Cataloochee Valley

So why is this one a valley and not a Cove.  Beats me. Cataloochee Valley is in the opposite (NE) corner of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. From Cade’s Cove it is about 100 miles by road not so far as the raven flies.

Cherokee People
One of our side trips into Cherokke took us to the Museum of the Cherokee.  It was a very impressive museum that followed the history of the Cherokee people from their stories of creation through the thousands of years prior to Europeans first arriving and then their story after. Their stories told of a great bird who flew across the land.  With each upbeat of its wings it pulled up the mountains and with each downbeat formed the valleys.  There was a great fire and the bird flew into the fire and used its powerful wings to put the fire out. In the process of doing so its feathers were singed and blackened. And that is where ravens come from. The first Europeans were the British and they got along with the Cherokee. They brought iron tools, guns and disease with them. The diseases killed half of all the Cherokee people within just a few years. The British were respectful of the Cherokee and established trade and treaties that were beneficial to both. After the American Revolution things changed. The Americans decreed that all indians had to be civilized and forced to behave like the Americans thought they should. This didn’t go over so well with the Cherokee or any other Native American group so there was resistance. The Americans sent in an army that massacred half of the remaining Cherokee (including women and children) and round up the remaining Cherokee and forced them to walk to a flat, treeless worthless reservation in Oklahoma.  Half of all the remaining Cherokee died on this forced march through the winter on the “Trail of Tears.” These stories are repeated over and over across America as our ancestors forced Native Americans to give uo their land, their culture, their families, their language and their way of life to live virtually imprisioned in concentration camp like reservations. While there is much to be proud about being an American this is not one of them.  Many Cherokee escaped that original round up in what is now the Smokies and stayed here in the mountains. They are now the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation, a proud people, restoring their culture and language and building better lives for the future.
Cataloochee Valley
We drove from Cherokee across the southern side of the park to the road to Cataloochee. It was a 1 1/2 lane wide steep very twisty road up into the mountains about 11 miles. Apparently they have never heard of guard rails here.  No shoulders on the road except for nearly vertical tree coverd slopes where a car would certainly not stop for thousands of feet while to crashed down the mountain.  Susan closed her eyes and held of for dear life. I just hoped there would be a little extra room when we met a giant anything coming down. Anything bigger than a squirrel would have been too much I was sure.   And then the pavement ended. Another four miles. Up through a “gap” (as they call a pass when it suit them) and then a precipitous down hill, brake and low gears challenged, Susan nearly pulling the Jeep grab bar off sort of thing. The screaming was silent. The road narrowed, the switch back turns sharpened. What good was at the end of this? And then we met up with four testosterone enhanced pickup trucks hauling fifth wheel type horse trailers each big enough for four horses. Luckily we had right of way or just took it and we squeezed by.  I have no idea how they got in or expected to get out. There was another way braching off of this road to the east that they may have taken.
Finally we got to,a three mile paved section!  How did they ever get that equipment in here? It led down a fairly steep long downhill to the campground iand the valley. I supposed the paving might have been less costly in the long run than the constant maintenance of a gravel road.
We stopped at the campground to check it out.  There was an older couple there in a smaller motor home with a tow car that had come in the same way we did.  They we glad they were going to be there for a few days to muster up courage for the drive out.  We had a nice lunch and chatted with the campground host, a volunteer.
Cataloochee is a much smaller valler than Cade’s Cove and yet in 1900 there were more than 1000 people living here. The forest has retaken quite a bit of the valley as it advances from all sides. Farms were smaller. But there were schools, homes, barns, blacksmiths shops, a mill, a saw mill and most everything they needed to be self sufficient.
This is a typical barn. The core is made of logs.  The roof is much bigger with broad overhangs to shelter animals.

We found a small cemetary. It had some interesting stone markers.

There was another proclaiming a man murdered by the southern rebels. It was very common in this part of NC that families, neighbors and communities were split by issues and loyalties during the Civil War.
One other route we wanted to check out was the Balsam Mountain road.  Unfortunately while both ends were open the middle section was not yet open.  We got as far as we could crossing a really old bridge only to come to the closed gate.

