"ALL WHO WANDER
ARE NOT LOST"
In another day, it will be safe to say that I have seen about as much of the Smoky Mountains and its oddities as I could. The weather has been fine mostly, cool in the valleys and thus very cold on the mountains.
As I had thought when the trip started, I learned a great deal more about the area by staying out of the National Park than I did when I came many years ago and spent so much time in it. The Park is nearly surrounded by National Forest land which offers a less commercialized, more rural and beautiful view of the mountains. I left the Greeneville in northeast Tennessee for a place called Tellico Falls at the suggestion of one of my neighbors at my last stop. I ended up in the most lovely and peaceful campground in the Cherokee National Forest. The sites have just been rebuilt and are not of the sort one expects in such places with “rustic” writ large at the entrance. They were wide a level, all electrified and at the edge of a lake where boats are allowed only to use electric trolling motors. There are a series of these grounds in Cherokee and I could have spent two weeks in one or all of them, but we moved on to the Park via the North Carolina side after staying a few nights “off the grid” up high enough to find 30 degree temperatures in the mornings.
Smoky Mountain National Park is much as I remember it. Those who care for it do it well. Those who visit it are the both the obnoxious people I remember from the last time, wandering the streets of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg with their cell phones in their ears and a lot on their mind that has little to do with the natural beauty of the place as well as the serious ones who come to see the nature. I found them today up at Cades Cove, hiking and walking, biking and driving with respect for others and enjoying the extraordinary views and the wildlife. It is still a wondrous place and my favorite drive in the park. There is an eleven mile loop of one way traffic that circles the old buildings of the last town to allow itself to be made a part of the Park. It has a wonderful history that runs all the way back to the Cherokee Chief Kade for whom the place was named. It is worth reading if you have time. It is far too complicated and long to try to replicate here. I remember I wrote about it on my first trip and even I lost track of who lived there, for how long and why they did.
The Park has been “done” now and tomorrow we will movie on up the Blue Ridge Parkway. The journey has some plan, which is to move north and west and then east again. We will go up on Roan Mountain in Tennessee in the far northeast corner of that state and then back into North Carolina and then on into Virginia’s more western area before joining the Shenandoah Valley in the march north and east. The Parkway will be the main route of travel, but the weather may affect that as will some interesting things further from it I hope to see. I have travelled it north and south before and while lovely, it is often, in it’s beyond rural setting, almost too unpopulated even for an isolationist such as me. It is likely why the Appalachian Trail travels with it some of the way down here.
The pictures with this post do not do the place justice, but they show how it looks on a given Saturday, what drew my eye and my imagination. There are many more but I will bore you only with these.
This is still a pristine place, for all the tawdry commercialism that surrounds it. This may be my last look at it, and that will be fine. There are new places to see and “hollers” and valleys to explore. Soon, I suspect, I will even reach a part of the country where the accent is lighter and I will understand what someone says the first time.
So it goes. Stay well, and be nice to each other.