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 > Great Smoky Mountains National Park - MAR 2010

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GoinThisAway

middle TN

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Posted: 03/25/10 09:02pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

A few weeks ago my boss asked for a volunteer to do a site visit in Hendersonville NC. I offered to go and the meeting was scheduled for the 16th. Since the main route to Hendersonville on I-40 is currently closed due to a rock slide at the TN-NC state line, I decided to take the camper and drive through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Rain moved into middle Tennessee by the end of the week and I set out on Sunday in a light drizzle. My original destination was Elkmont CG in the Park but I settled for a commercial CG in Townsend TN due to the rain. For those who don’t like the hustle and crowds of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, this town which calls itself “the quiet side of the Smokies” is a good way to enter the Park.

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While the pitter patter of rain on the roof was a pleasant sound to lull me to sleep, I was pleased to awake to quiet in the morning. The rain ended overnight and the forecast was for skies to begin clearing later in the day. I took Hwy 321 (oops! Make that Hwy 73 - Little River Rd) which follows the Little River up into the Park. The previous day’s rain had the river up a bit and waterfalls flowing.

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The Smokies did indeed appear to be smoking.

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I stopped at the Sugarlands Visitor Center to check road conditions.

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The ranger reported that Hwy 441 over the mountains was open but could be closed at any time due to icy conditions so I quickly got back on the road. I wondered if I would see much on this trip as low clouds limited my view to a ¼ mile or less.

[image]

Then I started to see snow. I looked at the thermometer ... 34 degrees. The snow got thicker and soon was plopping down out of the trees onto my windshield in big wet blobs. I pulled off at the Chimney Tops trailhead and took a short walk.

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However with wet snow plopping down on my head and no hope of being able to enjoy the view of the Chimney Tops rocks I soon headed back to the truck and on up the road. The temperature dropped below freezing and the snow thickened as I continued to climb. This road has a kink in it!

[image]

Looks like the rain that made my drive up on Sunday a washout was just setting the stage for a beautiful drive up here in the mountains.

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This gnarled old tree has probably survived many such heavy wet snows.

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It appears that a number of folks have driven up to enjoy the sights and an occasional snowball fight.

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Hey, I finally found a place where my white camper blends into the surroundings!

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The air was full of ice crystals at times, creating these ghostly images. I call them ice crystals, not snow, as they made tiny tinkling noises as they fell on me.

[image]

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I passed by the road’s high point, Newfound Gap, as the parking lot was chock full of cars and people. I elected instead to stop for lunch at an overlook a little ways down the other side of the mountains. I had the place to myself and leisurely read the story about how the mountains seen from this overlook were denuded by logging many years ago.

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Hey! Someone stole the mountains!

[image]

After lunch I continued down the east side of the mountains, watching sadly as the temperature rose and the snow slowly disappeared.

[image]

After leaving the snow behind, I finally started to see some blue sky and pulled into the Kanati Forks trailhead parking area which I again had all to myself.

[image]

A short distance down the trail I left the noise of traffic on Hwy 441 behind and entered a quiet forest of tall trees and shrubby rhododendron. While I might make plans to come back in June when the latter is covered in showy pink blossoms, I know that I’ll do so in a more out of the way corner of the mountains to avoid the huge crowds that’ll descend on the GSMNP at that time.

[image]

And as you are probably starting to figure out, I always manage to find some sort of “flower” to photograph on my trips [emoticon] Here it is what looks like the fruit of some underground fungus.

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Just before leaving the Park I stop to see the restored Mingus Mill. I am surprised to find out that the mill is run not with a waterwheel but with a water powered turbine.

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Water to power the mill is diverted from the creek above the mill and routed downhill in a man-made channel.

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Just upstream of the mill the water enters an elevated wooden raceway.

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Right next to the mill the water drops down a vertical wooden shaft to power the turbine.

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A friendly volunteer explained how wheat was carried up to the second floor by a grain elevator where a machine separated out the chaff.

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The cleaned wheat then dropped down to the second floor where it was ground between the round mill stones. (The wooden box is the grain elevator.)

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The ground wheat then went back up to the second floor where it was sieved through a series of increasingly finer cloths, producing various grades of flour. It then dropped back to the second floor where it was bagged. (See the two wooden chutes to the left of the grain elevator in the second photo above.)

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This mill was operated year round to service the many small farms back in the area’s heyday. Now the Park Service operates it during the summer and visitors can purchase the resulting stone ground flour.

[image]

On the way out from the mill, I couldn’t help but snap a photo of the beautiful stonework done for this restroom. It makes this modern facility look something like an old home that may have stood in the area at one time. Too bad they didn’t include a chimney or two that would really have added to this illusion.

[image]

Sadly, my day in Great Smoky Mountains National Park was over and I had to return to the modern world where a new casino and hotel complex is being constructed in Cherokee NC.

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I really didn’t expect to see anything notable enough to post about on this short trip but I got lucky and was in the right place at the right time [emoticon]

* This post was last edited 03/26/10 10:55am by GoinThisAway *   View edit history


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bedrocker

lompoc ca

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Posted: 03/25/10 09:17pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Nice Thank You [emoticon]

sleepy

Oak Ridge,Tennessee

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Posted: 03/25/10 09:37pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Fantastic trip report... you made it look easy... after all of the rock slides in the area this year and US 441 being closed so often due to ice and snow.

Thanks for sharing the pictures and I enjoyed the lessons too.

sleepy


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seldomseensmith

Flagstaff, AZ

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Posted: 03/25/10 10:52pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Quote:

watching sadly as the temperature rose and the snow slowly disappeared.


You know, we all see things our own way, but I'm pretty sure that would NOT have been my reaction.... [emoticon]

Except for the snow (beastly stuff) I really enjoyed your outing. Thanks for sharing.


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silversand

Montreal

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Posted: 03/26/10 06:26am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Wow, Man! Outstanding story, history and superbly photographed, too !!

I doubt that anyone (or very, very few!) would have ever done what you did at this time of the year with any camper, to bring us such a rare opportunity to experience the Smokies at winter's end.

Thank you,
Silver-


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Harleybullet

Holbrook, NY

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Posted: 03/26/10 07:22am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Good Job Dave

kohldad

Goose Creek, SC

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Posted: 03/26/10 08:11am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Glad to see the change in plans caused by me not meeting up with you left you with a wonderful winter land to drive through. Great photos.

By the way, Linda says she's not sure she wants to travel with you, you only seem to be finding snow and cold temps lately. [emoticon]


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cewillis

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Posted: 03/26/10 09:11am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Great trip report. (also helpful for my upcoming trip)


Cal


Roadlover

Petoskey, MI

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Posted: 03/26/10 10:35am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Thanks so much for the travel log. My wife and I honey mooned there back in June of 1982 and have gone back there several times since but not for about 20 years. It brought some great memories and a renewed desire to get back there. Really do appreciate you sharing your adventure with us.

Thanks


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weymard

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Posted: 03/26/10 10:53am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Very interesting report, thanks .


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