So a week in the Smokies.  Lots more to see, maybe another time.  Another Foretravel owner was at amn RV park on the north side of the Smokies.  We tried to figure out a meeting time but we were both leavimg the same day about the samr time heading in different directions. The next morning as were left the Smokies heading west across the north side we sam him heading east.  We waved.
On to Oak Ridge, TN.
A story for another day.
Roger and Susan

Cade’s Cove

So when you think of a cove my guess is that you think of a small bay on a lake. I might think of a concave shaped molding. Wel in the smokies it refers to a valley.  So Cade’s Cove is a fairly large valley  about 24 miles south west of the visitor’s center near the north entrance. Then there is a one way eleven mile loop road with several stops at homesteads, churches, a grist mill and of course a gift shop. 

We had to travel from the south entrance over the pass to the turn to Cade’s Cove.  That was 35 miles with a nearly one mile vertical climb. In the Summer and especially in the Fall this drive can take 4-5 hours each way. The 24 mile drive to Cade’s Cove, the 11 mile loop and the 24 miles back is said to be an 8-10 hour drive. No way to do both at that time of the year. It took us about an hour and a half to get across the pass.  There was spring time road repair.  The drive to Cade’s Cove took about an hour.  We spent two or three hours driving through the loop. I can’t imagine it in the summer or fall.
The Smokies are the most visited of all the National Parks.  It is beautiful.  
This home was built in the 1830’s and the farm was lived on and worked by the same family for over 100 years. Most of the other buildings are gone but the house remains.  It was on the edge of the forest with the farm land moving down into the valley.
There are supposed to be elk in this valley but we didn’t see any. Susan saw a black bear though.
The road wound around the valley in pretty much the same location of the original wagon trail. A pretty amazing valley when you consider that this was all forested when settlers moved to this area. The land was fairly flat, there was water, the soil was good and there was no one else here. A hundred years ago there were five ways into the valley, each going off in a different direction. Two of those roads are still in use as dirt off road track leading one way, out. They are only open during part of the year.

At the time when the park was created about 800 people lived in Cade’s Cove.

And they had four or five churches.  The Missionary Baptist, the Primative Baptist, the Methodists and an Episcopal church.  No Lutherans.  We finally figured out what the Primative Baptists were.  It had nothing to do with Peanut Butter (PB) it was all about a split over missionary work. Another church split into two factions over who supported which side in the Civil War. Faith was a big part of southern mountain life.

Most of these were originally log buildings and later rebuilt with sawn lumber when it became available. Very basic.  We stopped at the campground at Cade’s Cove for a picnic lunch.

These girls were trying to cross a little stream mpnearby without getting there shoes wet.

Without luck.
Back home over the mountains.  Another adventure tomorrow.
Roger and Susan

Cherokee, NC

The south side of the Great Smokies is probably like the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. 90% of visitors go to the other side. So that is usually our choice, go where the crowds aren’t.

We chose a small campground in the Cherokee Homeland on the south side of the Smokies. It is up in the mountains on a fast flowing trout stream. Very quiet but only a couple miles to the main south 
entrance to the park. The view front the front window was pretty good.

Just upstream a small waterfall entered from the side.

A wonderful background sound. I trid to put in a short video but it seems I can not do that.

