Friday, April 23, 2010

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Yesterday we drove to the National Park, about 1.5 hours from here, which included a piece of the famous Blue Ridge Parkway. A great road with stunning overlooks on both sides, lots of places to pull over for a rest, a view, a picnic, or to let your engine or brakes cool off! The tunnels on the section that we drove are semi-cylindrical affairs, with clearances along the centerline of 18 or 19 feet, but at the road's edge, as little as 10'6"! We won't be bringing the Whale down this stretch of road, with its air vents up at 12'6"! We stopped at the visitor's center to pick up some advice and some maps, then continued on up the road to look for a place to have our lunch. I took many, many photos of spectacular vistas, rushing streams, and tumbling waterfalls. (So far this month, after culling, I've kept almost 300 pics, and a week more to go.) So, here is a sampling from another great day:

At lower elevations spring is well along, and the blooming dogwoods dot the landscape. The smoky haze that colors the more distant hills give the park its name:

We lunched at one of higher overlooks. Many of the trees have yet to leaf out at this elevation:

Newfound Gap is the hightest spot on the road, and very crowded with tourists. The Appalachian Trail crosses there as well, so many day and through-hikers were there. We spoke to a father and son, the latter just back from Iraq, and whose desert boots didn't fare so well on the AT. The blister on his heel was an inch across. They were awaiting a ride home. Also, there's Bike Rally this weekend in the town of Cherokee back down the mountain, so there were Harley's galore rumbling around up there. We headed back down to find a quieter place to get a hike in.

The Kephart Prong Trail did the trick, following a beautiful stream up the valley. We followed it for a while before turning back. No dogs allowed on most NPS trails, so we wanted to get back down to the visitors center to walk again on one on which they are allowed.

This bridge is just a log with a handrail:

At the visitor's center is a historical mountain farm, where we walked dogs and got this nice picture of a bluebird:

1 comment:

  1. headed to hillsville 4/30. was going to go sooner but severe weather headed that way. west to east. u should be getting it sa/su. jake