|The Ride to the Park.|
No place this size in a temperate climate can match the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s variety of plant and animal species. Here are more tree species than in northern Europe, 1,500 flowering plants, dozens of native fish, and over 200 species of birds and 60 of mammals. Most of the park is now managed as wilderness.
The Cherokee described these mountains as shaconage, meaning “blue like smoke.” They farmed the land and built log homes. The Cherokee tried to adapt to the Europeans, but the newcomers took their land. During the 1790s white settlement began in the lowlands and climbed the hills as eastern farmland became scarce and commercial agriculture migrated to the Midwest. The Eastern Band of Cherokee now lives on its reservation next to the national park. Most tribe members are descendants of those not forcibly removed in the 1830s.
Alarmed at commercial logging threats to the forests, Congress authorized the park in 1926. Established in 1934, this was among the first national parks assembled from private lands. The states of North Carolina and Tennessee, private citizens and groups, and schools contributed money to purchase these lands for donation to the federal government. (information from National Park brochure)
The park brochure mentions that from your vehicle you can see a lot of what the Smokies have to offer and we believe they are right. We did stop and get out several times for a better view but you really do see a lot riding along. We drove into the park at Townsend and turned left onto the Little River Road, this road follows the river just about the entire way to the Sugarland Visitor Center. From there we took Newfound Gap Road as far as the Clingmans Dome Road. We took this road to Clingmans Dome. We then backtracked to Gatlinburg and turned at the number 8 traffic light, they are numbered, and took The Cherokee Orchard Road and the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.
The only thing that would have made this visit nicer would have been blue skies. We did not have a lot of sun so some of the pictures are dark. Yet with all the wild flowers, the hardwoods just starting to get their leaves, the evergreens, green grass, rivers flowing besides the road, green moss, stone outcroppings, and the ever present mountains the beauty of this national park cannot help but shine through even with grey skies.
(Side note: at the first stop we made we ran into a couple from Niagara, WI on there way home after a couple of weeks in Florida. Ends up he worked at the same paper mill, for 6 years after the Niagara Mill closed, that Tom did and though they had never met before new several of the same people. Small world as the saying goes.)
Little River Road
|The Little River|
|More of the River|
Newfound Gap Road
This is the only route over the Great Smoky Mountains. It stretches 31 miles from Gatlinburg, TN to Cherokee, NC.
|We had to do it...|
a foot in each state.
|The Little Pigeon River|
|Wildflowers Covering the Hillside|
(to many little black flying bugs we ate inside)
Clingmans Dome Road
This 7 mile road takes you to Clingmans Dome and the trailhead for a steep half-mile walk up to Clingmans Dome tower and the highest point in the Smokies (6,643 feet)
|The Road Up|
|Some of the trees talked about below.|
|The Beautiful Smoky Mountains|
|This was as high up as we went.|
Maybe we will walk up to the tower next time,
Cherokee Orchard Road & Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
|This sign describes the road ahead|
|The bottom 3 are of the Cherokee Orchard Road|
|The Beautiful Green Moss|
|Roaring Fork Stream|
|A Beautiful Falls along the road|
|Passed this small house just after leaving the park.|
(Now this is living next to the road.)
This was the end of our visit for today. There is a lot to see and do in this park and the surrounding areas and like other National Parks we have visited one day does not due it justice. There are other roads to explore and several short hikes we would like to do in the future. The hope is we have the opportunity to visit this park and enjoy its beauty many more times.
And when you get the choice
to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance
~Lee Ann Womack