A trip to the Great Smoky Mountains–A Travelogue
An Introduction: The Great Smoky Mountain National Park in Gatlinburg, TN is 226 miles from Nashville, TN. The Smoky mountain range is a part of the Great Appalachian Trail and is known for her serene beauty and pristine view.
The Great Smoky Mountains are among the oldest mountains ranges in the world. Established as a national park in 1934, the smokies are today one of the greatest attractions in the eastern United states, providing countless opportunities of fun and frolic including camping, rafting, hiking and enjoying the wilderness.
The Smokies boast of nestling a great diversity of biological species in her wilderness. Trees and forest containing mainly Fir, Maple, Silk-tree, Alder and many more create a beauteous environment by jostling together like brethrens. Some 100 species of native trees live in the Smokies, more than in any other North American national park. Over 96 percent of the park is forested and is home to animals like bears, deer and elk. It is said that more than 200 species of birds and 1,600 flowering plant species dwell in the Smokies.
Our Second Trip: We started of early last Saturday, it was our second trip to the Smokies, but we were all enthusiastic. Our group included Indra (my husband), Ted (Indra’s labmate), and me. The usual four hour drive was exciting, as glimpses of pretty fall colors lined the highways.
Tennessee River’s West Fork and surrounded by the National Park on her three sides, Gatlinburg has evolved from a rural hamlet to a thriving community. It is now a place of great attraction for tourists, with shops and restaurants and amusement parks lining the arcade. Attractions and activities include a wondrous flight on the aerial tramway to go karts, museums, Ripley’s believe it or not wax museum to eating in some of the finest seafood and steak restaurants.
Gatlinburg also has all the best hotels of the area, we stayed in Park Vista, the tallest and the prettiest hotel of the area. roads are usually good, but the traffic that day was pretty slow. Indra was our driver, so Ted and I enjoyed the scenery and took a number of fall color pictures. The pretty red hue mingling with the orange an brown evaded a strange versatility to the entire surrounding. After four hours and fifteen minutes we reached Gatlinburg, TN. Nestled in the valley of the Little Pigeon
Fall Color: It is said that when Mother Nature sheds her summer greens and dorns her red, orange and golden shades of fall, it is time to head to the Smokies. We were spellbound and awestruck to see such fascinating fall color in the Smokies. After checking in at the hotel we didn’t waste a lot of time. We took our map and the GPS and headed to encounter the beauty.
My friends from North Carolina, Rimi and Arin joined our party in Gatlinburg, so it was now a perfect group of five enthusiasts. The drive in the National Park could be very demanding, as the roads have sharp turns and are steep and curvy. Indra had the experience before, so we were relieved when he offered to drive the whole way. Being an amateur driver, I never wanted to sit in that responsible seat.
On the way to Clingman’s Dome and Newfound Gap: Our first stop was the Morton Overlook, a spectacular view of high mountains decked in raiment of colorful trees. Rimi said the whole world looked like a garden, and yes it did, with the sunlight blazing and adding vitality to those colorful trees, it was a riot of colors indeed.
The red hue and orange mingling with brown was fascinating. The fall color was best seen from the Newfound gap. A trip over the Newfound Gap Road is often compared to a trip to paradise. A heavenly view greets the travelers at Newfound Gap at an altitude of 5,046 ft. Temperature at the gap may be as low as 10 Degree F. But for us it was a sunny day with clear skies and pretty comfortable temperature.
A number of bubbling travelers lined the road and climbed the top of the gap. From the parking area of the Newfound Gap you can straddle the state line between North Carolina and Tennessee or take a stroll on the Appalachian Trail, a 2,200 mile footpath running from Georgia and Maine. Just South of Newfound Gap, the seven mile Clingman’s Road climbs to the Clingman’s Dome, East. From the large parking area at the end of the road, a ½ mile trail climbs steeply to an observation tower at the “top of old Smoky”.
Sunset from Clingman’s Dome: At the Clingman’s Dome we observed a fascinating sunset. The vermillion sky decked with magical sheaves of cotton clouds turned red and orange. It seemed that the necromancer of Nature was a uttering some magical incantation and turning the firmament so pretty with her delightful shades. It was a spellbinding view and left us all awestruck. I uttered the surya mantra and offered my homage to the power of the great Sol.
The power of the universe is so enthralling and we forget to recognize it often, but at times like these, when you come across the beauty of nature at its best, we genuflect before the all powerful immortal Nature. As a poet, I am concerned for the mot just nearly always, but at that moment, I was so enthralled by the magical spell, that ensnared by the beauty I could think of nothing.
Back to the Hotel: After watching the sunset we decided to head back to the hotel. It was dusk and the roads were pretty dangerous, so we didn’t want to be late. My advise to anybody who would visit the Smoky’s would be to leave the Clingman’s Dome and head to Gatlinburg after sunset, instead of going to Cades Cove or Cherokee in the night, and allow an experienced driver to do the task of driving; the roads being curvy and the altitude so high it requires highest precision to drive those hilly roads, specially in the winter months when the car could skid in the ice.
