A Travellerspoint blog

Waterfalls and Ziplining

Hello, and welcome back to my Smoky Mountain travel blog. I’m back from my trip and excited to tell you about the second half of my adventure.

After recuperating from my backcountry hike, I made my way to the heart of Great Smoky Mountain National Park via its main thoroughfare: the Newfound Gap Road. The 31 mile road winds its way between the southern entrance at Oconaluftee and the northern entrance at Sugarlands. Along the way there are many scenic overlooks, day hikes, and historic buildings. I took the time visit Oconaluftee and learn a little about the settler and farm history of the region. This history also included a stop at the Mingus Mill, an important place for the settlers where they could grind their corn and wheat.


Mingus Mill

I continued north along the Newfound Gap road without making many stops because of my tired legs. I skipped the road to Clingman’s Dome because I had already visited it while hiking, but I did stop for the majestic views at the Newfound Gap overlook. The gap and overlook represents the lowest point of elevation through the Smoky Mountains and the spot where early pioneers passed through.

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A road cutting through the forest, and shadows dot the landscape from Newfound Gap

From that point, I continued out the northern entrance of the park to the Tennessee town of Gatlinburg. The tourist city is a fun and festive family destination with funny themed restaurants, candy stores and gift shops on every block, and neat activities like mini golf and Ripley’s Believe it or Not. I stopped for lunch at a pizza place called The Mellow Mushroom, but didn’t stay in town for more than an hour or two.

When I headed back to the park I turned west onto the Fighting Creek Gap road to Cades Cove. This long and winding offshoot of the main thoroughfare includes numerous day hikes, picnic areas, and turn outs for tubers, swimmers, and fisherman looking to enjoy the fast flowing mountain streams. I drove all the way to the end of the road that features the Cades Cove loop drive. Cades Cove is at the foot of the mountains and is known as an excellent area to spot wildlife or to visit some of the old settler farms. I didn’t spot any wildlife, but I did stop for a day hike at Abrams Falls. It was an easy 2.5 mile out and back that had many swimmers and hikers up and down the trail. The falls itself was powerful and vibrant and provided a nice place to relax and take photos.


Day hikers pose at Abrams Falls

After camping at the Cades Cove Campground, I drove back out of the park and re-entered through Gatlinburg at the Cherokee Orchard Road. This was because, for my last day in the park, I decided to do a 12-mile loop hike that featured Rainbow Falls. The hike included a six-mile uphill climb through a previously burned area of forest. Then, on the way down, I passed the falls along with many day hikers who appeared quite unprepared for the uphill climb to the falls. I finished my hike by about 3:30pm and was quite tired. Rather than camp another night, I decided to book a hotel room in Gatlinburg where I enjoyed a shower and some rest.


Rainbow Falls and hiking through the fog.

But, the following morning before driving back to Roanoke, I took a zip-lining tour. The zip-lining excursion was located just north of the Smokies in Sevierville, Tennessee. Two humorous and well-trained guides took me and about ten others to the top of the nearby mountains and then sent us zipping, one-by-one, down a series of wires strung out across the mountains. As we hurtled through the air reaching speeds of close to 60 mph we had tremendous views of the Smokies to the south and the Cumberland Gap to the north. Basically, it was green and hilly as far as the eyes could see…and hurtling through the air was somewhat thrilling, too.

When I finally returned to my sister’s house in Roanoke, the air conditioning had been repaired (thank goodness!) and we enjoyed an evening of game playing and ice cream. Now I’m back home having had a wonderful trip and ready to get back to my daily routine. And, with so much more to see, I may someday soon be returning the Great Smoky Mountains.

Ice Cream with the family!

Gatlinburg from above

The view from Cades Cove


It's all Green!

Posted by TravelAmbition 16:38 Comments (0)

Rain or Shine

rain 25 °C
View Great Smoky Mountains National Park on TravelAmbition's travel map.

It's been a week since my first post and a lot has happened!

I spent three days in Roanoke with my sister, brother-in-law, niece, and two nephews. We did so many things that I couldn't possibly remember them all, but here are the highlights. We played one epic game of Phase 10 that lasted all three days, we watched some stellar Disney+ movies like Togo and The Big Green, we had a picnic at a reservoir called Carvin's Cove, we battled through the heat to play a nine-hole frisbee golf match, and we enjoyed S'mores with Reese's Peanut Cups. Yum, right! All together I had a wonderful time with my family, even if the air conditioning was broken.

After leaving my sister's house in Roanoke, I drove southwest along the Blue Ridge Parkway. For those unfamiliar, the Blue Ridge Parkway is a 469 mile road and National Park connecting Shenandoah National Park with Great Smoky Mountain National Park. It is a remarkable drive with amazing overlooks and enchanting hikes about every ten to thirty miles. I stopped at several overlooks and made the three mile loop hike to see Crabtree Falls. I wanted to stop and see more, but I met several thunderstorms and the curvy, up and down road had me keep my speed to a minimum.

