a reasonable level of fitness is needed and anyone in a wheel chair would need a strong friend or a motor to make the climb.
Once you reach the top and the observation tower you are rewarded with stunning views if you are lucky and boards with information about the tower, the area, the flora etc. We were saddened to learn that a large number of the native Fraser Firs were killed by an infestation of the balsam wooly adelgid in the early 1960s.From Clingman's Dome you can clearly see great stands of dead Fraser Firs. It was quite a sobering site to see so many of these dead trees in the middle of a National Park. Certainly made you realize that nature is fragile and we do rather take it for granted.
This area was heavily logged prior to WWI but now it is protected and those families who earned their living in the area have, like the native American Indians the Cherokee before them, had to move on and find other ways to earn a living. This must have been hard for them but this is what is needed to protect the area from further damage. The Great Cherokee nation has largely been destroyed but there are a few reservations in the area which you can visit.
This is a lovely area of natural beauty and we spent only one day here but I think you could spend many days exploring the area. There are many walking tracks covering miles if you are into walks and many of them are challenging and should not be undertaken by the casual walker. I can certainly recommend a visit to this most popular of America's National Parks. Not only is the scenery stunning but you might get lucky as we did and see a bear as well as other animals native to the area. There is also an interesting history to explore from the Cherokee nation through to the loggers and small farming settlements to the present National Park.
We are gradually working our way through the United States and on this trip we explored Tennessee and Virginia and passed though Georgia and North Carolina. We covered about 3,000 miles driving but felt we got a pretty good look at the two main states.
The Smokies has to be one of my favourite places on earth. I've been busy in the last few years, mis-spending my youth travelling and taking part in odd projects, but my favourite time was in the Smoky Mountains. They're located in Tennessee/North Carolina, the border of the two states bisects the park, and the Appalachian Trail follows this border for most of the length of GSMNP.
The Smokies were brought last century using a combination of public funding and a generous donation by a certain Mr Rockefeller. This legacy means that unlike most national parks in the USA, the Smokies are free to enter and enjoy.
The majority of visitors stay in Gatlinburg or Cherokee, but by far the best way to experience the Smokies is by camping in one of the national park campsites. These are relatiely basic, but mean you stay close to nature, and are quieter than the RV parks on the outskirts of the park. You can book these sites at Sugarlands visitor centre, or one of the other centres.
Alternatively, go for a hike! There are a number of shelters spotted along the Appalachian trail and are meant for hikers, meaning you can go for a few days hiking and, all being well, not have to camp out. These shelters can be mice infested, so maybe not the best plan if you're squeamish.
Hiking is a must - hardly any of those people you see at Newfound Gap will bother going for a hike, so not only are you in one of the most beautiful places on easrth, you will have it mostly to yourself! My favourite place is Mt Cammerer, to the north of the park. But keep it quiet...!
If you really want to experience the park, you should volunteer with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy with the Rocky Top Crew. 8 days in the backcountry, as much food as you can eat and lots of conservation work to do. And it's all free!
