Mile High Campground to Cades Cove Campground, Great Smokies National Park, TN
Tuesday, June 6, 2006 … 63 Camper Miles – Total 1,419
Bright sunshine, high mid 70s … beautiful!
We left Mile High Campground at 8:00 in 42 degree temperatures and got to the end of the Blue Ridge Parkway at 8:24 am. We’d spent seventeen days on the Parkway and really loved it. We’d recommend it to anyone who wants to go slow and enjoy the trip!
The Parkway ends and the Great Smokies National Park begins in the town of Cherokee, and reservation of the Cherokee Tribe. These people are descendants of the few Indians who remained behind when the government forced the tribe to move west to a reservation over the infamous “Trail of Tears”. Generally, the town is regarded as an objectionable tourist strip but, at least this end wasn’t too bad. We had breakfast in a small tribal restaurant and used their wireless access to update e-mail and our finances.
Afterwards, we stopped at the Sugarlands Visitor Center and watched a film on the Great Smokies. It was an excellent introduction to the area. Our plan was to drive across the park and spend a couple of days on the western side of the park. The best part of the drive across the Smokies was the sound of water rushing overrocky river beds as we drove along the creeks. The worst part was that we passed more traffic during that morning’s drive than we saw in our entire 2½ weeks on the Blue Ridge. The Great Smokies is the most visited National Park with about 10,000,000 visitors each year!
We were headed to the Cades Cove area and stopped along the way to hike the Laurel Falls Trail. This is a popular trail to a pretty waterfall. But we’d been advised that, beyond the waterfall, there was a wonderful stand of old-growth forest. As we’d been told, the falls were pretty and there were lots of people. As soon as we passed the falls, though,the crowd was gone. About half a mile later the trees thinned out and got big; we’d entered the old growth forest and it was beautiful … full of huge poplars. We saw a few wildflowers along the way but none that were new to us.
Soon after, we entered and set up at Cades Cove Campground. This is a nice area with reasonable sites. But, even on a weekday, it was mostly full. Our site was nice, though. Several folks admired and inquired about the Aliner. Among them were Richard & Barbara who were heading to PA to ride the Covered Bridge route. We referred them to our friend, bicyclist Bill Hoffman, for detailed guidance. During our discussion, Richard educated us on the differences among balds, slicks, heaths and hells; terms that are used to describe unforested areas in the mountains. Balds are areas covered with grassy growths that you could cut with a lawn mower. Slicks are similar except that they are covered with plants that have shiny leaves, appearing “slick”. Heaths have shrubby growth like laurel and hells are when the growth is very thick, making it hellish difficult to walk through them.
The evening was very pleasant and we finished the day with a delicious ham stir fry.
Cades Cove Campground
Wednesday, June 7, 2006 … 0 Camper Miles – Total 1,419
High 70s, sunny, very pleasant.
Today we wanted to do the eleven-mile Cades Cove Loop road. It is closed to motorized vehicles until 10:00 on Wednesdays so that folks can safely bicycle around it. So, we filled the morning with various chores, heading for the Loop about eleven. We’d been advised that the road was often bumper-to-bumper but that was not the case for us. We stopped at most of the many historic sights on the loop.
Half way around, we hiked to Abrams Falls. It was a nice falls, predictably crowded. While there we found a pool full of little tadpoles. Also there was a young Mennonite couple from Womelsdorf, PA, apparently on their honeymoon. (Speaking of folks from home, our camp site neighbors were from Bird in Hand, PA.)
The evening meal was chicken stir-fry with a sauce of OJ, hot pepper sauce and Italian seasoning. Eat your hearts out!
Cades Cove Campground to Steve & Cindy Serbin’s, Knoxville, TN
Thursday, June 8, 2006 … 48 Camper Miles – Total 1,467
Sunny, muggy, high 80s.
We started the day hiking portions of the School House Gap and Spence Field Trails but were disappointed in not seeing any wild flowers. However, both trails were frequented by horses and on Spence Field Trail found tons of butterflies, mainly congregating on horse droppings! How quaint …
Great Smokies National Park: Impression is that this place is too crowded to really enjoy the way we’d like; certainly not a fault of the place but the result of too much population living close to the area. It is a beautiful place. We think the park would really reward folks willing to back pack into remote areas of which there are many. Few people do that, however. Most prefer to drive around or do very short day hikes. The best trails here are long. If we are to find fault with the way the park is set up, it is that it is difficult to figure out where many of the trails go. There are maps for hiking, for wildflowers, for day hikes, etc. None are very comprehensive since we saw lots of trailheads that did not match any of the trails that were on our several maps. I’m sure there were many other good day hikes that we simply couldn’t identify.
We broke camp at 1:00 and headed to Knoxville to visit friends, Steve & Cindy Serbin, driving the few miles to Knoxville in a littlie more than an hour. In so doing, we drove the first short section of Interstate highway of this trip. We got to the Serbin’s home mid-afternoon and were greeted in the driveway. We set the camper up right in front of the house after saying hello to these friends we hadn’t seen for quite a few years … none of us could remember exactly how long. Steve has a variant of Parkinson’s Disease which is sad and which has made travel difficult for them. We spent the evening catching up and Cindy made a great beef roast for dinner.
Friday, June 9, 2006 … 0 Camper Miles – Total 1,467
Hot, sunny, low 90s.
Cindy was busy preparing a full breakfast with eggs, bacon and trimmings when we came into the house in the morning. We spent a leisurely day doing laundry, e-mail, updating finances, shopping for groceries and visiting. We also admired their considerable art collection including many LeRoy Neiman sports prints. That evening we had Cindy’s grilled boneless chicken breasts that had been marinated in a combination of vinegar, hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Delicious!Kind of like NC barbeque style finishing sauces. Gotta try it!