Great Smoky Mountains

It was winter, so I didn’t know what to expect. Most National Parks are visited at almost any other time of the year but winter, but as I make my way down from Ohio, I find that it is the perfect time for me. I needed a little alone time and was thankful not to be fighting crowds and traffic; I was virtually the only person in the park. Another bonus was that I wasn’t bedeviled by a single bug (SCORE!).

As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Great Smoky Mountains has more species of trees than is found in all of Europe! It is also huge, it took me nearly a full day to drive through.  I spent hours driving on windy roads that would take me to breathtaking sights. Thank God for GPS or I would have gotten lost, because despite the fact that there weren’t many roads to take. a wrong turn would have taken me hours away from my destination.

An Overlook in the Park

An Overlook in the Park

 

At one point a thick fog rolled in, as I drove through the park wondering what I was missing, I came to an overlook. I stopped to get my bearings and to decide if it was worth staying in the park. I had already taken a ton of great pictures, but as I stood stretching my legs and contemplating my next move a small break in the fog appeared and revealed the above sight. I couldn’t believe what was right in front of my nose, and just as quickly as the fog disappeared to show me this, it rolled back in to cover it up.

Border Patrol

Border Patrol

 

 

 

So I wasn’t entirely honest with you, I got the teeniest bit lost. I wasn’t planning to cross into North Carolina and despite the fact that that I clearly saw the sign, I ended up at the Cherokee Indian Reservation in North Carolina. Well how did that happen. I would have taken some pics while there, but NO ONE was on the street and the shops were closed. Either they had the sense to stay home in the cold or I just was in the touristy part, which being the middle of winter was understandably closed. Either way, I didn’t see a single Native American.

I wanted to do some hiking, but three things were stopping me: (1) Bears – I think that they hibernate in winter, but felt it would be my luck to run across one grouchy to be awake 2 months early. I am also pretty certain that it could outrun me and can climb trees, so no escape! (2) The park was very, very empty, so if I got lost I would definitely be all alone. It just sounds like the beginning to a bad horror movie and I preferred not to be the first African American to die. (3) It was cold!!! And I was a pansy and stayed in my nice warm car, but look what I saw…

105

096

111

Windy Road

Windy Road

 It wasn’t very green, but I personally think that there is something magical about the bare branched beauty. What do you think?

111

 133

194

 

Mingus Mill built in 1886 is a grist mill that was and is used to produce cornmeal. At one point everyone ate cornmeal on a daily basis so this was booking business.

Mingus Mill
built in 1886 is a grist mill that was and is used to produce cornmeal. At one point everyone ate cornmeal on a daily basis so this was booming business.

I had one very Offbeat America moment. There is a city right up against the Great Smokies called Pigeon Forge. It is a city dedicated to everything touristy. There were restaurants shaped like the titanic, Dolly Parton themed hotels, and even an upside down magic shop. Everything had a theme and the seemingly more outrageous the better. I stopped for just one picture, but if I was planning to stay in the area for a few days I would have spent at least a little bit of time sightseeing…

Wonderworks Magic Shop in Pidgeon Forge

Wonderworks Magic Shop in Pidgeon Forge

 

Of course I didn’t leave Tennessee without a few souvenirs.

20140215-074115.jpg

I got a quilt which felt appropriate to the lifestyle of the Great Smokies, but I also got a few license plates, I have a goal of getting a license plate for every state that I visit while on my journey. I bought a few to be ahead of the curve.