Great Smoky Mountains National Park

We couldn't have asked for a more beautiful day of weather for our first day in the national park. I visited here when I was a child, but it was Mike's first time. We're staying at a KOA just a few miles from the park entrance, and so it was a quick trip to Oconoaluftee Visitor Center. Because of a deal worked out when the land was acquired by the states of North Carolina and Tennessee, the park is free to visit. It is also the most visited park in the entire national park system.

We stopped off at the visitor center just briefly and picked up a few pamphlets about hiking in the park and we asked a few questions. Behind the visitor center was the last stop (technically) along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

We could see it off in the distance while we were parking.

It so happens this was the one last thing we wanted to see along the Blue Ridge Parkway, and so we spent some time walking around there.

This is the house, which is a thing of beauty, especially when you consider the care that went into building it by Mr. Davis and his two young sons.

There were five children altogether, and the three youngest were born in the house. Here's a picture of the family.

Walking around to the back of the house, it looks like this.

Peering in the windows, we could see this. Amazing that the organ is still there.

Behind the house and about 100 yards away was the privy...I knew you'd want to see this.

I'm sorry to have to inform you that it was just a one-holer. The park service had helpfully installed plastic behind the door...keeping people from using it, I guess. As if.

Turning back around, the structure in the foreground is the meathouse.

This was the hen house.

Inside, it looked like this.

This large structure was a barn.

We couldn't believe our good fortune with the weather. It's been so gloomy and rainy for the past couple of weeks.

Of course, we had to take a selfie. Mike found a nice jacket he liked inside the visitor center.

The most important thing to notice in our selfie is the headband I picked up in the visitor center. Of course, I needed that. It's not a sock monkey, but close enough.

Alongside the farm was a beautiful, clean river...the family's water source. Our shadow selves liked it here.

From there, we drove on to Mingus Mill. Recall that Mabry Mill was powered by a water wheel. Mingus Mill was powered by a turbine, and it was ahead of its time technologically.

The light wasn't very good for pictures here, but this is how it looks as you approach.

Here's some information about how it operated. (Remember that you can make the images larger by clicking on them.)

This is the accompanying diagram.

Walking up the hill, you can see the flume that carries water to the mill.

Turning back, it looks like this.

Under the main structure, one could see the turbine. I had to poke my camera through the slats for this.

Even the lowest windows were over my head for picture-taking, but I was not deterred. In the front door below, you can see a lock about 3/4 of the way up the door frame. Just below that was a hole.

So I poked the lens of the camera through the hole, and the camera saw this.

The Resident Retired Engineer (RRE) loves all this stuff. We especially liked this section of the informational pamphlet we picked up at the visitor center:

"As you walk back down the race and past the mill, consider the significance of Mingus Mill [and, indeed, any mill] to the community it served. Customers grew their own grain, took it to the mill to be ground to their particular taste, and returned home to enjoy a favored recipe for cornbread or biscuits. Not only did they know the miller personally, they usually passed the time of day with friends who were waiting their turn. During this sociable process, perhaps a pocket knife was swapped for a watch, or some horses traded. Maybe half a day was consumed at the mill, but doesn't it sound like more fun than snatching a plastic bag of bread off the grocery store shelf?"

From there we drove on. We were driving Newfound Gap Road from east to west through the park. Along the way we stopped off at a few of the lookouts. Great Smoky Mountains is all about the layers of mountain ridges.

Most of the leaves have fallen from the trees now, and especially as we crested the ridge, there were almost no leaves left. Still, it was a lovely drive.

We were headed toward Clingmans Dome. At 6,644 feet, it's the highest point in the park.

There, we parked and got out, and walked the trail to the observation tower built by the CCC and completed in 1959. The information we'd picked up at the visitor center told us the observation tower was closed for repair. When we arrived, we spoke with a park ranger who told us it had just recently reopened. It was just a half mile, but very steep, and at that elevation, we stopped and rested several times. Our lungs were crying out for more oxygen.

Near the top, the Appalachian Trail crosses the path.

Around the next bend, merciful heavens! There it is! (Puff, puff, pant, pant.) It was somewhat cruel, however, because we still had to walk the ramp that wound around the pedestal.

It was well worth it for the views. The tower sits almost directly on the state line with Tennessee. Looking in this direction, you are looking into North Carolina.

Looking the other way, one can see Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

A sign showed us the state line.

It crosses over that little gap in the trees.

Here's a little information about the Appalachian Trail along with the accompanying diagram.

We stayed only a little while there and then made the trek back down the hill. You can see the parking lot in the image below.

It was much easier going down hill.

From there, we looked for the sign along Newfound Gap Road indicating we'd passed into the state of Tennessee. We didn't see it however. From there, the road takes the most interesting turn as we passed through this tunnel.

