~SMOKY MOUNTAINS~

I'd been near, but never through the Smoky Mountains. But it is a place I've always wanted to visit.
Ridge upon ridge of endless forest straddle the border between North Carolina and Tennessee in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, one of the largest protected areas in the Eastern United States. It received it's National Park designation on June 15, 1934. In 1976 it was named an International Biosphere Reserve. And on December 6, 1983 it was selected as a World Heritage Site.
Great Smoky Mountain National Park has over 4,000 species of plants that grow there. A walk from mountain base to peak compares with traveling 1,250 miles north. Several resident plants and animals live only in the Smokies. It also has a rich cultural history. From the Cherokee Indians, to the Scotch-Irish settlers, this land was home to a variety of cultures and people. Many historic structures remain standing. Subsistence turned to exploitation as logging concerns stripped the region of timber. Recovery is now the dominant theme.
Threats to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park come in many forms. Some are obvious and indisputable while others are more subtle and a source of controversy. Man is the root cause for some of the problems, while nature produces and enhances others. Despite the spectrum of political beliefs, the facts remain, and the real problems facing the Smokies require monitoring and management. Insuring the survival of the Smokies' ecosystem is a major charge given to the National Park Service. Air quality is a major Park concern.


The Great Smoky Mountains National Park




My first look at the Smokies from US441


Cade's Cove
Cade's Cove is a 6,800-acre valley in the mountains. That little black speck near the center of the right photo is a wild turkey.
This fertile valley, drained by Abrams Creek and its two main branches, supports a wide diversity of plants and animals. The valley floor has approximately 2,400 acres of largely open fields surrounded by forests. Currently, native grass and wetland restoration is being undertaken in the fields.
Prior to 1819, Cades Cove was part of the Cherokee Nation. The Cherokee called the cove Tsiyahi, "place of the river otter." The Cherokee tried to integrate European technologies and culture with their own. Despite the Cherokee's lifestyle, many Americans wanted to move all Indians west of the Mississippi River. The discovery of gold on Cherokee lands in Georgia, and Andrew Jackson's rise to the Presidency, led to Indian removal and the tragic "Trail of Tears." More than 14,000 Cherokees left the Southern Appalachians in 1838. Less than 10,000 reached Oklahoma. Some of the Cherokee refused to move and hid in the Smoky Mountain wilderness. In the 1870s the Eastern Band of the Cherokee reclaimed some of their lands in western North Carolina. This land is known today as the Qualla Boundary.

That would be me at Laurel Falls

A family plays along the river bank

.

.


Where Man Is Only a Visitor

This is a very special place, a part of the park's backcountry. A place without roads, wires or houses. A Wilderness.
Here you, or your children, or your grandchildren may walk for days, largely free of the sights, sounds, and smells of the everyday world. There are few such places left in America, and none in the East matches the wildlands of the Smokies. A beautiful place, a great scientific resource, but perhaps the most profound value of the park is in the quality of it's sanctuary --- for people, as well as wildlife and plants.


I have in my notes that I photogrphed Clingman's Dome. The photos have long since gotten way out of order, so I can't be positive, but I believe it's the peak in the center of the left photo.
At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park's highest point. It is the highest point in Tennessee, and the second highest point east of the Mississippi. Only North Carolina's Mt. Mitchell (6,684 feet) rises higher. Vistas from Clingmans Dome are spectacular. On clear, pollution-free days, views expand over 100 miles and into seven states. However, air pollution limits average viewing distances to 22 miles. Despite this handicap, breathtaking scenes delight those ascending the tower. It is a great place for sunrises and sunsets. The cool, wet conditions on Clingmans Dome's summit make it a coniferous rainforest. Unfortunately, pests, disease, and environmental degradation threaten the unique and fragile spruce-fir forest. Dead trunks litter the area, and dying trees struggle to survive another year. Berries thrive in the open areas, and a young forest will replace the dying trees.

.

.


