Our original plan for this day was to drive directly from Chattanooga to Pigeon Forge, a two hour drive. We noticed a sign for the Cherohala Skyway, so we detoured for an adventure. After driving across the Cherokee and Natahala National Forests, and then back through Smoky Mountain National Park, we arrived at our hotel.
Twelve hours later.
First, driving to the Cherohala.
Celia's been counting tractor trailers. Despite all the back roads, yesterday's tally was:
JB Hunt - 10
Fed Ex - 9
UPS - 6 (plus one UPS Store to ship more stuff home)
Walmart - 1
(There were others, those four plus Target are the ones she's been keeping track of. So far, JB Hunt is in the overall lead for the trip.)
Jude's eyes near popped out when he saw there was a root beer restaurant.
Here we go.
And then we stopped to wipe the windshield down so we could take better pictures.
"Mommy, a T-rex cloud!"
One billy goat gruff.
The "smoky" mountains actually get their name from the Cherokee - they named them because the blue haze that hangs over them looks like smoke.
I could share a thousand pictures (no, really -- between Luke and I, we had over 1000 photos on our camera cards), but none could fully show exactly how beautiful these mountains are.
Once we came down from the Skyway, we came upon a small village with general store. Honest to goodness, I felt like I had stepped into Ike Godsey's store on Walton's Mountain. The young lady behind the counter even looked like Amy Godsey!
Oh, and this stuff is amazing.
We came drove around to Bryson City, and then back into the town of Cherokee.
This was amazing. The water for the Natahala River was Caribbean blue, not the muddy brown rivers that we've seen through the entire trip.
And finally entered the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
At this visitor's center we saw several new things. First were some historic artifacts.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt's chair for the dedication ceremony.
About the logging industry that nearly decimated the mountains. Only about 5% of the park is original "old" growth. The rest is reforesting.
I think I have to agree.
And then some residents.
Yep, that's an elk. Just munching his dinner.
We made it to Clingman's Dome about an hour before sunset.
Yep, that's the climb. Half a mile at at 12% grade -- the equivalent of a 30 story building.
Above the trees from the observation tower.
And sunset from the tower.
It was NOT an easy climb, but totally worth it.
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