The Great Smoky Mountains – And More

It’s January now (and we’re back from our January trip), so here’s the November trip! We drove out to Atlanta to see the folks, and we went on from there to some of the nearby parks.

On the way to Georgia we stopped in Tuscaloosa so Leigh could show me around the places she used to go when she spent a summer semester at Alabama (the university, that is). This is a spot on Lake Nicol where they used to go. We got lost in the dark on the way back to the car…

After spending some time with the parents, we went north. Our first stop was a Georgia state park called Tallulah Gorge. There’s a loop trail that follows the North and South rims – and the suspension bridge betwixt them. It’s a beautiful area, though we were too late for the good north Georgia color.

Tallulah Falls used to be a fashionable resort and honeymoon destination, and sometimes people would name their daughters after it. Those of us who favor old movies will remember the actress Tallulah Bankhead, whose grandparents are said to have honeymooned there! If you haven’t seen Hitchcock’s Lifeboat, check it out!

We did a loop that included both rims and a trip down into the gorge. You start near the Visitors Center on the North Rim and head along a well-trodden trail to the top of the stairs. And then you go down the stairs! And there are a lot of stairs. To get down to the bridge there are (I’m told) 310 steps. I didn’t count. It’s a nice suspension bridge across the gorge (as you can see from the pix below).

After you cross the bridge you have two options – up the other (south) side or down to the river. Naturally, we went down 200+ more stairs! The actual bottom of the gorge is closed, so we stopped at the platform at the bottom of the stairs and enjoyed “Hurricane Falls” (see the pic above – the one that’s not coming from the dam).

Then we climbed up the 500 steps to the top. We turned left instead of right at the top and went to see one of the towers used by Karl Wallenda when he tightrope walked across the gorge (I’ve put a couple of old newspaper photos in the gallery above). That’s the metal structure with Leigh perched on top. The tower on the other side is the one lying on its side amidst the trees, also in the pix.

After that we strolled back along the rim, stopping at several overlooks along the way. A couple of the pix are in the gallery above. The trail takes you up to the road and across the dam (see the pic) back to the North Rim. Then you go through the woods and back to the Visitor’s Center. We kept going along the rim up to Inspiration Point and the Wallenda tower. And then we left.

We drove from there up to Cherokee, North Carolina, where we would be staying while visiting Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We stayed in the Great Smokies Inn about a mile outside the park entrance. It was comfortable, clean and quiet, I’d stay there again! Quiet because there were few other guests. It seems a lot more people were over in Gatlinburg…

Our first trail was…the Appalachian Trail! Okay, a little over 4 miles of it out to Charlie’s Bunion. The AT runs right through the middle of the park and a number of the featured hikes run along various bits. This bit takes you out past Mount Ambler, Mount Kephart, and Masa Knob on the way to the Bunion. Charlie’s, that is. A lot of the trail is through the woods but there are also a number of overlooks just off the trail.

We actually got a bit confused on the trail. We passed a rock outcropping right on the trail that had a beautiful view and we thought, “is that the Bunion?” We knew we weren’t that close to the end of the trail, so we decided it wasn’t. Then we got to the place where the AT goes one way and the Dry Sluice Trail goes another, and we knew we were past it! We turned back and bumped (not literally, mind you!) into a guy who said “I think there’s a side trail up the side of the mountain a little ways back.” So we went back and found what looked like a drainage path up the mountain.

We tried it, following up a not-heavily trafficked trail through re-growing brush and under low branches. It was a bit of a scramble, but at the top we found a large rock outcropping with a great view. We took a rest there, and I did get a shot of Leigh hanging off of a precipice! So we went back the way we came.

Then we drove up to Clingman’s Dome to watch the sunset with 100 or 150 close friends…

After that we took a quick run over to Gatlingburg to see where all the action was. Also to find a Wal-Mart, we were running out of vital supplies (a.k.a. protein bars)! Definitely a lot more people, lights, and traffic on that side of the park.

The next morning, well-stocked, we went for a more difficult trail. “Myrtle Point and Mount LeConte via Alum Cave Trail.” This trail is 13 miles (out & back) and rated “hard” on Alltrails. It’s also pretty popular, we were lucky to get a space in the parking lot! Many were parked along the street.

The trail seems flat at the beginning, following and repeatedly crossing a stream, but you’re really going steadily uphill the whole way! There’s about 3000 feet of climb along six miles of trail out to Myrtle Point. It runs mostly through woods, which is great if you like trees. It was a fun hike and the view from Myrtle Point is fantastic! This gallery has a few shots from along the way:

After we got back to the trailhead, we went back toward Cherokee. As we passed the Visitor’s Center, we noticed a considerable number of elk hanging around in the large field next door. Two of them got into a slow-motion antler-wrestling match – the one with the bigger… rack won. The other walked away.

Then we met up with another 150 or 200 close friends for sunset! Back up to Clingman’s Dome. This time there were a few clouds so we got some nice color – as you can see:

We were a little tired, it didn’t look like a good night for the sky, so we went back to the hotel to prepare for the long trip home.

We had gone east through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia, so we decided to go home through Tennessee and Arkansas. That gave us a chance to visit one historical location and to stop and see Leigh’s brother.

After one last drive through the park we got on the interstate and went to Nashville. 2020 was the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment. We had been listening to Elaine Weiss’s “The Woman’s Hour,” about the events surrounding Tennessee’s ratification of that amendment (quite entertaining, I might add), so we thought we’d stop by where the action was: The Hermitage Hotel, not far from the state capitol. Tennessee was the 36th state to ratify, making the amendment official.

Many of the events described occurred in the lobby, which probably looked much like it does now. A couple of miles away, there is a newly opened monument to women’s suffrage in Centennial Park. The monument features five women who were involved in the final ratification battle in Nashville in 1920: Anne Dallas Dudley of Nashville; J. Frankie Pierce of Nashville; Sue Shelton White of Jackson; Abby Crawford Milton of Chattanooga; and national suffrage leader Carrie Chapman Catt who came to Tennessee to direct the pro-suffrage forces from The Hermitage Hotel. It’ll probably look nicer when they’re done with the construction around it.

And then we came home. And almost immediately began planning our trip down to Big Bend! Pictures and stories coming soon…

One thought on “The Great Smoky Mountains – And More

  1. Such amazing collection of photos, specially the sunset, thanks for sharing 🙂 smoky mountains is kind of funny name no? ahah happy 2021 and greetings from Portugal, PedroL


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