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Category Archives: Great Smoky Mt National Park

Time Travel Smoky Mountain Style

Take a step back in time as you visit some of the areas I will mention here in the article.   It is a great way to experience the Smokies and learn of it’s diverse history, including the people that once lived  worked and vacationed in the area. History abounds here and you are sure to lose yourself daydreaming of an era long gone but not forgotten.

THE WONDERLAND HOTEL once a vibrant tourist attraction which first opened for business in 1912.  The two story structure had 26 guest rooms, carefully designed so that no two were alike, and each sported a private bath a luxury for that day and time.  The area became The Great Smoky National Park in 1934. The hotel remained opened until 1992 among many changes within the park and life itself.  Unfortunately in1995 fire took some of the structure, in 2006 the rest collapsed.  The park collected some items (boards/windows) and the buildings around the hotel were slated for restoration.  Sadly on April 19th, 2016 a fire also took out the annex.  Today what is left of the hotel along with the entire Elkmont District is listed as one of 11 most endangered places by the national Trust for Historic Preservation. The following was taken in Elkmont District.

elkmont

CEMETARIES IN THE GREAT SMOKY MT NATIONAL PARK   A total of more than 151 known cemetaries exist in the national park some date to the 1800’s. 20 cemetaries around Fontana Lake became inaccessible by land with the building of the dam, still accessible by ferry.  A cemetary also exists in the center of Gatlinburg. For more on White Oak Flats Cemetary check out our earlier blog article Hidden in the Heart of Gatlinburg.

HISTORIC BUILDINGS  The Great Smoky National Park has over 90 historic structures, houses, barns, schools, churches, outbuildings and grist mills.  Check out the map and put a few on your list to see when you visit.

grist mill

CIVILIAN CONSERVATION CORPS CAMP Created during the depression to provide work and wages for young unemployed men many of the trails, bridges, campgrounds and buildings still stand today as a testament to their work.  For a brief history on how the park was created and the part the CCC played in helping to build it click here

There are lots of fun things to do and see in the area, I hope you will choose at least one thing off this list and take a few moments to reflect on the history of the area, the people who lived here and the great privilege we have of enjoying such a diverse, historic and beautiful area.

 

 

 

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Good To Know Info

We can’t deny we live in a digital age where information abounds and for most of us, at least here in America, it is literally right at our fingertips thanks to smart phones/mobile devices.

Do any of you remember the days of planning ahead and having the info BEFORE you set out on vacation? Well I am a planner and I like to KNOW if not everything at least a lot of the info before I ever leave my driveway. However I am growing accustomed to this digital age and I will admit I do rely on having the information handy in my hand, readily available and accessible.   I am grateful for websites and Facebook pages that I can save as my favorites and easily access information of all types because one of the most precious commodities we have is time.  With that thought in mind I am writing this blog with the purpose of posting links to informational pages that might come in handy while you are planning your vacation or while you are staying in the Smoky Mt area.

Click on the city name to see a list of services provided, services of all types such as salons, medical, legal, pet, tours etc.

GATLINBURG                                                        PIGEON FORGE

For information relating to national park:  GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK

Weather informaton current and forecasted:  SEVIER COUNTY  (for Gatlinburg use zip code 37738, for Pigeon Forge 37863 in the search box top of the page)

Road Reports:     GREAT SMOKY MT NATIONAL PARK        SEVIER COUNTY

We have other articles here on the blog that are full of information too, like the one titled “FORE” which lists all the golf courses in the area.  Looking for a list of  theaters/shows in the area check out “It’s Show Time!”.  Need to know where the closest horse riding stables are then be sure to see the article “Giddy Up!”  A fan of the water then you need to read “Water, Water, Everywhere”.  Several more of our articles have info you may find interesting/helpful as well.

Vacation planning is great fun and with the use of our informative articles we hope it just got a lot easier too!  Happy planning!

 

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It’s All About Them Bears, ‘Bout Them Bears, ‘Bout Them Bears

Ursus americanus, the American black bear and one of the best known features of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. where the bears live in wild, natural surroundings.

A spectacular looking creature measuring up to 6 ft in length, and standing 3 ft tall at the shoulder. A typical male can weigh in at 250 lbs, females normally weigh in at around 100 lbs, however by fall bears can double in weight getting ready for their long periods of sleep when the cold months of winter set in.  Bears live 12-15 years however when they have access to human foods/garbage they live half that long.   Like humans bears are omnivores, their diet consisting of 85% plant material, the other 15% made up of insects and animal carrion.  Bears have a very keen sense of smell, color vision, they are good swimmers, can run 30 mph and boy can they climb!

