Wow! It’s hard to believe today is our 22nd Anniversary! We’ve been together for 27 years as of May this year, but we were married on this day 22 years ago. At age 55, I’ve spent nearly half my life with Doug! And we’re still going strong, the bumps behind us, looking ahead to the fun-filled years of travel and adventure. Emma is grown up and independent with two jobs (one is her own business) as well as taking care of the farm. Doug and I are able to work from here. It’s just the best time of our lives.
The Smoky Mountains are just incredible. We drove through them today and into Cherokee National Forest with perfect weather accompanying us. If only the mountain air could be posted with these photos. Craving a coffee, we stopped into a tiny roadside mountain store in Big Creek. The young lady at the counter said she would make us a cuppa as so few people go by at this time of year she doesn’t have a pot on the go. It was delicious and the store was quaint and full of fun old items.
Next, we took a side road to Cataloochie. We were forewarned that there are two routes: one that was pretty easy and the other that was “not for the faint of heart and we don’t recommend it for people prone to car sickness”. So, we decided upon the latter. What the heck. It was a rough crazy roller coaster of a drive with twists and turns and hills and switchbacks and NO guard rails, the gravel road bumpy and edging on ravines the whole way. It was fantastic. Again, my photos don’t show the terror we experienced but believe me when I tell you, it was pretty crazy at times and my fingernails may still be embedded in the dashboard. I will take more pix next time we go there. Rhododendrons line the narrow, harrowing road, rivers and creeks and bridges pop up at every turn, the scenic vistas are outstanding.
Ooh, I don’t think I’d fare well on this “bridge”.
Then we arrived at our destination, Cataloochie. It was once the largest settlement in the area and now there are only a handful of barns and homes left as the Park bought the farming settlers out decades ago. What was once a fertile valley filled with farming families and a thriving community is now part of the Park. We had heard that there are Elk there and we found fresh scat from them but didn’t spot any of these beautiful animals. We drove to the end of the road and met some people from Iowa who were camping there and they said they’d seen 25 Elk the day before at 3 p.m. We had to leave but we’ll go back and hopefully see some. They said they watched the herd come out of the hills and graze, then headed back to their campsite and within 5 feet of their vehicle there were to magnificent males; they showed us their photos. Unfortunately, because of bears, bobcats, elk and other wild animals, dogs are not allowed on the trails. However, horses are and we met a group. What a fabulous place to ride!
The Elk were reintroduced to the area by the Park in the early 2000s and they are thriving so they are left alone to do their Elk thing and so far it’s going well. We’re looking forward to a return trip to see if we can search for these magnificent animals.