Thursday, July 15, 2010

Great Smoky Mountains

We started our day by driving to the Sugarlands Visitors Center, which is just inside the park. No one complained about watching the 20-minute film about the mountains. The girls said that since this was the first national park and movie, they wouldn't complain. I was thankful.
There is a little museum in the vistiors center with animals, birds, plants, and such of the area. This log that Brooke is standing in front of is a yellow poplar. A family could make an entire cabin from one tree of this size.

We learned the the Smoky Mountains is the home of many different kinds of salamanders. We did see a blue-tail salamander in Caves Cove.

Then we drove to Cades Cove, which is an 11-mile one-way circular drive through an old 19th century Applachian settlement. The picture of the house is the first cabin built in the area. The wood used to build the house is yellow pine. Each log was cut so that the heart of the tree was in the middle. Once it dried, the log was as hard as iron or cement.
We could walk upstairs, but at the top of the stairs was this huge spider which was at least 2 1/2 inches long. Therefore, I didn't see the upstairs of this log cabin!
As we drove we saw turkeys and deer. At one stop we saw so many butterflies that we thought that maybe they had just hatched.

After driving the loop, we stopped for a picnic lunch by the river. After we ate the kids waded in the river. Some sort of water snake was right by the river where the girls first started to go into the river, so they moved down to enter from another spot!

We were hot and tired, so we decided to go back to the hotel to relax and swim. After resting for a while, we drove to Clingman's Dome, which is the highest peak in the Smoky Mountains, and the third highest peak east of the Mississippi.

From Pigeon Forge to the top of Clingman's Dome the temperature dropped from 84 degrees to 62 degrees. The walk to the top was up a paved path that was half a mile long and, as Blair said, about as steep as our driveway.
There were benches along the way for people to rest. Clouds somewhat blocked the view to the west but we had a good view to the east into North Carolina.

At the top of the mountain, there was a big parking lot, which you could walk around and see great views. Then there is a tower you walk to the top of from a curved ramp. It was a nice view, but the day was hazy, so the mountains seem to live up to their name.

On the way back to the hotel we drove through Gatlinburg, which reminded us all of the town of Niagra Falls, Canada. Both in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge there are a variety of ways to separate tourists from their money.


  1. Wow, I'd totally forgotten that tower! I just got a memory blast. That was my favorite childhood vacation. We went to some town nearby that had a bas relief sculpture of Jesus with eyes that followed you around...

  2. Sounds like this was very similar to our experience...were the fireflies out? We had a bear sighting while there (not us personally, just near our campsite). We climbed the tower too - the trees are so eerie! I remember that walk. My kids adored the Biltmore, but I don't think it was quite as pricey 4 years ago. Maybe the rich people are suffering as well??? I totally agree about Gatlinburg...tacky, tacky, tacky.