Gatlinburg Travel Blog› entry 12 of 59 › view all entries
We spent a lovely day in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. What a beautiful place. It is so green and lush, with tall hemlock trees and gurgling creeks. The park is known for its black bears, but we were not lucky enough to see one.
We started our day with a drive back through Pigeon Forge. It was even uglier today than yesterday. I wanted to take a photograph of all the tourist “attractions” and the incredible number of pancake houses. My gosh! Is that all they eat around here? After a stop at a grocery store to pick up some picnic delights, we returned on the same road we drove yesterday to the community of Townsend.
We went on into the national park to visit the area known as Cades Cove. We enjoyed our picnic at the main picnic area, then went on the loop drive through the cove, a local name for a valley. It is so beautiful and bucolic. In the distance we saw a flock of wild turkeys. They seemed to be larger than those I have seen in California. There were horses grazing in one of the fields and it was absolutely wonderful.
Cades Cove was first settled by Europeans in 1821. I do not remember whether I read that the Cherokee Nation only visited the cove or whether they may have had a permanent settlement. At its peak, Cades Cove had a population of 800 people. The last of the settlers was gone by the mid-1940’s. Their farm buildings are still standing, for the most part. They have, apparently, been stabilized • not reconstructed.
The drive around Cades Cove was wonderful. The road takes you from open areas with great views of the ancient Smoky Mountains to deep forests with so many shades of green as to be like faceted emeralds. Although there are many animals living in the area, we were lucky enough to only see one white-tailed deer and her fawn. We were walking to the John Oliver Place and there they were. We stopped so as to not disturb them. They finally crossed the pathway.
The return drive to Gatlinburg took us along the old Little River Road, along its namesake waterway. It reminded Jag and me of the gorge of the Merced River along Highway 140 leading into Yosemite National Park from Merced. The gorge is much deeper and wider, but the Little River is equally beautiful. There are dark granite cliffs in many places, although not as high as in Yosemite.
The Smoky Mountains are very obviously older than, say, the Sierras in California.
Dinner tonight was okay. We went to an Italian restaurant that also serves Greek food. There was a beautiful photo mural on one wall of the island of Santorini in the Aegean Sea. It made me wish to be there, but this was as close as I will get for a long time. The food was good, but not great. The service, however, was good. Our waiter made a mistake with my dinner request, but he was so nice I did not correct him. The restaurant, here in Gatlinburg, is called Guaroni’s. It is far from the garish downtown, which made it especially nice.
We leave tomorrow morning for Asheville to attend Jeff and Meg’s wedding. That will be a lot of fun. We’ll keep our fingers crossed for good weather. We lucked out today: it was supposed to rain, but we had a sunny (and humid) day.