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Tag Archives: Great Smoky Mountains

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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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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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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Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg

artsandcrafts

Arts and crafts have long held a deep association with the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Nowhere else in the South will you find a richer heritage of fine craftsmanship than in Gatlinburg. TheGreat Smoky Arts and Crafts Community, established in 1937, is the largest group of independent artisans in North America. Located on an eight-mile loop at the northeast corner of Gatlinburg, the Community proudly preserves the craft heritage of the Great Smoky Mountains year-round. This area offers the best in a wide range of craft shops, including pottery, woodcarving, candle making, quilting, weaving, broom making, and painting, among many other fine art forms. 
Gatlinburg is also home to the world-renowned Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. Founded in 1945, Arrowmont offers summer and spring workshops and an array of special conferences for all levels of students in craft-art media. The art galleries at Arrowmont are open for tours of select collections throughout the year.

The Great Smoky Mountains share center stage with the Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair during the month of October. From October 10 through 27, 2013, the award-winning Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair opens the doors of the Gatlinburg Convention Center to the public with the 38th Annual Fall Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair, one of the many amazing fall festivals in Tennessee. Numerous artisans and craftspeople are on-hand each day to demonstrate their skills, answer questions, and offer their unique art for sale. Third-generation artisans and storekeepers strive to match the beauty of the autumn mountains by carrying the same colors into often elaborate storefront decorations, thus turning their little mountain town into a promenade of Southern Appalachian sights.

Taken from http://www.gatlinburg.com

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2013 in Attractions, Events, Gatlinburg

 

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Let’s Go Shopping!

Whether you are shopping for yourself, for that special someone, to complete your holiday list or maybe just find that unique conversation piece, you can find it all right here in the Smoky Mt Area.  Here are some links to help plan your outing.

http://www.tangeroutlet.com/sevierville/

http://www.mypigeonforge.com/things-to-do/shopping/

http://shopsofpigeonforge.com/

http://www.pigeonforgefactoryoutlet.com/

http://www.waldenslanding.com/stores.html

http://www.gatlinburg.com/things-to-do/shopping/default.aspx

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2013 in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge

 

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Elk in the Smoky Mountains

Elk once roamed the southern Appalachian mountains and elsewhere in the eastern United States. They were eliminated from the region by over-hunting and loss of habitat. The last elk in North Carolina was believed to have been killed in the late 1700s. In Tennessee, the last elk was killed in the mid-1800s. By 1900, the population of elk in North America dropped to the point that hunting groups and other conservation organizations became concerned the species was headed for extinction.

A primary mission of the National Park Service is to preserve native plants and animals on lands it manages. In cases where native species have been eliminated from park lands, the National Park Service may choose to reintroduce them. Reintroduction of elk into Great Smoky Mountains National Park began in 2001 when 25 elk were brought from the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area along the Tennessee-Kentucky border. In 2002, the park imported another 27 animals.

Viewing Elk

The best times to view elk are usually early morning and late evening. Elk may also be active on cloudy summer days and before or after storms. Enjoy elk at a distance, using binoculars or a spotting scope for close-up views. Approaching wildlife too closely causes them to expend crucial energy unnecessarily and can result in real harm. If you approach an animal so closely that it stops feeding, changes direction of travel, or otherwise alters its behavior, you are too close!  The park has strict regulations against approaching wildlife or causing them any distress, fines and even arrest could result.  Remember these are wild creatures and can prove to be very dangerous epecially if they are protecting young, if they are spooked or provoked.

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Most of the elk are located in the Cataloochee area in the southeastern section of the park. The easiest way to reach Cataloochee is from Interstate highway I-40. Exit I-40 at North Carolina exit #20. After 0.2 mile, turn right onto Cove Creek Road and follow signs 11 miles into Cataloochee valley. Allow at least 45 minutes to reach the valley once you exit I-40.

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2013 in Great Smoky Mt National Park

 

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