Gatlinburg: We reached Gatlingburg around Eight, and were pretty tired and hungry. The streets were then bubbling with thousands of people hailing from different places of the US. Gatinlburg reminds me of Simla; it’s just like Simla or Darjeeling, a small town with shops and people bustling and full of energy and fun. Most of the shops sell local goods and souvenirs, T-shirts and other local goods.
Rimi and I wanted to go for shopping first, but then we were too hungry to shop. So, we went into a local seafood restaurant, Indra was apprehensive about it but Ted and Arin (Rimi’s husband) decided to take the chance. It was a traditional well decorated restaurant, the waitress greeted us and we were seated in a jiffy.
Rimi and I wanted to taste their great collection of wine, so we asked for White Zinfandel for our drink. Indra and Ted took red White. The dinner was fabulous, I loved my Shrimp and Clam chowder. When we used to live in Cambridge, MA, we would often head to Quincy Markey, a small market in Cambridge, which has a number of little restaurants serving the greatest seafood on earth, and one of their delicacies is New England clam chowder.
After dinner we went for shop hunting, it was pretty late around 10:30PM but the whole town was simmering with effervescence. People were coming out of the museums and amusement theaters, shops were full of people, selling and buying stuff. Rimi and I got some souvenirs and headed to our hotel.
Park Vista is a famous hotel of Gatlinburg, it is one of the tallest buildings of the area, we were given a comfortable room in the fifteenth floor over looking the mountain. The hotel had a happy hour going on, so we all settled there and spend some time there, talking and playing pool.
You can a stroll through the hotel’s beautifully landscaped gardens surrounding the hotel or relax in an adirondack chair while you enjoy the serenity of a Smoky Mountain. But after the happy hour we needed some sleep so instead of enjoying the tranquility of the Smokies, we decided to curl up in our bed.
The Next Day: The next morning greeted us with a spectacular view of the surrounding mountains. As the morning sun rose, the whole valley rejoiced in colorful splendor. From our room we saw the high mountains surrounding the valley decked with large trees, the fall color looked fascinating and the view was awesome.
Cades Cove: Cades Cove is a broad, verdant valley surrounded by mountains. An 11 miles, one –way loop road circles the cove, the road on the way is captivating itself, allowing visitors a sneak peak at the running mountain streams along the road. Cades cove offer motorists sightseeing at an leisurely pace, it takes at least a couple of hours to enjoy the pristine scenery.
It also offers some of the best opportunities of wildlife viewing. You can also walk some of the area’s trails if you want. But, for us the time was limited, as we had to leave the Smokey’s by 200 PM, and Rimi and Arin had some engagement back home so they had to reach Greensboro, NC by 5oo in the evening; however, we stopped our car frequently along the roads and enjoyed some great and fabulous panorama.
Cherokee Indian Reservation: After enjoying the immaculate nature we headed to Cherokee Indian Reservation. When you come to Cherokee it is natural to feel living a life totally different that your own. As you voyage the roads you would feel traveling through time, space rime and reason.
The Cherokee people have lived in Western North Carolina for over 10,000 years. It is the place when under the pangs of injustice the famous Cherokee Trail of Tears tool place. Many American Indians were killed and forced to move, and the memories of the painful moment still dwell on that small reservation.
The Cherokee men hunted and fished with great developed permanent town with flourishing agriculture, elegant handcrafts, sophisticated politics, religion and tools for war. They had different clans and women were a significant head of the clan. The chief was required to maintain an empire of almost 36,00 people.
Though almost nothing of that great civilization remains, the Cherokee Reservation is a great place to behold. Some Cherokee families still live there; the Oconaluftee Indian Village Tour is a extraordinary one that that would take you back to the Cherokee lifestyle in the 1750
There you would see potters and craftsmen making handicrafts and pottery using same methods and tools as their ancient forefathers. Besides that Cherokee is a natures dream with a plethora of flora and fauna. The beauty of the surrounding will woo your senses and take you to an unknown world of mystery. The potteries and artifacts are found in profusion in the Indian stores along the road, and most of them are spectacular for their beauty and precision.
The Ending: We finished our Cherokee tour and headed back home. We bade Rimi and Arin goodbye, and hit the road. On the way back, we couldn’t but stop at the Blue Ridge Parkway, and enjoy some more fascinating landscapes from an observatory there. I loved to see the small town, with cattle grazing faraway in the heart of the valley.
The 360 degree tour of the Smoky Mountain finally announced its epilogue as we left the mountains and her pristine beauty behind and headed towards the city of Nashville. It was a fascinating tour for me and the thoughts of this idyllic land will forever remain in my mind.
Contributed By: Barnali Saha Banerjee Nashville, TN [email protected]
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