Day 10 – Great Smoky Mountain National Park

We plan for an 8.30 hotel leave for the Smoky Mountains. So we struggle out of bed at 9.00 for breakfast…

We try to grab lunch early but get stuck in road works. It looks like they are rebuilding the whole town. Cherokee is an indian reservations so maybe that explains the 20 storey casino hotel that fits in the small town as well as Bugs Bunny fits in Disney.

We pull into the Great Smoky Mountains visitor’s centre – always a good place to start – and pick up a map (and national parks passport). The park rangers are always friendly and helpful as now and we quickly plan out our day (we also get a map of the Blue Ridge Rice and a few tips for the tomorrow) We get our passport stamped and head out.

e head back up to the position we got to last night – apparently at around 1500 meters. It’s a beautiful sunny clear day and we can see for miles across tree topped mountain after mountain. They live up to their name as the smoke makes them become less and less defined towards the horizon. You can detect a slight blue tinge to the smoke which apparently is actually pollution from the surrounding area.

By car we climb higher up a winding road that spirals up to the highest point on the park. The carpark is position below the submit but still has great views. However, only a fool would stop at this level so we take the trail up to the top.

It’s only a 0.5 mile trek up but it’s a steep trek, through obviously thinner air in the high heat (although definately cooler than lower altitudes). It’s hard going but well worth it when you reach the top. Here, amongst the trees, you are greated by a concrete tower with a spiral ramp that lifts you up above the treeline for spectacular 360 degree views.

On a perfectly clear day you can see around 150 miles, but todays misty day we can see about 40+ miles, around the usual for this time of the years pollution levels. Towards the north Tenessee lays out 2000 meters below us. Some distant towns are visible Northward but in all other directions are mountainous forest, no sign of civilisation as far as the eye can see. Spectacular.

We had back down – get another stamp – and eat our picnic in front of the great view. It’s almost the start of autumn and many of the trees’ leaves have started to change colour – it must look even more spectacular mid Fall.

We drive back down and then into Tenessee along the main park road, just to see what’s there. We pass over many stream bridges and through a couple of tunnels and then pull over next to Little Pigeon River. It’s a slow moving stream over boulders washed down from high above. Looks like the floods here are powerful judging by the size of some of the rocks. We take a few photos and head back on route to, we are told, one of the best waterfall around. Now we can say we’ve been in state of Tenessee too.

We stop briefly for a quick walk amongst the trees then make it to Mingo Falls. A short climb up the hundred or so steps the waterfall meets us. The water cascades down a cliff wall about 20 meters high, we take photos then leave to have a quick look around a farm museum. It’s ok.

Few hours rest in the hotel and nip out to a near stakehouse. Stake good. Now sleep.

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