Friday, April 13, 2012

Days 9-10: Great Smoky Mountains Nat'l Park

This was our first visit to a national park east of the Mississippi, where national parks are few and far between.  By the time Teddy Roosevelt and Congress set aside the first one, there were already cities and a lot of people in the Eastern US, so not much space for a huge park.

 But conservationists persevered and, in 1934, the Great Smoky Mountains Nat'l Park was established.  The park was officially dedicated by FDR on September 2, 1940.
"For the permanent enjoyment of the people"

 It's the only national park that used to be private land before public land.  After the government ran off the Cherokees, resulting in the "Trail of Tears" to Oklahoma, the land was opened to pioneers.  In the early 1800's, settlers moved to "Cades Cove," a small, fertile area within what is now the park. Over 100 years later, the states of Tennessee and North Carolina (with an additional 5 million dollars from John D. Rockefeller) bought most of the land now in the park and gave it to the federal government for park use.  Most land owners sold and moved, but a few took less money and were able to stay on their land until they died.  Some of the old homes, mills, and barns have been renovated and kept as a historic area.  

 Each cabin is only 2-3 rooms with an attic.  The parents and girls slept on the bottom floor and any sons slept in the attic.  The sons got the best end of that deal, in my opinion.  Of course, they didn't get a fireplace...

About 125 families lived in Cades Cove at the height of that area's population.  And they had 3 churches, 2 Baptist and a Methodist.  Each one a little different.  They all ended up closing during the Civil War because either the preachers left or politics got in the way.  They all eventually re-opened.  And then closed again as people sold their land.

 This Methodist church has an entrance for men and another for women so that they sat seperately in the pews.  Supposedly this congregation didn't enforce this rule and the building has two doors because the plans were borrowed.

 Cantilevered barn, pretty cool.

 This was the biggest house in the Cove. (The cool cantilever barn is on this property)

 Smoky Mountain Nat'l Park is THE most visited park in the country, with 6 million visitors each year.  We were there in the middle of the week in the middle of April, and this is what the Visitor's Center looked like.  Lots o' folks.

 The Park straddles North Carolina and Tennessee.

On the states' borders is Newfound Gap, where FDR spoke, officially opening the park.  This was on the eve of the US entering WWII, and he stressed the idea that all men should be free.

 Newfound Gap is also where we ran into Will and little Will!  Remember them?  Well, this'll be the third time we've seen them. Crazy! Hopefully, we'll see them again in Shenandoah!
We're all freezing in this photo, by the way, because we've just gone up about 4000feet in elevation and it was windy and cold!

 Down the road a bit from Newfound Gap is the highest point in the park (and in the state of Tennessee), Clingmans Dome on Mount Collins, at 6643 ft. It's a half-mile walk, straight up, to the lookout.

 It's also the highest point of the Appalachian Trail.  Look!  We made it to the AT!  

 We were very lucky to be at Clingmans Dome on a relatively clear day, even with the clouds.  Most days, the pollution completely obscures this view.

 The campgrounds were deserted.  I don't know where all those people from the Vistor's Center were staying.

 This little creek was right by our campsite.  

We walked the short nature trail before dinner.  Cool log bridges cross the creek.  A reminder of the power the lumber companies wielded in this area.  They owned 85% of the land before the park was established and had almost decimated the forests.   This area was completely logged, the growth you see is relatively new, just under 100 years old. 

 Annnnnd....another Baptist Church. 

Wheeeeee, thanks Smoky Mountains!!

Up Next: LeTigre Goes Hooooooome!!!

1 comment:

  1. a deserted camp ground hmm maybe less suspicious then a campground with one other camper. Did you ever have cause for alarm or fear of being robbed? you had a dog that was a very good idea.