Franklin, NC and Great Smoky Mountain NP

Our Blog for 7/29/10-8/1/10

This trip was done primarily as a final ‘shakedown cruise’ for our retirement trip. And a shake down it was (mostly money being shaken out of our pockets!) On this trip we started thinking about storage for more than just 2-3 days worth of food and what we need/want for the long trip. Steve had expanded the box on the back of the trailer. We quickly used up that space for our bulky items such as a container for Opal’s food, chairs and sewer dolly. Since then he’s built some extra storage shelves and we found some good metal ones for the pantry at Bed, Bath and Beyond.  Was it only a few months ago that this trailer seemed so empty? Originally, we’d planned to take our bikes along inside the trailer. Steve struggled to get them in and decided 24 times of this was not going to work.

Our Trailer at Bridal Veil Falls

We chose Franklin NC as a destination so we’d see what gas mileage was in the mountains. This is an area of the state I’ve not been in but one other time in 2005. Steve had been to the Waynesville area about 3 years ago and liked what he’d seen. At the time, any respite from the 90+ heat sounded great. We’d just joined an RV organization called Good Sam. Among other things they inspect RV parks and supply ratings. Each year they publish a directory. We got a free night’s lodging as part of the membership so we chose one of the parks mentioned, Rosecreek Campground http://www.rosecreekcamp.com/. Besides RV and tent sites they have 3 cabins that looked nice from the outside. Following our passion for scenic drives, we headed west from Hendersonville and Brevard along NC 64. It’s a beautiful drive along curvy mountains roads through Brevard, Cashiers and Highlands. We stopped briefly at Bridal Veil Falls which is right at the roadside. I wanted a picture of the trailer at the falls. It seemed every time I was ready to click the shutter another car would drive up and block the shot. Patience is a virtue and I finally got my picture.

As we wound up the mountains, we played some of our dulcimer and Appalachian CDs. All of a sudden there was a flapping sound that wasn’t part of the music. We looked at each other, yep… flat tire on the trailer! Now just where do you put a 26′ box on a narrow, hilly road to change a tire? Ah, just ahead on the other side was a small store with a parking lot and pull off. Now just where’s the jack? Of course it’s under everything! Lesson learned. Keep emergency items handy. We soon found that the jack wasn’t getting the trailer up high enough to get the spare tire on. Getting the flat off wasn’t a problem. Now we had to lower the trailer, get the jack out and boards under it on 3 tires and a wheel. Finally, the spare was on. This was the 3rd tire to go bad. Steve said, I bet these are the original tires and have dry rotted even though they looked OK. We checked the manufacture dates and sure enough they were 2003! From now on we’ll check dates if we ever buy a used RV again. So besides having to get a new tire in Franklin, we’ll have to replace 2 others as well prior to heading West (ka-ching, ka-ching $$$).

Steve Changing Flat Tire on Trailer

Our weekend home in Franklin

The Rosecreek Campground was very nice. We didn’t have trees but the site was level. Our solution to not having a place for the dog run was to tie Opal to the trailer. She just wanted to be with her folks and didn’t mind. She’s very good and doesn’t bark unless surprised by someone coming up suddenly. I guess she doesn’t think of this as ‘her territory’. This was also the first time we’d brought along my computer monitor which can also be used as an HD TV. The Park cable service worked well but only provided a few local channels. At the time we tried it out, there wasn’t much on. At least we know it works.

For Friday, we went to get our trailer tire replaced and then decided to drive up to Smoky Mountain NP on the NC/TN line http://www.nps.gov/grsm/index.htm. Steve’s driven through here before but I hadn’t been here. Since this is the most visited of all National parks and it’s high season, there was a lot of traffic. I’ll look forward to coming back some other time when it’s less crowded. None of the campgrounds have RV hookups so if we decide to stay in the park it will need to be when AC isn’t needed or after we buy a generator. We took the Great Smoky Mountain Highway to the park. Then we headed west toward Cades Cove via overlooks for Clingman’s Dome and Newfoundland Gap. There were lots of wildflowers blooming too so you know we stopped several times for photos. Clingman’s Dome has been a sacred place for the Cherokee Indians for centuries. The Cherokee believed this to be the location of the Magic Lake. The Great Spirit had told them “if they love me, if they love all their brothers and sisters, and if they love the animals of the earth, when they grow old and sick, they can come to a Magic Lake and be made well again”. The Cherokee also found refuge in these mountains during the Indian Removal period (aka Trail of Tears 1838-39) http://www.ajchs.union.k12.il.us/Kelley,%20Drew/History.htm . No wonder we think of the mountains as almost heaven. There is a sense of peace just standing there even in the midst of a crowd. A quote from John Muir 1898 “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find that going to the mountains is going home”.  More than a century later this still rings true.

View from Clingman’s Dome Overlook

A panoramic view of the Smokies

The Smoky Mountains from Newfoundland Gap Overlook

"Please let me out!"

Dogs are not allowed on GSMNP trails so Opal spent most of the time in the car. We did find one ‘rest stop’ for her along a section of the Appalachian Trail that runs through the Park. We tried to take her on a short walk to one of the falls but quickly met a Ranger who said “Dogs aren’t allowed on the trails. Not even big, pretty ones.” It was too hot to leave her in the car even for 20-30 minutes so we’ll have to catch that view

some other time.

With the crowds there wasn’t much of a

pristine view at Cades Cove. This was one of the small communities that was relocated when the Park was created in 1934. GSMNP is celebrating it’s 75th anniversary along with the Blue Ridge Parkway and Social Security.

