Great Smoky Mountains National Park,

Kentucky/North Carolina

June 13, 2003    It was raining in the early morning hours, but let up by the time we were ready to break camp and head out. We arrived at Arrow Creek Campground outside of Gatlinburg, Tennessee after an uneventful and dry drive.

After being in rural and basically uncongested areas, Gatlinburg was a shock to us. We went into town for groceries and a brief tour. This is your basic tourist town with all kinds of “entertainment” like Ripley’s Believe It or Not, haunted houses, and many stores which sell t-shirts, food, and souvenirs. Hotels take up lots of space as well. We came upon the Smoky Mountain Winery and stopped for a sampling. The woman who was pouring the samples explained that Southerners like their food and drink sweet. She rightly predicted that we wouldn’t like their best selling wine, Muscadine, which tasted like syrup. We did buy a few bottles of more normal tasting wine-a chardonnay and a sweet sangria. We walked through a few stores nearby and then headed back to our home.

June 14, 2003    After breakfast, we headed into Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Our first stop was the Sugarland Visitor Center. There were good exhibits on the flora and fauna and different plant communities in the Park. We decided to drive the Newfound Gap Road from the Visitor Center on the Gatlinburg side to the Visitor Center at the other end in Cherokee, NC. Of course, we pulled over at most stops along the way. The first was a “quiet walkway,” the first of many along the road. The sign at the trailhead invited the visitor to take a walk wherever the trail leads as long as desired, to stop along the way and take the sights and sounds; in short, to enjoy the beauty of the forest and stream. We walked a short distance to the stream. It was much like the streamside rest stops in Colorado, water cascading over rocks, sending up spray to cool you off. RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Scenic overlook
Scenic overlook
RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Scenic Overlook RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Quiet walkway RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Quiet walkway
Scenic overlook Quiet walkway
Driving along, we stopped at the overlooks, taking in the view, discovering where the plant communities we had read about were (the brown patches on the mountainsides were the pines which are being attacked by the Southern Pine Beetle), smelling the damp, musty odor of the forest, and watching the clouds move in and give the hills their “smoky” name. RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Asiatic Dayflower along Newfound Gap road RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Scenic view along Newfound Gap road
View from Newfound Gap road
Asiatic Dayflower
We stopped at Newfound Gap, the highest point in the park at over 6000 feet. The Appalachian Trail traverses the Park here.
RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Doug and Ellen on the Appalachian trail at Newfound Gap RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Scenic view from Newfound Gap road RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Scenic view Newfound Gap road
Doug and Ellen on the Appalachian trail Scenic views from Newfound Gap road
We crossed into North Carolina as the road makes its descent. Near the end, we were lured by a sign announcing the Mingus Mill. The old mill gears up for operation in the summer. The original sluice boxes are there, bringing water to the turbine-no water wheel here-- to grind the grain. The volunteer miller told us about an Indian village in the town of Cherokee that explained the Cherokee Indian culture. So that’s where we headed next.
RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Mingus Mill RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Mingus Mill RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Mingus Mill
Mingus Mill
The volunteer miller told us about an Indian village in the town of Cherokee that explained the Cherokee Indian culture. So that’s where we headed next.

The Oconaluftee Indian Village is set up with a series of stops along a trail. Each stop highlighted some aspect of the Cherokee culture as the “guide” explained traditional and modern methods and use of various tools and crafts while others demonstrated. The stops included bead work, woodcarving, blow darts, pottery, finger weaving, and basketry. Then we entered a replica of a Council House and learned about how a typical Cherokee village operated. There were seven clans, a War Chief, a Peace Chief, and Beloved Woman. The Cherokees were a matriarchal society, mostly peaceful and agricultural, believing in one creator and were, therefore, easily converted to Christianity. Our last stop was at the replica dance square where another guide told us about the dances and instruments used. This was an enjoyable and informative presentation. We were surprised that there was no gift shop selling the things we saw demonstrated. On our way out of town we stopped at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian which had wonderful exhibits explaining the
history of the Cherokee people from PaleoIndian times through the relocation to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears and the establishment of the Eastern Band from the 50 families who fled to the mountains rather than leave their ancestral lands. Quite moving and well done. I was unaware that four other tribes where part of the relocation effort of the US government-the Seminole, Chickasaw, Creek and Choctaw. RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Cherokee village, North Carolina RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Ceromonial area, Cherokee village, North Carolina
Cherokee Village

June 15, 2003    It rained a lot overnight, so the morning was lazy. We decided to forego the Park because of the weather and the fact that it was Sunday and that means weekend crowds. We’d discovered that when there’s lots of rain, it doesn’t stop people from doing outdoor activities. They just bring umbrellas! Instead, we toured the Arts and Crafts Community, an 8-mile loop along which there are shops, galleries and studios. We stopped in many along the route, talking with artists, gathering information from the locals and making a purchase or two. What a wonderful way to showcase the local arts and crafts!