It makes a full circle turn here where the tunnel passes under the same road above. You can get a better idea what I'm talking about looking at the screen of our navigation unit.

We were very hungry after our hike to the observation tower (and it was 2:00 p.m., after all). We headed down into the town of Gatlinburg for some lunch. There, I checked my quilt shop app and discovered a quilt shop just four miles away. Of course, we had to visit. I'll tell you about that in a separate post. After visiting Gatlinburg, we headed back through the park the way we came and headed for our RV home. Along the way, we stopped off at Newfound Gap overlook and there, we saw the sign for the state line.

Here is the view from the overlook.

As we neared the RV park, we noticed a flock of wild turkeys on the side of the road.

They're pretty brave given how close it is to Thanksgiving.

Also, a herd of elk.

And take a look at this magnificent bull.

That image is going into my sketchbook. My one word for this One Word Wonder: "Majestic."

Some of his ladies were very close to the side of the road, and there were some calves in the mix as well. He's obviously been busy. We noticed that a few of them were tagged, and this lady is wearing a collar.

And that was our first day in the Great Smoky Mountains. Today we're hoping to get off early and make the same drive on Newfound Gap Road to the Sugarlands Visitor Center. There, we'll head south to the Cades Cove Loop and visit a preserved farm community. I'll say more about that in my next post.


DeeDee said...

Oh I love it! I can't wait to hear more about your adventures here. Cades Cove is so cool. I think you'll really enjoy it.

Anonymous said...

You are such a clever photographer! Every so often you get an indoor photo through a hole in the door. You are truly a fine photo-journalist. Keep up the good work. :-) It was so lonesome in the morning when you were "out of range".

Lynette said...

I wouldn't mind having a meat house, but I gotta say I ***LOVE*** modern bathrooms!!

Cheryl's Teapots2Quilting said...

Hey, I've used several privy's over the years, from one holers to multi holers. At least the one's I've used all had toilet seats, and were still in working order. Hubby's uncle didn't have indoor plumbing for years, until his lady friend told him that she wouldn't visit anymore unless he had indoor plumbing. He then build a whole new room, with a full bath (largest claw foot tub I've ever seen). I took my mother to visit him, while I was pregnant with my 2nd child. He only had the outhouse while I was pregnant with the first (we only stayed one night that time).

Linda M @ Pieceful Kingdom said...

I hope you have fun at Cades Cove. The loop can be congested, but it keeps on moving. It is beautiful there, though I don't know what impact last year's fires had on it. The weather is supposed to be great again today and most of tomorrow.

Lana said...

You are such a great tour guide. Love all the varied photos and interesting info. And your new headband is so cute! As always, thanks for sharing.

QuiltShopGal said...

I've had the Smokey Mountains on my bucket list for years, but you have now solidified why. Stunning park. Larger than I realized. Definitely worth visiting for several days, if not a week. Have fun and I hope the good weather continues.


Vroomans' Quilts said...

What a wonderful tour today! Your photos are amazing and thank you for sharing.

Quilting Babcia said...

I don't think there is a season that park wouldn't be magnificent. Now I need to go back someday.

Shari said...

Smokey Mountain National Park is just lovely. I've lived in Georgia my whole life and never knew there were elk in the southern part of the US.

Judy1522 said...

Smokey Mountain National Park is so beautiful. That is going on my list of places to visit. My son asked me a couple of months ago if I knew which National Park was the most visited in the U.S. I was surprised when he told me it was Smokey Mountain and now I see why. You would probably be fighting the crowds if you had gone earlier.

WoolenSails said...

Love seeing the area, definitely a place to visit and explore, so many interesting places and the views are gorgeous.


Brown Family said...

Beautiful country! That Elk if magnificent!

piecefulwendy said...

So good to hear from you once again! My coffee tasted much, much better today. Of course, that may be because I added extra beans to my grind :-) It was a celebratory coffee, mind. Those views from that observation point were beautiful. Hope the quilt shop is a keeper!

QuiltGranma said...

did you notice that the hinges on the outhouse are made of horse shoes? Have you seen the silent film, The General? There is one spot in the movie where the rail road goes under an over pass of the same train route. I wonder if it was filmed there, if the black top road bed had once been a rail road bed? Fun movie, set on historical happenings, in the Civil War.

Kate said...

You've been to some very interesting places this trip. I imagine that the crowds are a lot smaller this time of year. I bet the traffic is pretty bad during the summer and peak vacation season. Thanks for sharing all the photos and info.

Unknown said...

Another post of fabulous photos!!
Thanks so much for your huffing & puffing to get to the scenic overlook. We all appreciate your hard work!