Black bears in the Smokies don’t actually hibernate but they do den for long periods of time through the winter.  Mama bears and cubs (usually 1-4) begin emerging from their dens in late March/early April. Cubs remain with their mama for about 18 months until she mates again.  Anytime you are visiting the Smokies please be on the lookout for bears (and other wildlife) which may be in or crossing the road. Pictured here mama and 3 cubs on Roaring Fork Motor Trail.

bears

Most all the travelers that stay at one of our cabins would love to see a bear, many get that opportunity without ever leaving the cabin!  We can’t guarantee a bear siting however we will guarantee that when you do see one you will be in absolute awe of them. One of the best wildlife viewing areas in the Smokies is Cades Cove in Townsend, TN  If you are a wildlife lover you most certainly will want to make a trip here.

The national park website has great do’s and don’ts when it comes to viewing/encountering wildlife.  If you plan to be in the park I highly recommend familiarizing yourself with park regulations regarding the wildlife as well as reading the article on their site devoted to keeping you and the wildlife safe.

The prospect of seeing a black bear in it’s wild, natural surroundings is just another great reason to come to the Smoky Mountains!  When you do we hope you will stay in one of our cabins, enjoy the view and just maybe you will be one of the fortunate ones that sees that spectacular creature known as ursus americanus!

 
 

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Logging…Loving…Leaving…Life The Story Of Elkmont

There has been much controversy concerning the Great Smoky Mountains National Park from the idea of it’s inception.  The area now know as Elkmont within the park is no exception.  The area started as a logging camp around 1901 when Colonel Townsend founded the Little River Railroad and the Little River Lumber Co.

As logging began to make the area more accesible the tourism trade grew. Townsend sold some of the land to outdoor and hunting enthusiast who soon began to build summer cottages. The former logging camps of Elkmont and Tremont were turned into vacation destinations which led to the creation of the Wonderland Hotel and the Appalachian Club.

By the 1920’s many people began to notice how the logging operations had devestated the land and the push for a national park began.  The problem with the national park idea was that the land was owned by private residents and the Little River Lumber Co which did not want to leave.  In 1924 a compromise was worked out with Colonel Townsend to sell 76,500 acres of land but allowed to log it for the next 15 years.  This was only one of many such “deals” that would need working out before the land now knows as the Great Smoky Mountain National Park came to be.

The area now known as Elkmont was purchased in the 1930’s as part of the park deal with the current residents being offered lifetime leases but renewed every 20 years.  The last lease was renewed in 1972  but denied renewal in 1992.  The problem was what to do with the buildings, the park service desired to tear them down and remove them but the past lease holders had other ideas wanting the structures preserved.  Many of the structures were granted a place on the National Register of Historic Places and therefore could not be torn down, more controversy, more compromise.

Elkmont is now an active campground with the abandon residences as a testament to it’s past.  The Wonderland Hotel has already been demolished and 56 other structures are slated for tear down.  Structures in the Daisy Hill section will remain and be restored as a static display to remind visitors of an era and the history that brought about the idea for a national park.  The Appalachian Club has already been restored as has the Spence Cabin and are available for day use for events such as weddings/receptions, family reunions, celebration events and business meetings.

The Smoky Mountain area is rich in history, controversy, bio-diversity and well all things that make up the cylce of life.

 

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Behold the Bugler

Fall is quickly approaching in the Great Smoky Mt National Park and that means lots of wonderful things!  One of the first things that comes to mind is the changing of the leaves which brings out brilliant colors and paints the land in rich hues of yellows, golds, oranges and reds.  Another thing that comes with fall is the mating season of the elk, also known as the rut (September into early Oct).

The elk were reintroduced in 2001-2002 after a 200 year absence in the Smokies.  They are spectacular creatures to behold.  The best places to do so in the park are in the Cataloochee Valley or near the Oconoluftee Visitor Center.  The best times for viewing are early morning or early evening just before sunset.  Fields may be closed during the rut to minimize conflicts between elk and humans.

elk

During the rut the adult male elk (bulls) use a combination of bugling and aggressive behavior in an attempt to dominant over other males.  They use their huge antlers to spar with other males in a show of strength.  The bugling is a very distinct sound beginning as a deep resonant then increases to a high pitched squeal and ends in a succession of grunts.  These bugles can be heard a mile or more away!

To view a video of the elk click here

Seasons of the elk:  Spring (March) the male shed their antlers which are calcium rich and quickly eaten by other rodents and other animals.  It is illegal to remove the antlers from the park so look don’t touch!