During a trip round the southern states of America we spent four nights in a lovely cabin in the Smoky Mountains. I will try to give you an idea of the cabin and the mountains themselves. When we decided to include the Smoky Mountains in our trip we decided that the only place to stay was in a log cabin and we were right! We rented a cabin from a company called Timber Tops (there are loads of others) and chose one called Four Bears Getaway. We were advised that we would need a four-wheel drive car to get to the cabin easily. This turned out to be especially true when we were treated to a Tennessee storm of mammoth proportions and a river was running down the steep drive up to our cabin. The cabin itself was a recently built, very secluded, log cabin with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, kitchen, dining area and lounge. One side of the cabin was completely made of windows – so the view into the wooded area around us was lovely. There was a log fire for winter nights (this area is a ski resort in winter), cosy sofa and chairs, satellite TV, dining table and chairs and fully equipped kitchen. The main bedroom had a lovely cosy double bed with chest of drawers and large TV. There was a full bathroom with bath, shower, basin and vanity area – oh and a toilet. Upstairs there was another bedroom, which overlooked the living room and had views out of the window wall. We decided to use this as our bedroom as it was so different. This room also had a full bathroom, no bath in this one, just a shower – a large one though. Outside the cabin three sides had decking. The front had a BBQ and rocking chairs, the side a swing seat and the rear a large hot tub and table and chairs. The hot tub was lovely to relax in etc! I would thoroughly recommend having a cabin if you visit this area, you can’t beat it. Types, size and costs vary considerably so look around carefully. As for the mountains themselves, I went armed with
a book called “The unofficial Guide to the Smoky Mountains”. It was a godsend. As usual in these areas, you get all the booklets and guides etc and they all concentrate on the most popular places. This is fine, but sometimes you don’t want to be looking at something with hundreds of other people. This book gave details of places that were not readily advertised locally and we never encountered huge crowds. We did of course visit places that were main visitor locations, but much preferred the less busy places. On the books suggestion we travelled along a road called Foothills Parkway. This was an 18 mile long road, which runs along the western side of the mountains. There are lots of lay-bys to pull into to admire the views. We found very little traffic and most of the time we were the only people at the stop off points. One stop not to be missed is Look Rock. This is about half way down the road and you have to park your car in the large lay-bye and then cross the road and walk through a wooded pathway for one mile. With the altitude and uneven path it feels like ten. However, it is worth the hike. When you get to the end of the pathway there is a large concrete structure with a pathway which you climb. Once at the top the view is fantastic. You can see for miles. We really got a treat when we spotted a pair of Bald Eagles flying around. This made the hike very worthwhile, they were so majestic in the air, riding on the thermals. After this we continued our drive to the end of the Parkway and decided to continue on to Fontana Village and lake. The road to Fontana is very, very twisty. We have never experienced a road like it and it seems to go on forever. There are picnic tables dotted along the route which follows the river along to Fontana Village. We stopped at the village for lunch and just after we ordered the power went. This was ironic as there is a huge hydro-electric dam just down the road. Fortunately our meal was not in
terrupted, but anyone turning up after us was unlucky. The village itself is a sort of holiday camp, with trailers, chalets, swimming pool, shops etc. After our meal we drove onto Fontana Dam. You can choose to go to the top or bottom of the dam, depending on which road you take. We went to the top and think we did the best thing, of course you can do both. When you get to the top, on one side is the huge and beautiful Fontana Lake with boating and fishing etc. On the other the river and the generating plant. They do tours and there is a lift from the top to the bottom and back. However, due to the power cut, they were not in operation. We enjoyed our time hear and would recommend anyone in the area to visit. The dam and the parkway were not too busy and made it a pleasure to tour. Another major road to travel when in the area is Newfound Gap Road, which runs straight through the middle of the National Park. You can get to many places from this road. As this is the only main road it does get very busy at certain times of the day and especially during the summer and autumn. We travelled along it early one morning and didn’t find it to bad. The speed limit is only 40mph, so you need to allow extra time to accommodate this. We visited Clingmans Dome, about half way along the road. This is similar to Look Rock, in that you climb a pathway (concrete this time) get out of breath (altitude 6000 ft) and climb a concrete lookout tower. This is the highest point in the Smokies and the view is great. However there is quite often low lying cloud, which can obscure the view. We had this problem, but it is worth staying for a while as the cloud moves quickly, so one minute you can’t see a thing, the next you can see for miles. Definitely worth visiting. Although we didn’t visit some of the better known places in the Smokies, such as Cades Cove we had a great time and didn’t encounter many of the crowds we anticipated and which t
he towns promised.
