Saturday, March 31, 2018

Great Smoky Mountains Part 2

I am writing this entry from a small park on a lake about 150 miles east of the Ranch. We are going to stay here for three days. We just don't want this trip to end. We are not looking forward to getting back to the busy "normal" lifestyle that consumes us as soon as we get back to familiar territory. I do have a number of things that need to be done to the rig, so I will focus on that and get ready for the next trip. We are currently thinking about heading to the Great Lakes region in the summer time. For now, I need to stay focused to get the blog of this trip finished.

After two great days to get our visit of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park started, we were excited to see what else we could do. I was thinking fishing!

We started out by heading into Cherokee, NC to visit the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. The Cherokee inhabited much of the SE US before the European people invaded. The tribe was decimated by diseases brought by the invaders. They also brought technology that the Cherokee people had not dreamt of. Over many generations they became fairly integrated into the white man's world. There were many treaties that were made and then broken as the Europeans moved further inland in search of gold and other minerals and land to grow crops. Andrew Jackson worked with a number of Cherokee in his military exploits in the early 19th century. He wrote about being concerned that the Cherokee would ultimately cease to exist like many other tribes. His ultimate solution to the potential elimination was to create land in the far west to allow the 5 civilized tribes of the SE US to survive. The forced movement of these tribes became known as "The Trail of Tears". It is certainly debatable whether now President Andrew Jackson was noble or inhuman.

There were some Cherokee that stayed hidden in the mountains of North Carolina. They were pursued for many years, but ultimately were allowed to stay. They used money that was held by the federal government and purchased what is now the Reservation of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation. In 1946, the tribe established a history and cultural center that later became this museum. We spent about 2 hours going through the exhibits and presentations. It is really quite moving. This all means more to me because I have some of this Cherokee blood in my veins as one of my descendents was a full blood Cherokee woman. I did not take many pictures. I wanted to focus on the content and experience.

We decided to finish off this day with a hike along a creek in the southern end of the NP in an area called Deep Creek. It was a beautiful walk that included three waterfalls and countless smaller cascades down the rocky canyon.

We stopped along the creek to fish and Kim did a bit of reading. It was a magical spot.

We ended up walking about 4 miles and I did not catch any fish, but it was still a very memorable day.

The next day, we decided to go outside the park to a place we had heard about. It is called the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest. Joyce Kilmer is the person that wrote the poem, "Trees". He had never been to this part of the country, but after he was killed in WWI, they decided to dedicate a small section of old growth forest to his memory. The trees in this area do not live as long as the huge trees we have seen out west, but it is still an impressive place. We enjoyed a 2 mile hike up through the grove.

After our hike we drove about a mile to a small campground by a creek. It was completely empty and beautiful. We would love to camp there, but it would be a trick getting our rig in there.

I decided that I needed to go fishing after our meal. I was rewarded for the effort with a nice little Brown Trout. The best part was Kim watched me catch it, so I have a witness.

On the drive back to the campground we were able to capture this beautiful view.

On the last day we were in the area, we took a drive up a place called, "The Road to Nowhere". This is a road that was built to provide access to family cemeteries and other places inside the park that were cut off when The river was dammed and Fontana Lake was formed. After millions of dollars, they stopped the project and decided to just take the families across the lake on boats.

This tunnel is the end of the road
We backtracked about a mile to Noland Creek. It was very steep down to the creek, so Kim stayed with the truck while I went fishing. It was a beautiful creek, but I was unable to coax any fish to join us at the dinner table.

I took a short video that captures the sights and sounds of this beautiful place. 

Here is one final shot of the lake and the view in the Western North Carolina mountains.

We both fell in love with this area. It is one of the few places we have found that we could visit over and over again.

We always wonder what is around the next corner. That is why we have little interest in going to the same place. There is always something new to see. Family is the only thing that brings us back. It was now time to move back to the west and time with family, but before we did, Kim decided we had one more National Park to visit. In the coming entries, we will begin our trip west and north. Yes, north in March. Come back to see how that works out.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Great Smoky Mountain National Park

I am writing this entry on March 28 from the Land Between the Lakes in western Kentucky. We are making the final moves west to Missouri to see the kids and grand kids. We have missed them terribly and are excited to see them soon.

It has been a little over 3 months since we left the ranch in Missouri. During that time we have seen some awesome places and have done some amazing things. When we planned this trip, the centerpiece was to be Great Smoky Mountain NP. The time to visit this awesome place was now upon us and we were very excited. We left our Lake Powhatan Campground near Asheville on March 15 and drove the 60 miles up through the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina. The snow was now mostly gone, so the roads were dry. I noticed many beautiful streams and rivers along the way. I noticed a few people fly fishing and knew then I would have to give that a try.

Many of the campgrounds in this area are closed this time of year. I looked around and found a Passport America park that was very close to Cherokee, NC called Ft. Wilderness RV park. I was not overly impressed when we arrived. It was full of mostly seasonal units, but I was not planning to stay in the park much anyway. The PA rate was $27 per night with FHU. We had good Verizon cell signal and all the networks on OTA TV. As it turned out the place was mostly empty and was very quiet.

We did not waste anytime after we got set up. We needed to do laundry and there was a laundromat in Cherokee, which was only about 2 miles away...or so we thought. It turns out that that one was closed for renovation, but they told us about one in a small town near by called Bryson City. It was a beautiful 10 mile drive along the Tuckasegee river. There were a number of people out fishing and my interest was building. We found the laundromat and we got things started. I went for a walk and found the old courthouse had been converted into the Swain County Heritage museum. It was free and was interesting to check out. It gave me a lot of information about the area and the people behind the desk were great at giving me a few places to go and things to do. Our only problem now was how we were going to fit this all into our 5 day visit. 