Summer is birthing time with most calves being born in June.  The majestic creatures like to roll and wallow in the mud to cover themselves as a deterant to pesty insects.  By August the antlers are full grown and have lost their “velvet”.

Fall is the rut as discussed above and the display of aggresive, dominant behaviour and bugling begins.

Winter, the elk wear a two layer coat in colder months with the longer hairs repelling water and the fuzzy undercoat keeps them warm.

It really is quite a treat to view the elk in their natural habitat.  Be sure to follow all park rules regarding wildlife viewing for your saftey and that of the animals.

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2014 in Great Smoky Mt National Park

 

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Going Bald….(we aren’t talking hair here)

Early in the month of June 2014 my husband and I spent some time at our Gatlinburg cabn, Treetop Treasure.  Normally when we are in town we are cleaning, fixing, restocking, and well just plain ole working.  This trip however we determined we were going to do some touristy things and enjoy what the area has to offer.

I had seen photos of a couple of the balds in the area but had never hiked to them. Bald, meaning in this case a lack of natural or usual covering.  The history of the balds is interesting and possibly even a bit mysterious or controversial. Some say the cause was of a natural origin such as insect infestations, others say the areas were cleared by Cherokee indians or early white settlers.  Whatever their origins they are spectacular spots.  Click here for more history of the balds.

I was anxious to see first hand these beautiful and mysterious places so one fine June morning we set out for Andrew’s Bald. To get to the bald you take the Forney Ridge Trail.  The trailhead is located in the Clingmans Dome parking area, just to the left of the trail that takes you to the Clingmans observation platform.  It is 1.8 mile hike into the bald so roughly 3.6 roundtrip. The hike is a very popular one so be sure to get an early start to beat the crowds if you are hiking it during peak tourist season.

The trail is considered moderate in terms of difficulty. It was recently improved under the Trails Forever program.  The maintenance crews placed large flat rocks, fashioned stairways from wood and other stones, as well as raised boardwalks and installed some drainage features.  The trail is still pretty rugged with tree roots, rocks etc so you will want to wear some good hiking boot/shoes.  The air temperature at these higher elevations can vary greatly from low land temps.  You may find a 20 degree difference (cooler) so dress appropriately.

The trail descends quickly into a spruce-fir forest, a lovely walk where the sunlight filters in through the canopy above.  Plenty of vegetation around creating a carpet of lush green.  We saw several different flowers in bloom along the trail as well.  As you near the end and the light becomes brighter, just a few more steps and you break out into a grassy meadow like area.  This bald is cluttered with blueberry bushes as well as berry vines.  When we first arrived the mountains were obscured by clouds.  We decided to sit awhile and eat the lunch we had packed, rest and take in the grandeur of the bald.  As we sat and refreshed ourselves the clouds begin to lift and the mountains began to appear.

June 2014 182

So on this glorious June day this is the sight that filled our eyes and the wonder of it all still fills our hearts.

Come to the Smoky Mountains and “go bald”.  You won’t be sorry you did.

 
 

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Water, Water Everywhere!

What do you think of when you hear Smoky Mountain National Park, well for one thing you probably think of mountain scenery, hiking, and wildlife viewing and those are all great things to not only think about but do.  Another great resource in and around the area is water and all it offers.

Many of the most popular hikes in the park include a waterfall along the way.  Many of the roads in the park follow the river and there are some beautiful picnic spots along the rivers edge. Another great spot to view the strong rushing water is The Sinks a spot on the Little Pigeon River approximately 12 miles from  Sugarlands Visitor Center.  The views here are of cascades and the currents are very strong. There is a pull off here with a few parking spaces but if the area is full you can still get a good view by driving slowly as you cross over the bridge.

For those looking for swimming holes there are several of those in the park too. Here’s a list:

  • Little River – Townsend, TN. …
  • Deep Creek – Bryson City, NC. …
  • Green Brier – Gatlinburg, TN. …
  • Cherokee Rapids – Cherokee, NC. …
  • Little Pigeon River Banks – Sevierville, TN. …
  • Midnight Hole – NC/TN. …
  • Abrams Falls – Cades Cove, TN. …
  • Metcalf Bottoms – Gatlinburg, TN.

Another great form of recreation on the river is fishing and can be done year round in the park.  Licenses are required and some streams may be off limits so be sure to check with the park system for all rules/regulations regarding fishing in the park.

Not an angler, no worries how about floating away the day on a tube.  Several companies in the area for tube rentals.  Another way to float/ride the river white water rafting of course, check out the different package deals and different trips some include the fast rapids others a more leisurely float down the river.

lake

If you want to spend the day on a lovely lake it is only a short drive from Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge to Dandridge TN and beautiful Douglas Lake.  There you can rent boats of all types, jet skis, sea doos, and waverunners too.  Take a look at our other article Boat Loads of Fun for more area rental companies.