The Chimney Tops: These twin summits of quartzite and hard slate are familiar landmarks. The peak on the right has a hole like a flue. Mountain people thought these formations looked like chimneys rising above the trees. The elevation of the left peak is 4700 feet.

.

.


Waterfalls adorn most every stream in the Smokies. Only one waterfall, Meigs Falls, is visible from the road. It is 12.9 miles west of the Sugarlands Visitor Center, near the Townsend Wye. All others require hiking, and range from easy to strenuous at distances of 1.4 miles to 8 miles. Wouldn't you know, I'd pick the strenuous ones?

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.


Five forest types dominate the Great Smoky Mountains. Together these forests sport more than 130 species of trees, and 4,000 other plant species. They represent all the major forest types along eastern North America. As elevation increases within the park, temperature decreases and precipitation increases. Each 1,000 feet of elevation gained is the equivalent of moving 250 miles north.
The spruce-fir forest caps the Park's highest elevations. Most areas above 4,500 feet support some elements of this forest. It is best developed above 5,500 feet. In terms of climate the spruce-fir forest relates to areas such as Maine, and Quebec, Canada. The main components of the spruce-fir forest are red spruce and Frasier fir.
A northern hardwood forest dominates the middle to upper elevations from 3,500- 5,000 feet. It mixes with many species from other forest types, but is characterized by sugar maple, American beech, and yellow birch. These forests resemble those throughout much of New England, New York, Pennsylvania, and southern Ontario.


Drier ridges in and around the Park hold a pine-oak forest. Despite plentiful amounts of rain, these excessively drained slopes dry out often, and fire is a regular part of these forest communities. In late 1996, the Park began controlled burning to prevent unintentional fires from threatening lives and property. This also insures natural regeneration of species requiring fire for propagation. Major species include red, scarlet, black and chestnut oaks, along with table mountain, pitch, and white pines. Some areas also have hickories.


A hemlock forest often grows along streambanks. Water temperatures remain cold year- round, and this cools and dampens the air. Hemlocks survive better in these conditions than any other species. Hemlocks dominate streamsides throughout the Appalachians. An insect, the hemlock woolly adelgid is moving south and west. It threatens every hemlock in the eastern united States.
The cove hardwood forest lines the valleys throughout the Park. It is the Smokies most diverse ecosystem. Important species include, tulip poplar, American basswood, red maple, sweet gum, yellow buckeye, black birch, and dogwood. This lush, diverse forest enjoys warm temperatures, a long growing season, and plentiful rainfall.


Some places you can't go around or over a mountain so tunnels are necessary. The tunnel at right actually curves around to the right. If not, it would lead to a drop off. Not a good idea.

.

.


Bison, elk, mountain lions, and wolves are among the animals that have been extirpated from the Smokies. Whitetail deer are seen on most early morning or evening visits to Cades Cove. Black bear and wild turkey are less frequently sighted. River otters and barn owls have been reintroduced into the Cove; however, these secretive animals are rarely seen.


The path along the fence is part of the Appalachian Trail, one of the longest continuous footpaths in the world. The trail winds more than 2150 miles through 14 states. Few stretches are more remote or difficult thaan the section through the Great Smokies. Here the trail follows some of the highest ridges in the Appalachians, paralleling the Tennessee-North Carolina border for 70 miles. This narrow ribbon from Georgia to Maine was built in the 1030's by the Civilian Conservation Corps as part of the program to pull out of the Great Depression.

This is a look back at the Smoky Mountains from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Those white areas are clouds.



Music is "Smokey Mountain Rain"
by Ronnie Milsap

I Am A Member Of:
The Phenomenal Men Of The Web?
The Phenomenal Men Of The Web

Sign my Guestbook from Bravenet.com Get your Free Guestbook from Bravenet.com
Back to Vacation 2003
Back Home

THERE HAVE BEEN

VISITORS TO THIS SITE SINCE OCTOBER 9, 2000