Saturday, April 24, 2010


Friday we drove back to the national park, this time to the northeast end, to Cataloochee Valley. We learned that the elk that were re-introduced to the park are often seen here in the early morning and at the end of the afternoon. We don't get up as early as elk do, so we opted for day's end, packed a picnic dinner, and headed out. Getting there is the adventurous part, as the road to get there leaves one valley floor, climbs up and over a ridgeline and back down into Cataloochee. At the point where it starts to get really steep it also turns to a 1.5 lane gravel track carved into the hillside.
They ain't kidding: All the turns were blind, and the surface was often washboard. There was no shoulder , no guardrail, and the drop to the next loop of road often hundreds of feet. Nancy was terrified. I put the truck in 4WD to keep the rear end from hopping around too much, and tried to keep it under 15mph.
Click to enlarge and look closely and you can see the roof of a house on the next loop of road down from here. I took video of this too, but the file is too large to upload. It was fun and exciting for me, and traumatic for Nancy. Anyway, we arrived safely on the valley floor, and were rewarded almost immediately by seeing several elk grazing by the road...

...and by the brook...

...which I fished in and, OMG, I caught a native brook trout!!! Can you believe how HUGE my hand is?

Then we parked in an elky looking place and had our picnic dinner:

Sure enough, a herd of 23 elk paraded out of the woods nearby and moseyed along in front of us as the late afternoon sun turned the valley to gold:

It was a great afternoon, very satisfying, and all that was left to do was drive the same unbelievable road back up and out of the valley, which I again enjoyed completely. Nancy pumped her imaginary brake 'till the floor was dented, hung onto the Oh Sh*t handles for dear life, left fingernail marks in the dashboard, and required an extra shot in her gin and tonic when we got back home to Mama Gertie's!


  1. Your story is hair raising but so interesting. it reminded me of some roads in Peru that I never want to see anymore! I understand you Nancy! I loved the last photo and think it could be a painting.

  2. I know those roads in Peru, so I can relate also