After doing the Cades Cove Loop we headed for NC 129 as our way home. We knew that the connecting road would be on our right. When we got to that area, the sign said “Unimproved primitive road next 8 miles. Drive at your own risk.” So we did! It was a dirt road and good only for high clearance vehicles but we didn’t have any problems. The ‘bridges’ were usually water covered. The wild rhododendrons along the roadside often reached 15′ or more.

Our Highlander on Parson Ford Road GSNP

We came across a beautiful Rhody glen just as the daylight was fading. The sun streaked in through the trees to highlight the rocks and stream. I’d love to return when the bushes are in bloom. This was a place I could sit and have a real Zen moment.

Rhody Glen on Parson Ford Road GSNP

While we were stopped at the glen, the only other person we saw came through on a motorcycle. He too stopped to take a picture. Then we heard another motorcycle in the distance. He said “that’s the crazy cycle folks on The Dragon’s Tail”.  Steve’s face lit up. “This comes out at the Dragon’s Tail?” I’d heard of this road and Steve had driven it the last time he was at GSNP. It’s considered one of the 10 top roads for cycles and sports enthusiasts in the East. Route 129 is the Dragon’s Tail. While only 11 miles long, the Dragon’s Tail has 318 curves!

Dragon's Tail and Cheoah Skyway Map

Tail of the Dragon Curve by Curve

The Highlander is no sports car but it was fun even though we came in at the halfway point. I can just imagine doing this in a ’69 Mustang or maybe an old Model T! Of course we stopped to buy a hat pin which I’ve now misplaced. Steve thinks this is just an excuse to go back and ride the whole Tail! As if we needed a reason to return! As we left the Tail and turned onto NC 28 fog was settling in over Cheoah Lake.  By then it was getting late and we were hungry so a stop for dinner at Fontana Lake Resort and back to the campground.

Cheoah Lake Fog

Sun Setting Over Cheoah Lake

As you can see we lugged the kayaks around with us.  So plans for Saturday were to get out early before the heat. We weren’t early enough as we decided to take Opal for a walk along the Little Tennessee Greenway in Franklin. Our walk was just about 2 miles along the Little Tennessee River and we were hot and sweaty with even that. The greenway is lovely and provided me with some nice close-up opportunities. I’d love to come back in cooler weather with my macro and tripod.

Jewelweed Blossom

Along the Little Tennessee Greenway

Opal Taking Steve for a Walk on Little Tennessee Greenway

Blue Dragonfly at Suli Marsh

Joe Pye Weed

Suli Marsh at Little Tennessee Greenway

Mimosa Blossom

Queen Anne's Lace Close-up

Wild Phlox

By the time we finished the walk, dark clouds were forming on the horizon. No kayaking this day. I’d noticed an area nearby called Wayah Bald. So after lunch, the 3 of us hopped into the car and headed out on NC 64 which is now called a NC Scenic Byway named the Mountain Waters Scenic Byway. For more information see the website below at http://www.byways.org/explore/byways/2320/stories/55600 . Wayah Bald is located in the Nantahala National Forest. There is a turnoff where you can explore the original ranger station in NNF at Big Lick. You know my passion for photographing old windows and doors so of course I had to snap this one. Just as we turned off to take curvy Wayah Bald Road and then the Forest Road (dirt road) the heavens opened. The mountain became fogged in quickly so no vast panorama today. Our attention switched from scenery to wildflowers. This high elevation had preserved some blooms that were already past prime down below. Between downpours we were in and out of the car. There is also a side road to Winespring Bald on the left which offered even better wildflower displays. My favorite 2 places were here when I found a lone Turk’s Cap Lily and what I call God’s White Garden. Steve thinks I should call this blog Chari’s Blog of Weeds. Really now! Beauty is in the eye of the Beholder.

Roadside Display of Daisies at Wayah Bald

Blackeyed Susan Close-up

God's White Garden

Red Bee Balm

Pale Touch-Me-Not

Red Berry (may be False Soloman's Seal?) With Raindrop

Turk's Cap Lily After Rain

Chari Shooting Turk's Cap

Turks Cap Lily After the Rain

On the way back down the mountain, we stopped at Big Lick Ranger Station which was the first Ranger cabin in Nantahala National Forest circa 1910. Those of you who know me won’t be surprised that I had to take a picture of the old shuttered window for my old doors and windows collection.

Our day wasn’t over yet. We knew we were close to a Nantahala Lake and wanted to find the put in for future reference. It looks like a great place to paddle. This trip, the only time the boats got wet was in the rain! We asked Karen (our Australian GPS voice) to take us back to the campground. Oh, she did alright. The road started out just fine. Within a few miles it changed to a dirt road and became very twisty and rough. Steve thinks the only reason it was there was to service the power lines. Thank goodness we didn’t meet anyone coming the other way. It would have been a game of Chicken for sure.  All in all it was a very good trip. A taste of things to come!  We can’t wait.

Big Lick Ranger Cabin Shuttered Window

Ranger’s Home
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About vagabondpress

Recently retired and "hitting the road". Hobbies include travel, nature photography, kayaking, hiking, good food and good friends.
This entry was posted in History, nature, North Carolina, photography, Tennessee, Travel USA. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Franklin, NC and Great Smoky Mountain NP

  1. Cheryl Niedermaier says:

    Sounds like another great adventure !
    Hey, I’m available for dog sitting if you want to drop Opal off on the way 🙂
    Love the blue dragonfly photo !

  2. Pingback: 2010 in review | The Vagabond Press Blog

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