We later walked across the street to the Fly fishing museum. That was it. I had to find a fly shop. I got directions to the local shop called the Tuckasegee Fly Shop. The guy there took a bunch of time with me to show me the best places to fish and I, of course, had to buy some of his best flies. It's a win-win. That evening I went on line and was very happy with the North Carolina fishing rules. $32 for a 10 day out of state freshwater license with a trout stamp. I was now ready.

The next day we were up early (for us) and headed up to the Oconaluftee visitor center for the National Park. It is a small visitor center with an outdoor display of local farm buildings and local history. We then started the drive up into this area of the park. We stopped to see beautiful streams and waterfalls along the way.

Kim loves waterfalls

The many vistas were just amazing

The Appalachian Trail runs right through the park. We saw a number of hikers that were on the trail.

This pano shot is cool if you click on it. The views go on forever.
We went to Newfound Gap and enjoyed the views. The elevation is 5046 Feet. We then headed back down the hill and stopped at the old grist mill called Mingus Mill. A guy that was working at the Swain County museum the day before works as a miller during the tourist season at the mill.

We then returned to the visitor center to tour the Mountain Farm Museum and take a walk along the creek.

Kim likes forsythia

We then returned to our home and had an early dinner. After which, Kim settled in with a book, but I had other things on my mind. I asked Kim if she wanted to go to the river, but she gave me that look and said, "Have Fun". I was off like a shot. I went to one of the places that were expertly described to me by the guy in the fly shop. I was more than a little excited as I pulled on my waders and set up my gear. I studied the water carefully as I tried a few drifts with one of the brown "whooly buggers" that were sold to me. I did not see any activity on the top, so I stayed with a sinking pattern. I fished for about an hour of trying different little flows in this wide, rocky river and repeating the famous words of my brother " Fly fishing is not about catching fish".  It was a beautiful spot and the water was crystal clear. Then it happened. The monkey flew off my back and the 0 for this trip ended! This little rainbow took pity on me and made my day.

It was a great first day and a half. We had three more days and we had a bunch more we wanted to do. Come back to see what else we did and see if I could catch anymore fish. It is all about the fish isn't it?

Monday, March 26, 2018

Asheville, North Carolina

I am writing this on Monday, March 26 from Cave City, Kentucky. We are right outside of Mammoth Cave National Park. This was not a planned stop, but when Kim saw how close we were, well you know the drill. Kentucky, here we come. I seem to be falling further and further behind on the blog. This entry happened on March 13 and 14, so about 2 weeks ago.

We were in Clemson, SC and looking at our drive north to the Great Smoky Mountains, when I noticed how steep the drive was going to be. We have not seen many hills on this entire trip. I looked at all of the options and it seemed to not be much further to go through Asheville, NC. Well Asheville is where the Biltmore Estate is. My brother, Brian told me about visiting Biltmore this past year. He and his wife Julie, really enjoyed it. I mentioned it to Kim and the die was cast. We were going to Asheville and now I just needed to find a place to stay. I looked at all of the options and I could not find a good one. Most of the campgrounds were still closed for the season. I found one that was just opening. It is a USFS campground called Lake Powhatan.

We drove from Clemson for a few miles and then hit a large long uphill. The truck did fine and I felt good when we cleared the top at over 3400 feet of elevation. From there it was up and down all the way to Asheville. The total drive was 88 miles.

When we pulled into Lake Powhatan, I instantly loved the place. We had a nice site with great spacing to others sites around us. The rate was $21 with Electric only, but we were just staying 2 nights, so that was fine. They do have the "lakeview" loop that has full hook ups, but you can't see the lake from there, so I don't know why they call it lakeview. We had good cell signal and OTA TV.

It was a beautiful sunny day, so I decided to go for a walk to see the lake. I really expected to see Andy and Opie fishing in this beautiful North Carolina mountain lake.

The forecast called for much colder temps the next day. They even were using the dreaded "S" word. We were shocked to wake up and see 2 inches of snow on the ground and it was still snowing pretty hard.

We had already purchased tour tickets for $50 each at Biltmore, so we got bundled up and headed out. The roads were just wet and we had no issues getting to the gate. I was amazed that the place was full of people. We parked and caught the shuttle up to the house. It does take your breath away when you first see the mansion and grounds.

This picture was taken a little later in the day after some of the snow melted. 
In my opinion, the view out the back of the house is much more impressive than the man made house.
 We had a couple of hours before our tour time, so we walked the garden. It was my favorite part of the day. The grounds were quiet and covered in a fresh blanket of snow.

Daffodils blooming and tulips about ready to pop.

It was nice to get out of the cold and go inside the hot house. The flowers in there were the most impressive variety I have ever seen.

We then went out and walked some more of the grounds. Here a just a few shots of the many I took:

Rose Garden

Kim, with what looked like cotton plants
I was there too.
We grabbed a bite to eat and then went to our tour. The place was packed. It was hard to see each of the rooms over the crowd. You really could not wait until they left because there was another group right behind. I really did not enjoy the tour. It was so over the top that it disgusted me. This was the gilded age, when people lived in classes. It was not too many years passed the time of slavery. Kim, on the other hand really enjoyed it and that is what is important. I only took a few pictures and they did not turn out well.

The library was unbelievable

My favorite thing was the staircase

Everyone needs a bowling alley in the basement
That was a full day. We got back to the campground and got ready to move further up into the amazing North Carolina mountains to Cherokee. This would be our base to see the Great Smokey Mountains NP. I was really looking forward to that part of this trip, but it far exceeded my expectations. I will begin to tell that story in my next entry.