Thursday, November 1, 2012

Betty in the National Parks II: Part Eight

Wow! I can't believe what an epic trip Betty AnoninTX had this summer. This is the next to last installment:

The PRT and I finally made it to our last major stop:  Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  The park is on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina.  It was not our first visit here, and I hope it was not our last.  The Smoky Mountains are so beautiful.  I truly love this park.  Making the trip to the Smokies with us were Deborah and Gerard (Stars through the Mist).  Smokies…Mist…yes, I know.  It was a stretch.

By this time in the vacation we were feeling a bit worn out, so we didn’t do as much hiking as we normally would do.  We drove the roads, stopped at the lookouts to admire the stunning views, and breathed in the mountain air.  The Newfound Gap drive is a really nice one.  On the drives, we took the time to do some of the quiet walkways.  At certain pullouts, not the major viewpoints, there are signs about quiet walkways.  These are short hikes that let us leave the road behind and walk out to beautiful spots.  The hikes are usually just a quarter mile or so, and I love them.  Most people just ignore these little walks.  We did do one fun little hike:  Clingmans Dome.  Clingmans Dome is the highest peak in the park.  A STEEP half mile hike from the visitor center leads to the observation tower.  On a good clear day the view stretches 100 miles.  The day we walked up?  Fog rolled in, so we had a really nice view of the inside of a cloud.  We hung around for at least thirty minutes, but the fog stayed.  I still enjoyed it.
One of my very favorite places in the park is the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.  The trail is right outside Gatlinburg, TN, which is where we stayed.  It’s a six-mile-long, one-way loop drive.  The Roaring Fork is the stream that runs beside of the road.  West Texans really appreciate water, and we stopped multiple times so I could just sit by the water and listen to it.  There are cabins and other historic buildings on this loop.  Of course I had to stop at each one.  In other words, it took quite a while for us to drive six miles!  A fun thing happened when we first started the drive:  a bear jam.  There were eight black bears feeding by the road, and about ten vehicles had pulled over to watch the bears.  Near the end of the drive is Place of a Thousand Drips, a beautiful little waterfall.  I had to stay there quite a while too.
Many people come to the Smokies to see the beautiful fall foliage.  We were about two weeks too early.  If the sun hit the trees just right, some color was starting to appear, especially on the drive to Clingmans Dome.  A few had changed already, and I posed Deborah and Gerard with an obliging tree.

We really enjoyed watching the bears, deer, and wild turkeys.

One more installment to come…