On Thursday night I stayed at Deep Creek Campground and Tube Center just north of Bryson City, North Carolina, and just south of Great Smoky Mountain National Park. It is a very, very nice campground with cabins, playgrounds, tube rentals and a petting zoo! I got up early on Friday and drove a few miles north and parked at the Deep Creek Trailhead. With my hiking gear on and my bag packed tight, I headed into the backcountry taking a circuitous 16 mile route to my first campsite at Mill Creek. The hike started out well enough, but I was hit with heavy rain at about 11am until about 3:30pm.

My second day of hiking was lot like the first. It started out nice enough, but I couldn't escape looming thunder that spoke of rain. The downpour started about 1pm and continued until near 4pm. Thankfully, I was well equipped with rain gear and didn't mind getting my boots wet. But, I learned quickly that even when the sun does shine in Great Smoky Mountain, the light rarely reaches the trail. The forest is dense and the canopy is thick and the sunshine is filtered at best. Trees and rocks are covered with moss and trails often turn to creeks in a moments notice. Because of the dense foliage, there are few opportunities to dry off and views of the vast landscape are rare and often obstructed.

The third day (Sunday) however, made up for any pitfalls from the first two. I started out at 5:17am from my shelter at Silers Bald using my headlamp to illuminate the trail while admiring the city lights in the distance and the brilliant shine of the cosmos above. By 8am I reached Climgman's Dome, the highest peak in Tennessee. On top of the peak is a tower that tourists climb to see above the trees and into the glorious green and white landscape of trees, hills, and clouds. It was amazing to turn in every direction and see mountains poke out through the clouds like islands in the sea. And, it was remarkable to witness the fog move speedily up, over, and down, any hills that stood the way.

After Clingman's Dome I hiked the Noland Divide Trail all the way back to the Deep Creek Trailhead where I arrived at about 3pm. I admit to some blisters and fatigue, but it was well worth it. Now, I sit in a wonderful yet rustic cabin at the Deep Creek Campground and Tube Center. Tomorrow, I think I'll stay in my car.

For a brief description of the photos, click on "more photos..." in the right hand column.


Posted by TravelAmbition 16:41 Archived in USA Comments (0)

The Great Smoky Mountains!

Hello, and welcome to my summer 2020 travel blog.

This summer my mom and I had planned a return trip to Norway, but because of the global pandemic those plans were canceled. Instead, I’ll be traveling to Roanoke, Virginia, to visit my sister and her family, and from there I will drive southwest to Great Smoky Mountain National Park. And though travel of any kind remains risky, I’ve got my mask handy and plan to adhere to all advised and mandated guidelines. Plus, I'll be spending a lot of time in the wilderness.

My trip begins on Sunday, July 19, with a flight to Roanoke. I will spend three days with my sister, brother-in-law, niece, and two nephews. On Thursday, July 23, I will follow the Blue Ridge Parkway to Great Smoky Mountain National Park where I will remain through July 29. It will be a short trip, but I am really looking forward to heading into the backcountry and experiencing the solitude and beauty of the southern Appalachians.

I was surprised to learn that Great Smoky Mountain National Park is the most visited U.S. National Park...and it’s not even close! In 2019, Smoky Mountain National Park had 12.5 million visitors while the next most visited park was the Grand Canyon with 5.97 million. Wow! Hopefully, that’s not the case this year.

The park straddles the North Carolina-Tennessee border with almost equal amounts of land in each state. It’s a huge wilderness area with 522,427 acres of land. It includes thousands of miles of streams and rivers, 800 miles of hiking trails—71 of which are part of the Appalachian Trail—and boasts of 16 mountains over 6,000 feet. The park was established in 1934 when the states of North Carolina and Tennessee transferred 300,000 acres of land to the federal government. After that, the Civilian Conservation Corps went to work building the trails, roads, and facilities, and in 1940, President Franklin Roosevelt formally dedicated the park for the “permanent enjoyment of the people.”

It should also be remembered that until the 1830s, when President Andrew Jackson issued the Indian Removal Act, the beautiful landscape that encompasses Great Smoky Mountain National Park was home to any number of indigenous groups. In particular, the Cherokee lived throughout the mountainous region until they were forcibly removed in what became known as The Cherokee Trail of Tears. A small number of Cherokee stayed behind, hiding out in the mountains, and later re-established an area called the Qualla Boundary. Today, the Cherokee hold a reservation at the southern boundary of the park. The city, known as Cherokee, is the seat of the Eastern Band of Cherokee people.

Wish me happy and safe travels on my trip! I will use this blog to post pictures and updates when I can.


Posted by TravelAmbition 07:59 Archived in USA Tagged park mountain national great smoky Comments (0)

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