Similar to the Scottish Highlands in atmosphere and appearance (and with a large population of Scottish immigrants), Western North Carolina is one of the loveliest locations on Earth, and is packed with attractions and fun activities for the entire family, especially if you are a nature and wildlife lover. It is so much more than just the Great Smoky Mountains. From majestic mountains, sparkling waterfalls, breathtaking autumn colours, and thousands of acres of rolling national forest, to ski resorts, spas, amusement parks, and fine dining, this area of the United States is as versatile as it is charming. It has been called a haven for artists, and if you ever see the Great Smoky Mountains in autumn, you will know why, as there is mountain upon mountain of trees bursting in all the fall colours--red, yellow, and orange. Western North Carolina is an area rich in history and heritage, and still has many beautiful monuments to its past. It is also well known for the hospitality it extends to its visitors. Below are some of the reasons to visit: ______________________________ Great Smoky Mountains National Park--The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an 800 square mile wilderness sanctuary, and is internationally famous for its beauty, and the variety of the species of plants and wildlife found there. It is a culturally rich area in Southern Appalachian culture and lifestyle. ______________________________ Blue Ridge Parkway--The Blue Ridge Parkway consists of 500 miles of scenic byway traversing over the mountains of Western North Carolina and Virginia, and was the home to settlements dating back to prehistoric times, along with the first American pioneers. It has numerous gorgeous mountain views and overlooks, restored historic buildings and homes, and is completely tourist friendly. The mile upon mile of winding mountain road is kept in excellent condition, and is favoured by motorcycle enthusiasts the world over. T
he Blue Ridge Parkway also offers hiking and wilderness camping opportunities. ______________________________ Appalachian Trail--The Appalachian Trail is a stunningly beautiful, 2160 mile hiking trail through mossy, green forests and over the oldest mountain range in the world. The trail stretches from Maine to Georgia and passes through Western North Carolina in the middle. ______________________________ Biltmore House and Gardens--The Biltmore Estate includes a 250-room mansion built in 1895. The house in a four story stone building with a 780-foot high facade built in the style of the French Renaissance. It also includes world-renowned gardens, farmland, forests, its own winery, and a first class five star hotel. It was built by the Vanderbilt family, one of the oldest, most well known, respected families in America. The Vanderbilt family were philanthropists, and fully supported the arts. One of the best times of year to visit the Biltmore House is at Christmas, sporting a 35 foot tall Christmas tree in the grand Banquet Room, elaborate decorations throughout the house, nearly 40 smaller Christmas trees, handcrafted glass ornaments, candlelight evenings, and live minstrels and musicians playing carols around the property. ______________________________ Cherokee Indian Reservation--The Cherokee Indian Reservation is home to Native Americans left behind in the Trail of Tears. It is completely tourist friendly and can serve as a vacation in itself. As attractions, you can find zoos, mountain biking, trout fishing, horseback riding, gold, ruby, and gem mines, chairlifts, theme parks, tubing, rafting, museums, and the critically acclaimed drama, "Unto These Hills". It is also the home to Harrah's Cherokee Casino. ______________________________ Chimney Rock Park--Chimney Rock Park is home to 450 foot waterfalls, hiking and walking trails, stunning 75 mile views, plants and wildli
fe, and a wild ride on a 26 story elevator that travels up the centre of pure rock. The park was founded in 1902. ______________________________ The Cradle of Forestry--The Cradle of Forestry is the birthplace of forestry in America. Forestry education began in 1889 when George Vanderbilt, of the Biltmore Estate Vanderbilts, began to purchase land for the Biltmore Estate. He wanted the natural beauty of the area to be protected and preserved; yet he realized that the wild surrounding forests needed some help to remain healthy. So he hired German forestry expert, Dr. Carl A. Shenck, to manage his vast forests. The result was Pisgah National Forest, one of the most beautiful national forests in the world today. The Cradle of Forestry is a favourite with children, as it is fully interactive and has many hands-on activities, with numerous historic buildings. ______________________________ Ghost Town--Ghost Town is located in beautiful Maggie Valley, and consists of a large theme park located high atop a mountain, where the only way up is trolley or chair lift. Ghost Town is designed to symbolize life in the American old west, with saloons, dance hall girls, coal burning trains, and gunfights at high noon. It features live entertainment, fine dining, shopping, outdoor dramas, and many rides, including a one of a kind roller coaster. ______________________________ Grandfather Mountain--Grandfather Mountain is the highest peak in the Great Smoky Mountain range, and is the only private park in the world designated by the United Nations as an International Biosphere Reserve, as it is one of the most biologically diverse mountains in North America. Grandfather Mountain is home to panthers, bears, deer, river otters, and eagles, and features a mile high swinging bridge. ______________________________ Harrah's Cherokee Casino--Harrah's Cherokee Casino has 175,000 square foot gaming facility, wit
