In the Great Smoky Mountains
We take off early to reach the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. On the way we stop at Sevierville and Pigeon Forge, hometown of Dolly Parton. The 72 yo singer built a theme park in the area called Dollywood. Her statue in Sevierville is in front of the courthouse. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw a row of female inmates chained together going in the courthouse, they were wearing the old gray and black uniform. Anyway, we’re not fan of the “Jolene” singer so we skip Dollywood and go to the park.
Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited of the country, and I think there’s two reasons to that. One is that there isn’t much national parks on the East, this is the only big mountainous one. The second reason is that the park is made for scenic drives. And it’s not new to us, each park has its scenic loops and it’s all made for you to just walk 50 meters max from your car.
The last national park we’ve done was Big Bend back in Texas and I was really looking forward to the quiet of the nature after all the cities we’ve done. What a fail. We arrive in heavy traffic: it’s Easter holiday, Spring break for some, and Wildflower Pilgrimage for others. Campgrounds are full and everyone is tailgating everyone.
On day 1 we do two driving loops: Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and Cades Cove. Both display a lot of cabins from the time when farmers were living in the area (they’ve been kicked out when the park was created in the 30s). We get to do a small 2.8 miles walk to the Grotto falls with a million other people. The campgrounds being full we have to drive 30 miles out of the park to a Walmart for the night.
On day 2 we climb with Sully at 1500 meters high to Newfound Gap where we cross the Appalachian trail. Then at 2000 meters high we walk a short but steep 800 meters to the summit of Clingmans Dome. A 91 yo man is putting all the fat ones to shame when he reaches the top for his birthday. We find a spot at Smokemont campground. From our campsite we hike to another waterfall. There’s horse riders on the way, and the good thing about horse poop is that it attracts butterflies!
On day 3 we see four more waterfalls. We visit Mingus Mill, the park is maintaining it for visitors to see. We also visit the National Cherokee museum to learn about the tribe’s history. When the land was still a British colony, the Indians of the Appalachian area benefited from King George’s protection who prohibited whites to settle there. But the conditions changed with the American revolution. Americans wanted more land and in the late 1830s the US army removed the Indians from their homes and forced them to go West, to Oklahoma. The Cherokees were one of the several tribes who had to take a painful journey of more than a thousand miles through the arsh winter of 1838. The Cherokees lost at least 4000 people on the way, the Creeks and the Seminoles lost half of their population, the Choctaws lost 15%… The path they took is referred to as “the trail of tears”.