April 14, 2016
Oops. I posted the April 15th blog ahead of this one, sorry.
I’m trying to catch up on blogging (I’m new to this, ya’ll) but we’ve been traveling a lot and I find it a challenge to write in the evenings when I’m tired. So this week I’m catching up on posting photos and typing my hand-written notes. Doug is back in Maine for a week; he works daily from here, both on his cell and via the computer but he needs to return to the office regularly for a complete catch up.
So, on the 14th, we tossed our bags into the car and loaded up Zuma and headed for The Smoky Mountains. Driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway is glorious. We passed through Maggie Valley. Once home to a large amusement park created in the 1960s by a lady named Maggie, it was known as The Ghost Town in The Sky and thrived as a popular tourist attraction for decades. However, it fell upon hard times our tour book advised us and closed in 2009. Still, the area honors old Maggie and everybody in WNC knows about this place; it’s on the way to Tennessee and a lovely scenic route with wild mountain flowers in the woods and the budding trees bursting with green.
We drove on and arrived at our first destination, Cherokee. This charming town is the central hub of the Cherokee Reservation (56,000 acres). It’s really touristy, with a Living History Village, A fantastic Museum and a ginormous super elaborate Casino. We toured the Museum and were very impressed. New, modern and housing authentic Cherokee artifacts, pottery, stone and all mediums. We learned a LOT about the Cherokee people; when gold was discovered they were run out of their lands and shooed onto The Trail of Tears to Oklahoma. The Cherokee, like all native tribes, used herbal medicine and discovered a natural form of Aspirin far before the white man. They were hunters and gatherers and incredibly talented artists, creating both masterful and primitive works; many examples are displayed in the museum.
We toured the gift shops but they were really touristy. I wanted to purchase a pair of moccasins or something practical and handmade by the Cherokee people but all the stores carried footwear bearing Made in China labels so, feeling somewhat deflated, we moved on.
As we were departing, we met Wild Cat. He is a Cherokee and very proud of his heritage. He was dressed in ceremonial dress, complete with bells on his legs. I never do the touristy thing but I had to get a photo with him:
Doug sent our friend Kelly a text with this photo telling her that I had left him for Wild Cat. I think we make a cute couple!
Nice guy. He put on his head dress voluntarily which really meant a lot to me. Later, I found a real leather and beaded Dream Catcher at a shop near Asheville to send to my cousin in Wales; she loves Native culture in all countries and especially yearns to meet real Native Americans so Sue, this photo is for you!
The winding road through the foothills led us up and up and we saw a sign for Clingmans Dome. At 6,643 feet, it is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is the highest point in Tennessee and the third highest mountain east of the Mississippi. If I could bottle up the clean pure mountain air, I’d add it to this blog.
This is an amazing place. These are some of the vistas of the top of Clingmans Dome. No apostrophe, sorry fellow English Language Majors, this is how they spell it so suck it up.
There were wildlife spottings:
Doug and Zuma and I are going back there. Soon. It’s like time stands still up there. Must be the altitude. Standing there taking in the views, it’s so calming and you really get in touch with yourself, how magnificent the earth is.
Zuma could not have cared less about the views. She just wanted to hang out with the many other dogs up there.
On the descent, we marveled at the mountain flowers: There all kinds of patches of Trilliums, all sorts of small purple, blue and yellow flowers, Wisteria draping from the trees, budding rhododendrons. Then, we ran into a traffic jam. Doug casually said, “It’s likely a bear” and I snapped my head around saying “How could you be so casual about that?” Well, it WAS a bear. A mother bear and her three cubs. The crazy thing was that tourists were climbing over rocks with cameras in hand for a closer view. OMG! This is the most dangerous creature in the forest! I handed Doug my camera and he snapped a quick shot from the driver’s window and we carried on, seeing the third little guy ambling on in the rear afterwards. “We’ll hear about these people in the news tonight” I quipped, but apparently they all were spared as there was nothing on the tv. What a fantastic thing seeing a female black bear with triplets!
We drove slowly to Pigeon Forge, Dolly Parton’s home town. Oh! It is so touristy, she has a HUGE Amusement Park there called Dollywood. The most fascinating part for us was that there was a car show and sale going on. The GPS said we’d be at our hotel in Sevierville in 15 minutes but it took us over an hour as the traffic was so thick. Everybody was oogling the antique and vintage cars lined up on both sides of the highway for miles. I was going to hop out and get a photo but you cannot even fathom the amount of vehicles all lined up in a row. The entire main drag was like a huge parking lot. Doug spoke with the receptionist at the hotel and he said “This is just set up day, it’s not even busy yet. The show’s on for the next three days and it’ll take all of two hours to get through there, they’re expecting 7,000 pre-registered cars”! Apparently they used to hold this show and sale once a year, then the demand was so high they upped it to twice a year and now it’s so popular it’s held four times a year! Every kind of car from Model T Fords to souped up muscle cars was exhibited, several rusted old treasures but mostly gleaming well spiffed up vehicles. Lawn chairs of every description lined the sidewalks and proud owners and auto dealers were sipping on beverages in the sunshine (when they weren’t busy explaining what a great deal they were providing to potential clients). It was fun driving past listening to the sales pitches of used car dealers.
We had planned to return the next morning but decided against it; sitting in the car for two hours and then perusing miles of cars was not going to be good for Zuma so we took an alternate route back home to Asheville.