June 16, 2003    We woke up to clearing skies, after another night of rain. We headed out early to beat the crowds and inevitable rain. Our destination was Cades Cove. The cove is actually a depression in the land caused by an overlay of sandstone and phyllite thrust into the limestone bedrock and then worn down, leaving a valley. The cove was settled in the early 1800s and was occupied until the 1930s when the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established. The 11 mile loop road through the cove offers amazing views which were covered mist and fog. The area is studded with old buildings, remnants of the hard souls who settled there.
RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Cades Cove RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Cades Cove RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Morning mist at Cades Cove RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Cades Cove
Cades Cove White-tailed deer
RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - White-tailed deer, Cades Cove RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - John Oliver Cabin, Cades Cove RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - John Oliver Cabin, Cades Cove
White-tailed deer John Oliver Cabin
RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Cades Cove RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Elijah Olover homestead, Cades Cove RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Elijah Oliver homestead, Cades Cove
Elijah Oliver homestead
We took a side trip to Abram’s Falls as we made our way around the cove. The 2.5 mile trail follows water most of the way and meanders up and down through a lush forest lined with ferns and shrubs and much greenery. We were treated to the ubiquitous galax and wild bleeding heart. Rhododendron petals carpeted the trail in places. RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Abrams Falls trail, Cades Cove RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Doug on Abrams Falls trail, Cades Cove RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Bleeding Hearts along Abrams Falls trail, Cades Cove
Abrams Falls trail Bleed Hearts
RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Abrams Falls, Cades Cove The falls were wonderful-about 30 feet high and 20 feet wide. They plunge into a pool of water before continuing the cascade down the hillside. We ate lunch there and then headed down as thunder boomed in the distance. RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Abrams Falls, Cades Cove RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Abrams Falls, Cades Cove
Abrams Falls
Half-way down, the rain came down in torrents and by the time we reached the car, we were soaked. The weather curtailed further hiking, but we continued our drive around the cove and were able to capture some photos of the historic buildings.
RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Colonel Hamp Tipton place, Cades Cove RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Colonel Hamp Tipton place, Cades Cove RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Colonel Hamp Tipton place, Cades Cove
Colonel Hamp Tipton place
RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Colonel Hamp Tipton place, Cades Cove RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Colonel Hamp Tipton place, Cades Cove RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Colonel Hamp Tipton place, Cades Cove RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Carter Shields cabin, Cades Cove
Colonel Hamp Tipton place Carter Shields cabin
An exhibit at the Cades Cove Visitor Center helped us to understand why there is so much biologic diversity in the Smokies. The ice age brought many higher latitude species with the advancing ice and when it retreated the species remained. They estimate that there are over 100,000 different species of plants and animals and more are discovered each year!

June 17, 2003    A waterfall day. We went to the northwestern edge of the park to hike to Hen Wallow Falls which was recommended by one of the shop owners we talked with on our arts and crafts tour. The trail was soggy, squishy, mucky, and wet. RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Hen Wallow Falls trail RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Snail on Hen Wallow Falls trail RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Rhodadredron along Hen Wallow Falls trail
Hen Wallow Falls trail Snail on side of the trail Rhodadredron
However, the sun shone through the forest canopy and the trail was a beautiful and undulating. Bordered mostly on one side by the forest edge of greenery from early blooming plants, the other side was a steep drop off down the hillside. RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Along Hen Wallow Falls trail RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Galax along Hen Wallow Falls trail RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Stream along Hen Wallow Falls trail
Galax
The trail ended at a delightful little falls, cascading in two parts over one ledge and then another, right into the rock stream below. We had this beautiful and serene place to ourselves. RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Hen Wallow Falls RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Hen Wallow falls RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Hen Wallow Falls
Hen Wallow Falls
RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Indian Pipe along Hen Wallow Falls trail On our hike down, we discovered the unique Indian Pipe flower. The “pipe” hangs down until fertilized and then stands upright.
Indian Pipe
In the afternoon, we took the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, a one-way road that passes through several forest environments along which are scattered the homes of the families that lived there before the establishment of the park. RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Old settlers' cabin along Roaring Fork nature trail RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Scenic view along Roaring Fork nature trail
Old settlers' cabin along Roaring Fork nature trail Scenic view along Roaring Fork nature trail
RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Scenic along Roaring Fork nature trail RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Old settlers' cabin along Roaring Fork nature trail
Scenic view along Roaring Fork nature trail Old settlers' cabin along Roaring Fork nature trail
At stop 5, we got out to hike to Grotto Falls. It was supposed to be an easy and relatively level hike, but was actually gently uphill all the way. The high humidity didn’t help! The falls, of course, were beautiful - two-tiered. RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Grotto Falls trail along Roaring Fork nature trail RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Grotto Falls trail along Roaring Fork nature trail RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Grotto Falls trail along Roaring Fork nature trail
Grotto Falls trail along Roaring Fork nature trail
RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Grotto Falls along Roaring Fork nature trail RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Grotto Falls along Roaring Fork nature trail RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Grotto Falls along Roaring Fork nature trail
Grotto Falls

June 18, 2003    The forecast was for rain and I couldn’t face another day of wet hiking, so Doug set off early to go to Ramsay Cascade, a hike rated as difficult. While I puttered around the trailer, did laundry and read, Doug covered the 4 miles up in good time, was able to spend time there alone, and came down without getting too wet. Billed as one the most beautiful of the falls, it is also one of the most strenuous hikes. Doug and I were both glad I didn’t go! RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Little Pigeon Creek, Ramsay Cascade trail RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Ramsay Cascade trail
Little Pigeon Creek Ramsay Cascade trail
RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Ramsay Casacade Smokies Rv Trip: Ramsay Cascade, Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Ramsay Cascades RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Ramsay Casacade
Ramsay Casacade

RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Laurel Falls trail June 19, 2003    Despite all the recent rain, we decided to try to get to Clingman’s Dome, the high point of the park, and see what we could see. But the clouds rolled in and out as we drove up and never cleared, so we decided against the ½ mile walk to the top. It did rain briefly down below and then cleared so we went to Laurel Falls. This is a 1 and ½ mile paved trail, very crowded, but lovely all the same. We passed through the hardwood cove forest of poplars, oaks, maples, rhododendrons and mountain laurel. RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Laurel Falls
Laurel Falls trail Laurel Falls
The next stop was Meigs Fall, just off the road. This waterfall is short in stature, but powerful in flow. We walked the nearby trail a short distance, as well. RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Miegs Falls trail
Miegs Falls trail
RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Scenic overlook RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Scenic overlook RV trip photo: Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Scenic overlook
Scenic overlooks

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