Trip Journal Mar. 2014: Smoky Mountains Nat’l Park and Cherokee, NC

Here I go again! This is the first in a series of travel journals for our recent driving trip to South Carolina and Georgia. On March 22, 2014 Dale (my husband) and I left our home near Chicago and drove as far as Knoxville, TN. Although we didn’t have much time, as we were meeting our daughter in Charleston, SC the next day, we were able to at least drive through Smoky Mountains National Park, a place I would love to return to someday (in better weather)!

 

We got up fairly early and went to breakfast at our hotel, The Clarion Hotel in Knoxville. Both of us decided to make waffles in the waffle maker, a common fixture in hotel breakfast rooms. The coffee wasn’t too good, so we found a Starbucks for our coffee fix shortly after hitting the road!
Knoxville is located just north of the Smoky Mountains National Park, which I very much wanted to at least drive through. The weather was terrible – cold and rainy, and I thought we could bypass the park and go through it on our way home. However, Dale vetoed that idea and we drove through it anyway.
As we approached the park, we went through little towns with garish billboards advertising various attractions, including country music venues. Dolly Parton’s musical venue is in one of these towns. The town which borders the park, in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, is Gatlinburg, TN, known for the country music festivals held there. We didn’t drive through it – we bypassed it – but once we entered the park, we saw it nestled in the valley below the peaks, at an overlook near the visitor center.

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Sign at look-out point, showing Mount Le Conte, with the town of Gatlinburg in the valley below. (Downloaded from Google search). Compare with the view I took on a foggy, rainy day.
Sign at look-out point, showing Mount Le Conte, with the town of Gatlinburg in the valley below.  Compare with the view I took on a foggy, rainy day.
Look out point near Sugarlands Visitor Center
Look out point near Sugarlands Visitor Center
Solar panels!  Sugarlands Visitor Center
Solar panels! Sugarlands Visitor Center
Some people just can't resist...
Some people just can’t resist…

The weather was what it was… It was actually kind of cool – there was a lot of fog and I took many pictures as we drove, showing stark black, leafless trees which looked ghostly against the foggy background. Occasionally we could catch a glimpse through the trees of the Little Pigeon River as we drove through the park along the main road, the Newfound Gap Road.

Trees of early spring (the colors of early flowering makes it look like late fall!). Little Pigeon River is below, Mount Le Conte hidden in clouds above. The river is barely visible through the trees on the right.
Trees of early spring (the colors of early flowering makes it look like late fall!). Little Pigeon River is below, Mount Le Conte hidden in clouds above. The river is barely visible through the trees on the right.
West Prong Little Pigeon River can be seen through the trees.
West Prong Little Pigeon River can be seen through the trees.
View through windshield on the road.
View through windshield on the road.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????DSCN8350I could tell by the way my ears were plugging up and I held my breath to pop them, that we were going up in elevation. The highest point we reached was at Newfound Gap, at 5,046 feet, on the border between Tennessee and North Carolina.

Newfound Gap: state line
Newfound Gap: state line – another new state that I visit!

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Diversity of life in the Smokies. I found it interesting that more than 30 salamander species live here!
Diversity of life in the Smokies. I found it interesting that more than 30 salamander species live here!

DSCN8361 Newfound Gap is also a stop along the Appalachian Trail, which I insisted we walk on a little way!

Dale at the Appalachian Trail marker
Dale at the Appalachian Trail marker

???????????????????????????????????????????????????DSCN8366After that, we began to gradually descend. The road conditions were somewhat treacherous – windy mountain roads, slick with the rain and sometimes fog so thick we could barely see a few feet in front of us! ??????????????????????????????????????????????DSCN8369Even so, we saw some beautiful views. At the next scenic viewing place we stopped after Newfound Gap, the fog was showing signs of lifting, and I took some interesting pictures of foggy wisps rising over a series of ridges. By the time we left the park, there were patches of blue sky above!

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????DSCN8371DSCN8372DSCN8374DSCN8376Sky is lightening somewhat in the distance!

Sky is lightening somewhat in the distance!

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????DSCN8382??????????????????????????????????????????????????????DSCN8384I also wanted to spend some time in Cherokee, at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. I could have spent more time there, but a little more than halfway through, Dale rushed me the rest of the way, concerned about getting to Charleston in time to meet Tam’s flight. I’d seen most of what I wanted to see, though.

????????????????????????????????????????????????????I was fascinated by the Cherokee language. It was due to one man who had the idea of creating a system of writing for the Cherokee language. The alphabet is based on syllables rather than individual sounds. Most syllables in Cherokee have the CV pattern, making it efficient to create symbols based on these syllables. The inventor of the written language was at first mocked by his family who felt he should be doing something more worthwhile with his life. However, there are now many books translated into the Cherokee language, including the Bible, of course, and the street signs in the town of Cherokee are all bilingual.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????This display shows the different symbols of the Cherokee alphabet. Each lights up as a recorded voice recites its sound.

This display shows the different symbols of the Cherokee alphabet. Each lights up as a recorded voice recites its sound.

A Bible written in Cherokee
A Bible written in Cherokee
The official seal of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation
The official seal of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation

After picking up our daughter, Tam, in Charleston, we headed south. The drive to our resort on Hilton Head Island was dark, as we traveled over many back roads, using our GPS to guide us. The name of our resort was Island Links, in the Port Royal Plantation section of the island. HHI is shaped like a shoe, with Port Royal being on the heel of the shoe.

Image downloaded from Google, but we got a map just like this one.
Image downloaded from Google, but we got a map just like this one.

Island Links is not on the beach, but there is a golf course nearby; too bad – we found out that we were each entitled to one free round of golf each day of our stay there! Dale didn’t have his clubs and didn’t intend to rent – his policy is when he’s on a family vacation, he leaves the clubs at home.

We arrived at around 10:00 p.m., and per instructions, we found an envelope with our building and unit number and instructions in a drop box outside the club house office.  Our unit was on the second floor, so we hauled our suitcases up the staircase (Tam had brought just a backpack – she travels light; we travel heavy, especially when we travel by car!), leaving whatever wasn’t necessary for that night in our car.
The unit didn’t have a key to get in; instead it was a combination lock. It was easy to memorize and when the keys were pressed on the keypad, the door opened easily.

2 thoughts on “Trip Journal Mar. 2014: Smoky Mountains Nat’l Park and Cherokee, NC

  1. I was wondering if you ever thought of changing the page layout of your website?
    Its very well written; I love what youve got to say.
    But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it
    better. Youve got an awful lot of text for only having one or
    two images. Maybe you could space it out better?

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