Looking for a great water park, try Dollywood’s Splash Country with 35 acres of waterslides, attractions, pools and play areas.

Another way to cool off, take a wet roll down the hill at The Outdoor Gravity Park in Pigeon Forge.

So rather you desire to get in the water, on the water or just have a great view of the water you will find it all right here in the Smoky Mountains!

Water anyone?

 

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Gobble Up The Sights of Spring

It’s courtship time for the Toms from March to May. So with the coming of spring comes the strutting and gobbling of male turkeys.  It is said the gobbles of Toms can be heard up to a mile away. Often the Toms will display right in the roadway and have no interest in anything but strutting their stuff for the ladies.  Please use caution when driving the roads, be on the lookout for all wildlife and prepare to give them the right away.  Be especially careful on blind curves and be aware other visitors may be stopped for wildlife who will often be found either in the roadway or very close to the edges.

turkey

 
 

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Flower Power

Spring is coming and with the brutally cold temperatures of this winter I know many of us are more than ready for it to be here.

When I think of spring I think flowers, flowers, flowers and The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is full of them.  The park is sometimes referred to as the Wildflower National Park since it is home to over 1,500 kinds of flowering plants.  The earliest to show beginning in February are in a group called ephemeral.  This group of flowers begin to show before the deciduous trees leaf out and include trillium (shown below), violets and lady slipper orchids to name a few.

trillium

Flowering trees soon follow with the flowers of red maples, Fraser magnolias, redbuds and flowering dogwoods.  We can’t forget the lovely blossoms of the flowering shrubs here in the Smoky’s, the brilliant yellow of spicebush and the pink and white of the azaleas and rhododendrons.

Each spring the area hosts a wildflower pilgrimage.  In 2014 the dates for the pilgrimage are April 15-19 and registration is required.  The pilgrimage includes professionally guided walks, seminars and indoor presentations.  If you love flowers or just want to know more about the fauna, ecology and natural history of the area check out the 64th annual wildflower pilgrimage.

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2014 in Great Smoky Mt National Park

 

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The Lost Cove of Cataloochee

Tucked in the remote southeastern corner of the Smokies is is a place of rare and special beauty, what some call the lost cove of Cataloochee.cataloochee

I think of it as the almost forgotten side of the Smokies.  Forgotten may not be entirely true but for sure it is less traveled and less well known than many other areas of the Great Smoky Mt National Park (which means less crowded too!)  It is a bit harder to get to but well worth the effort.  Located approximately 65 miles from Gatlinburg and 39 miles from Pigeon Forge, the easiest and most scenic route is I-40 to Exit 20 (US 276). then look for Cove Creek Rd about .2 of a mile on the right.  The road is paved for 4 miles, gravel for 3 then back to pavement.  The gravel section is narrow with some sharp curves and  can be rough at times.

While Cataloochee seems to be a lost or forgotten area now, not long ago that wasn’t so. It was once the largest settlement in the Smokies with more than 1200 people.  It was an early thoroughfare for travelers through the mountains, used by animals, Indians and European settlers long before automobiles and interstate highways.

People like Mark Hannah, one of the first rangers in the park were instrumental in the preservation of the history and heritage of the people of the Great Smokies. Mr Hannah himself was a descendant of early settlers who came to the valley to farm.  He collected first hand accounts of the mountain people, which are preserved in the park’s archives.  Visit the Palmer House (which housed one of the post offices in the area), the areas visitor center and hear some of the recorded stories of those early settlers.

Besides Palmer House there are other historic buildings you will want to visit like Palmer Chapel,              Beech Grove School, the Woody House, and the Caldwell House.  To see a video of the area see an interview with Hattie Caldwell whose great grandfather was first into the area in 1834 click on this youtube link.    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lbGd8JYl84

Another unique feature of this area are the elk, spectacular creatures that roam free here after being reintroduced to the park in 2001/2002.  Other wildlife commonly seen in the area are black bears, wild turkey, deer and red wolves.  Best viewing times are early morning and early evening.  Be sure to view all wildlife from a distance with binoculars or zoom lenses.

Out of 200 buildings near the turn of the 20th century only a handful remain to give us a glimpse of life as the settlers knew it.  Forest has reclaimed much of the farmland and orchards, the deer and elk graze next to the ruins of a stone chimney in the lost cove of Cataloochee and all is well.

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2013 in Great Smoky Mt National Park

 

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