The Smokies are still smokin’

As I write, we are spending our last night in the Smokies. We are in another lovely B&B, the Charleston Inn in Bryson City – which is not, of course, a city but a rather charming small town. Our room is called the Treehouse because it’s two flights up and has a balcony overlooking a walnut tree. Excellent for the drinking of beer after a hard day, as you can see.

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We also have this lovely lily pond just outside our building.

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Yesterday, on our way over, we hiked a trail called Chimney Tops. It wasn’t the best choice, because the guide book we had didn’t warn us about the rock climb at the end. John made it some way up but was impeded by a large group of tourists who were taking their time (and lots of photographs) – and also by my anxious face peering up from below. It’s harder than it looks, so we missed the best views.

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Today, however, has been the best day’s hiking so far. There are two entrances to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park from Bryson City and we explored both. In the morning, we visited the Deep Creek area which was very busy – not with hikers, but with people going tubing. This looked great fun. However, we did the Loop Trail which took in three waterfalls: Juney Whank, Tom’s Branch and Indian Creek.

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After a picnic lunch, we moved on to the Lakeview Drive, known to locals as the Road to Nowhere. As part of FDR’s New Deal, a dam was built to create Lake Fontana and, to replace a road flooded in the process, Lakeview Drive was promised. That was 1943 and it has never been completed. It ends within the park at a 1200 foot tunnel, now only accessible on foot, and through that are various trails. We did the Goldmine Loop which took us down to the lake and back up – a stiff climb which left us needing those beers. In contrast to the morning, we didn’t see a single other person on this walk so, apart from worrying about meeting a bear, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I think we’ve done 8 or 9 miles today.

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As you might have gathered, I am fascinated by the variety of fungi here and today we saw several new kinds.

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As I said, Bryson City is a pleasant little town. Last night, we ate in Trip Advisor’s number one recommendation, the Cork and Bean, a wine bar / coffee bar combination which also does wonderful crepes. On the way home, we spotted a Chinese restaurant and went in to see if their menu was suitable for vegetarians – this is a frustration with this country, they don’t have to display a menu at the door. Anyway, the staff were friendly and it looked fine and I was ridiculously excited all day about going there – there have been some definite culinary highlights so far, but a lot of pasta and veggie burgers too. In the end, it was very good – despite the staff who were on tonight not having such good English as last night, any misgivings were unfounded and the veggie meal turned out to be completely veggie. Kung Po tofu with cashew nuts was particularly good.

So, last words on Bryson City – it’s a pretty little mountain town….

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……which post-dates the Civil War and therefore has a statue of a 1WW soldier instead of the usual Confederate…..

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…..and best of all, takes pride in encouraging its kids to read:

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This has been a long post but there was a lot to fit in. Tomorrow, we head back into Georgia to a cabin on Blood Mountain. No wi-fi and probably no phone signal, so might not be online again until we get home. Ciao.

The Quiet Side of the Smokies

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Acknowledgement – this photo is not ours! It comes from a Fotopedia app on National Parks which I highly recommend. We could never have taken anything as good as this. It shows Clingmans Dome which we did visit yesterday but it was too hazy for photographs.

Anyway, we are now on our second night in Tennessee, and the title of this post is a slogan they use here to promote this side of the Smokies. Having driven through Cherokee in North Carolina yesterday, with it’s sideshows and casinos, I can see what they mean. However, we did scorn Gatlinburg as a place to stay because it looked rather tacky so there are gaudy spots on both sides. We’ve ended up in Townsend which is one of those towns that just sprawls along a big highway with no real centre (or we’ve not found it anyway). The hotel was carefully chosen to be opposite some restaurants – we are allergic to taking the car to dinner because it means no beer or wine – but what we failed to take into account is that we are here on a Sunday when a lot of places either don’t open or close early.

Last night (Saturday) was great. We crossed the road (a five lane highway, gulp) to Lily’s Cafe which was just a few hundred yards away. The place was excellent, good veggie choices, good wine and pleasant staff. Just before we were leaving, a thunderstorm blew up and showed no signs of abating and when our waiter found out we had walked he insisted on driving us back over the road. I don’t think you can beat that for service! Tonight (Sunday) we were less lucky. Lily’s was closed so we went to one of the other nearby restaurants which was ok for John but the veggie option was an assortment of four “sides” which was fine but only just.

Today, we visited Cade’s Cove. This is a valley in the Smokies where a lot of 19th century buildings have survived, homes and churches such as these:

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It certainly gives you an idea of how hard their lives were. The church is the Methodist one (there were two Baptist Churches nearby, resulting from a fall-out.) The two doors would normally indicate that men and women entered and sat on different sides. Apparently, that wasn’t the case here, they just borrowed the building plans from another church.

We saw loads of deer in Cade’s Cove, including this mother and fawn, a bear and her cub at a safe distance (you can’t see the cub here and you’ll more or less have to take my word for it that it’s a bear) and, on our way back from a hike to a pretty waterfall, a rattlesnake. It slithered across the path in front of us but we weren’t quick enough to get a picture.

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Tomorrow, we are retracing our steps back over the border into North Carolina.