Exploring the Smokies
When we weren’t hiking, our friends drove us around so we could explore the Great Smoky Mountains National Park by car.
This is the most-visited national park in the country, and the roads can be pretty crowded. (There were people on the hiking trails, but the trails never felt crowded to me.) Sightings of bears and other wildlife tend to produce bottlenecks with people pulling to the side of the road and getting out of their cars.
Above is a picture of a bunch of
MORONS individuals who have gotten out of their cars (WITH THEIR KIDS!) in order to get close to A VERY LARGE BLACK BEAR. Apparently they have not heard the latest scientific research which indicates that large bears can be hazardous to your health. WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE???
Anyway. In general the roads were lovely, surrounded with the lime green of new leaves and bursts of white from flowering trees, mostly Dogwoods and Mountain Silverbell.
The park was once home to a number of tiny settlements and isolated farms. Some of the buildings have been preserved in varying states of repair.
As we drove to higher elevations, we noticed many slopes full of dead Fraser Fir (Abes fraseri) and Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis). They are victims of the Wooly Adelgid, an insect accidentally imported from Europe. We can only hope that these forests will recover from the devastation. At the lower elevations it didn’t seem as severe.
This photo was taken at Newfound Gap, at an elevation of about 5,000 feet.
Newfound Gap is at the Tennessee-North Carolina state line. The park straddles parts of both states.
Bloom periods in the park vary quite a bit depending on elevation. At Newfound Gap we saw early wildflowers, like these Bluets (Houstonia caerulia).
And Spring Beauties (Claytonia virginica).
We then drove up to Clingman’s Dome, the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at over 6,600 feet. There’s an observation tower you can hike to, but I was pretty much hiked out at that point.
This is the “dome” part.
This high up there was still snow on the ground.
We then started driving back down. On the way, we found this wild turkey.
This area is called Chimney Tops. The mountain contains vertical holes created by the natural erosion of softer rock deposits found at the summit.
After three days in the Smokies, our friends Carol and David brought us to stay at their home on the shore of Watts Bar Lake, about 90 minutes from the park. They moved here after retiring from their jobs in the DC/Baltimore area. David had always dreamed of living on a lake, and here he could keep both a small fishing boat and a pontoon.
We went out on the pontoon a couple of times and I have to say it was extremely relaxing, kind of like taking your living room out on the water. We got to look at the shore (most of which is owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority and so has remained undeveloped) and watch for birds. The highlight was a bald eagle flying by with a fish in its talons.
But mostly we just relaxed on the porch overlooking the lake. In between delicious home-cooked meals, we read, gazed at the water, or watch the bluebirds and hummingbirds at the feeders.
For a number of reasons I don’t think I could ever live in Tennessee, but still it was awfully hard to leave.