November 25, 2011

Land of Blue Smoke

We said good-bye to Chris, Skip and Skip’s mother Betty and set our sights on Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  It was a beautiful day for a drive.  What I hadn’t counted on was how crowded the park would be.  Yes, I know, it’s Thanksgiving weekend, and Great Smoky Mountains is the most visited of all the national parks.  But, the leaves had already fallen, so I thought it might have quieted down.  Not the case.

Betty, Tim, Chris and Skip
Even though the park had way too much traffic for our taste, it was still beautiful.  Bright blue, clear skies enabled us to see for miles.  The Cherokee, who were the original inhabitants of this area, described the surrounding mountains as shaconage, meaning “blue, like smoke.”  The mountains do appear to be blue, and the views of distant mountain ranges were just beautiful.  Even the streams and waterfalls were still flowing freely.

Mountain View

This Photo Has Not Been Photoshopped,
The Mountains Really Do Appear to be Blue

Waterfall Beside the Road

Babbling Brook
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is known for its diverse collection of plants and animals.  There are more tree species here, in fact, than in northern Europe.  The park has been designated as an International Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site.

The cultural heritage of the park is a major draw for many visitors.  Because the park was created from mostly private lands, numerous homesteads remain.  It is mostly the log buildings that have been preserved, and the park contains one of the nation’s largest collections of log structures.  I can especially relate to these log buildings because my grandfather preserved the one-room log cabin from his family homestead not far from here in Boone, North Carolina.

Yesterday we drove as far as Cades Cove and camped there last night.  Our plan was to beat the crowds on the Cades Cove loop, which can sometimes take four hours to complete.  Keep in mind that the loop is only eleven miles, and you’ll understand why we wanted to get an early start in the morning so we wouldn’t be caught in “rush hour” traffic.

I Wonder What's Over the Side of this Mountain?
View From Clingmans Dome, the Highest Point in the Park

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