Saturday, April 9, 2011

Great Smoky Mountains and beyond

Great Smoky Mountains 4/5/2011
Snow is spitting down as we leave Mama Gerties RV Park. We see lots of storm damage from high winds and a horrible storm I slept through last night. I have William's cold and was exhausted from all the walking, so I slept through lightning that made William nervous. He said he was wondering what would happen if a lightening strike hit the RV.
Signs are blown over and trees are broken. Looks like in some places the road was just cleared off.
William sees signs of old log skidding on the hillsides so we stop to look.
Since we will be boondocking the next few nights, we want to have plenty of gas. In the gas station window there is a sign for Hot Boiled Peanuts. You dip them out of a crock pot. Your choice of original or Cajun. So I choose Cajun.
At lunch I offer the peanuts with a sandwich. William does not like them. Says they are mushy. Yes, they are soft, but I like them. They make a great treat with a beer later.
Cut and run was the way trees were stripped out of the Appalachian Mountains. “You hardly left a tree of any size standing and all the little 'uns was tore down.” Spruce, Hemlock, Chestnut and Oak all were cut down. Any chestnuts left died off of an imported disease. 85% of the land that became the park was owned by timber companies and had been clear cut.
In the 30's there were many CCC camps here, and you can see all the stone work they did on the road.
In June this area must be lovely with the Rhododendrons in bloom and all the trees leafed out. What we loose in scenery we gain in fewer tourists. It would be even quieter, if this were not spring break for some elementary schools.
There is a lot of water here, and I don't think it all came from the storm last night. William is unimpressed by the Appalachian Mountains. We discuss the difference in age between the Rockies and Sierras and these ancient mountains worn down to what look to us like rounded hills.
Cades Cove 4/6/11
We camped in Cades Cove Campground in the Great Smokies National Park. We are boon docking with no electricity and no phone or internet.
Our main goal today is to do the Cades Cove Tour. This is a combo driving and walking tour of some of the old homes and churches. It seemed crowded enough today. We had trouble finding a parking place at some of the stops. I can't imagine how it is in the summer when it takes 4 hours to just drive the 11 mile route, let alone stop and park and look at anything.
Early settlers chose this land because it was flat. They could grow crops on the flat fields, corn and wheat. They planted gardens and harvested the bounty of the forests. Each family gathered 20-30 bushels of chestnuts just for their own use. If they gathered more, they would sell them in town. Each family had pigs for smoked meat. They ate venison and bear meat for fresh meat. They grew their own cotton and sheep for wool for homespun cloth. They raised cattle on the flat clear land on top of the mountains and also had milk cows.
William tried grinding sorghum cane for juice to make syrup.
The old mill was grinding corn today.

We looked for Borden's but didn't find any.

Although they had peach and apple orchards, the trees are all gone now. The rangers said the bears broke them down soon after the people left, attempting to get all the fruit. These eastern bears must not plan ahead like western bears. There are places in the west where people have long gone but the apple trees are still there. William says bears may break off a limb or two but they do not break down the whole tree.
After dinner William torches off some wood he has found, in the empty campsite next door. It is a nice fire with minimal smoke.
This contrasts with a thankfully further away camper whose fire was billowing black smoke earlier. William said he thought they used inner tubes for starter.
On to Cumberland Gap 4/7/11
We pass through Pigeon Forge on our route and the road from Dollywood is crowded and under construction to make it wider. We pass some really strange businesses trying to capitalize on the popularity of Dollywood. One building is built crookedly sideways and next to it is one built to appear upside down. I see Moonshine brittle and Catshead biscuits, the “largest as seen on TV outlet store”, the Appalachian Aquarium? Too much! Finally we are off the well beaten path and on our way to the Cumberland Gap.
Then we see prisoners working on the roadside in fluorescent orange vests and wide black and white striped pants. I think of George Clooney.
Here we are in a National Park campground that will be shut down if the government shuts down on Friday. We will actually have until Saturday AM before the rangers start telling people to move out. We were only planning on staying here for 2 nights anyway.
William is on a nostalgia trip with the Cumberland Gap as his dad said that the Bakers came to Nebraska from Kentucky and to get to Kentucky, you came over the Cumberland Gap.
We went to the visitor center and watched a movie about the exploration of the region, heavy on the Daniel Boone. I bought a lovely spoon rest made in the area. It has a red chicken footprint on greenish glass. We drove up to the Pinnacle Overlook. We are at the edge of three states, Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia.
William straddles Virginia and Kentucky.

The Cumberland Gap was not a place of any battles in the civil war although it did pass from rebel to union hands a few times and was the source of much misery to the poorly fed and poorly equipped troops who occupied it.
The campground has just had the hazard trees removed and cut up. There is at least a quarter of a cord of firewood stacked up at each campsite. William is trying to figure out how he can burn a quarter of a cord of wood in one fire circle in one evening.
More Cumberland Gap 4/8/2011
We went over to the Lincoln Memorial University to look at their Lincoln Museum. I think William will be pleasantly surprised by the Lincoln Museum in Springfield. This museum was a bit disorganized. Just lots of bits. But lots of information. I bought a book for Axel.
We looked at the outdoor museum about Daniel Boone and the Wilderness Trail. We had already watched the movie at the Visitor Center.
We drove around the historic town of Cumberland Gap. William said it looked as if they took every old house and made a Bed and Breakfast out of it.
We found the train tunnel. We watched a coal train come out of this tunnel from high above on Pinnacle Overlook yesterday.
Back to the Campground.
On to Mammoth Caves 4/9/11
Today was mostly a driving day. The highlights were tons of red bud blooming along the road, driving through a thunderstorm with piercing lightening flashes striking the ground and bad winds after the storm.
We stopped at Cumberland Falls.
From the write up about the falls
“The falls is 65 feet high and is 125 feet in width. When the Cumberland River is at flood stage the width of the falls can quickly expand to 300 feet.
Besides the falls, one of the great attractions at Cumberland Falls State Park is the Moonbow. Visible on moonlit evenings, the moonbow is said to only be duplicated at Victoria Falls in Africa.”

There did look like a lot of water going over the falls. But having seen high western waterfalls I was not that impressed. We were not there for the moonbow. Maybe then I might have been impressed.
We spent a long time on the Louis B. Nunn Cumberland Parkway. This road is for long distance drives as it has exits only every 15 miles or so. Hardly any traffic. Lots of wind. Named for the 52nd governor of Kentucky, a Republican segregationist who raised taxes to improve the state parks and establish community mental health clinics. Needless to say he served from 1964 to 1971. Another time, another place.

1 comment:

chessracer said...

I bet you could almost hear the duellng banjo's.