h jackpots up to $160,000. ______________________________ Linville Caverns--Linville Caverns are located deep inside of Humpback Mountain in Western North Carolina. They were discovered in 1822, and are a source of many mineral deposits. Beautiful, surreal looking stalactites and stalagmites fill the large caverns. Geologists claim that the walls of the caverns were formed 500 million years ago by sea creatures, when the sea covered the caverns. The caverns are home to the Eastern Pipistrelle bat, which hang from the cavern ceilings in the spring. Tours are conducted daily. ______________________________ Nantahala River Rafting--If you are a white water enthusiast, the Nantahala River is the place for you. It is a dam-controlled river, and is nationally acclaimed as an excellent rafting site. ______________________________ National Forests--Western North Carolina is home to several of the United States national forests, including the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forest. Both span vast amounts of land and are home to many of the regions natural plants and wildlife, including deer, raccoons, possums, panthers, hawks, owls, trout, catfish, and the black bear. ______________________________ Carl Sandburg Home--Carl Sandburg, a famous poet, writer, and orator lived in the mountains of Western North Carolina during the early twentieth century, and his home has been preserved and is open to visitors. It consists of a 22-room house, outbuildings, barns, hiking trails, two lakes, and gardens. ______________________________ Waterfalls--Western North Carolina has an abundance of beautiful mountain waterfalls, including Mouse Creek Falls, Yellowstone Falls, Grassy Creek Falls, White water Falls, Twin Falls, Courthouse Falls, Looking Glass Falls, Cullasaja Falls, Sassafras Falls, Hickory Nut Falls, Linville Falls, and too many more to mention here. __________________________
____ Skiing--Western North Carolina sports many fine ski resorts, including Wolf Laurel, Sugar Mountain, Cataloochee, Ski Beach, Hawksnest, and Appalachian Ski Mountain. ______________________________ Western North Carolina is also a haven for golf, camping, the Highland Games, llama and burro treks, and general relaxation. There are more benefits to this great area than I have mentioned here, but I'll leave those for you to discover for yourself. To learn more about Western North Carolina, you may visit these sites: http://www.westernncattractions.com http://www.outdoorfun.com http://mountainscape.com
High up in The Smokey Mountains it’s hard to believe there is so much going on, but there is. The Sugarland Centre for visitors (which you will have no problem finding, just follow the signs) is full of information of all kinds from accommodation, to entertainment even Harrah’s Cherokee Smokey Mountain Casino is up there, but in particular there’s lots on nature treks and trails. We went on the Cherokee Orchard motor nature trail which took us 8 miles into the mountains in a circle and past Cades Cove and Roaring Fork and just as the names say, the most spectacular cove with stunning scenery in the misty distance and roaring waterfalls. I felt privileged to be able to take photographs of this ever-changing wilderness and we were lucky because it was in its autumn plumage. The colours were incredible and the views fantastic. Although we didn’t stay in the mountains I wish we had done as the log cabins nestling amongst the trees were very inviting. Sitting on the back porch in a hot tub or Jacuzzi looking at the amazing view is indeed my idea of heaven (or nearly). And if you want to tie the knot while here you can do that to. There are numerous wedding chapels large and small who will arrange everything for you. I would have liked longer to explore this vast place but if anything it has given me a taste to return, and plenty of wonderful memories. www.smoky-mtns-tickets.com will give you discounted packages www.goldenvalleyweddings.com will help organise your special day www.mountainvalley.com will get you the log cabin with the hot tub
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a United States National Park that straddles the ridgeline of the Great Smoky Mountains, part of the Blue Ridge Mountains which are a division of the larger Appalachian Mountain chain. The border between Tennessee to the west and North Carolina to the east runs northeast to southwest through the centerline of the park. On its route from Maine to Georgia, the Appalachian Trail also passes through the center of the park. The park was chartered by the United States Congress in 1934 and officially dedicated by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1940. It encompasses 815 square miles (2,110 km²), making it one of the largest protected areas in the eastern United States. The main park entrances are located along U.S. Highway 441 (Newfound Gap Road) at the towns of Gatlinburg, Tennessee and Cherokee, North Carolina.