Just up the road is the Mingo Falls. 161 steps up to a trail that leads to the 180 ft falls.
This is one of the highest falls in the Smokies. 
At the Oconaluftee Visitor’s Center at the south entrance there is a collection of buildings from the park that represent a typical farm from the early 1800’s to about 1900. Most early buildings were log srtuctures built from huge logs that were split over and over to get slabs about 4-6” thick.  Barms, a homestead, a blacksmith shop, a sorgum mill, a meat smoking shed and meat storgae building, corn cribs and animal buildings.  This area was settled from the early1800’s.  Timber companies bought up huge tracta of land. It was heavily logged and many areas were stripped clear of timber.  The destruction of the natural habitats were the main motivations to create the park and protect the land.
The Great Smoky Mountains NP was established in the 1930’s from land purchased by North Carolina and Tennessee that was donated to the Federal Government for the park.  Most land owners sold and left. A few sold and were allowed to stay while they were alive.  There are buildings remaining throughout the park that are maintained as a historical sites. Most of the roads and bridges, visitors centers, campgrounds and overlooks were built by the CCC from the ealy 30’s up to the start of WWII. A few of these camps were manned by conscientious objectors who continued the work and protected against forest fires.
A good splitter could get several slabs from one large tree.  Some of these pieces were 20″ across. The log would get split down the middle and then one slab split off each side.  Then one llog slab would be used on one side of the cabin and the other on the opposite side to keep things sort of even. All of the logs were notched at the ends with dovetails to lock them together. It was amazing how tight some of those hand cut joints were.  Smaller pieces were nailed on the inside to cover the gaps between the logs. Mud was used to fill the gaps from the outside. Shingles were all hand split. Sawn lumber was not available until the late 1800’s so it was cut from logs with axes and shaped by hand to get what was needed.  Hardware was mostly hand made. Nails were expensive and hard to come by.
Fences like these went on for hundreds of yards around almost every cultivated area. Deer, elk, black bears, wild pigs and just about everything else could ruin a family’s crops if they werent protected. Can you imagine the effort to split all of those pieces?

Nearby was the Mingus Grist Mill where it had stood since the mid 1800’s.  It is still operating today.
The building has been restored to preserve it.  Water flows down from a crude dam up stream through a rock and wooden channel and then down the wooden flume.  Unlike several other mills in the park this one has no water wheel. The water flows into a vertical wooden column down to a cast iron horizontal pipe to a turbine which is spun by the water pressure and flow. These were able to operate on less water than water wheels. A gear box and leather belts and pulleys drove a vertical shaft that went all the way up to the third floor of the mill.  More pulleys and belts drove several different machines used to clean the wheat or corn, grind it using big stone grinding wheels, sift, sort and grade whatever was ground and then send it down little wooden chutes into bags.  Lots of rattling. We bought a small bag of ground corn for corn bread. It made a tasty batch.
There is only one north-south road through the park.  It is a 35 mile steep twisting mountaing road.  We drove up to the top in the Jeep.  Lots of turn outs and overlooks.
The Appalachain Trail crosses the road at the summit.

1972 miles to go. A young gal (younger tha me) was headed up the trail.  I said “Only 1972 miles to go.”  She laughed and said she was only going another 200 miles.  Oh my! We walked up the trail about a quarter mile or so.

Near the summit id the road to Clingman’s Dome. At over 6600 ft it is the highest point in the Apalachains.  Another steep drive. And then a half mile hike up a 12% grade (that is steep) to a lookout tower.  Susan declined to go out on this. These sort of things make mer nervous. I held on although it seemed pretty sturdy.  Long way down.  The Appalachain trail crossed this summit as well as it winds its way along the top of the Appalachains along most of the east coast

The views were great and it was the only place in the Smokies where cell phone service had 5 bars.

The Smokies are called that because of the layers of color and the mists and clouds. This is mostly caused by moisture in the air.  There are so many streams, the vegetation is lush and there is a lot of rain. Mist and fog is not uncommon. Because the park is further south and it has such a wide range of elevation is is one of the most diverse ecosystems in the US.  There are moss covered logs with ferns all around to big stands of Larch trees at high elevations more typically found in Canada.
It is Springtime in the Smokies.  At lower elevations the leaves are out, flowers are blooming and colors are those amazing early spring greens.  At higher elevations, this pine trees stand out against the rest of the trees with buds and early leaves.  The south side of the park on the south side of the mountains seemed behind the north side where everything was much greener.  Not what one might expect but it is much less steep and has many more areas flattening out towards the north.

Well I better get this posted, it is getting long.  Still more to come.
Roger and Susan

Folk Art Center

The Folk Art Center is an amazing place. It celebrates the history of Apalachain folk art as well as the many people who carry on the traditions and skills passed down over many generations.

It is run by the Southern Highland Craft Guild. They have live exhibits like the spinning and weaving that wa happening in the lobby. There is a gift shop, of course. There was also several galleries showing work for sale, some wood, some fabric, some clay, some quilts.
Some of the pottery was especially interesting.  It was done with thin sheets of clay rolled into shapes like birch logs. They were impressed with natural materials.  Looked wonderful.

There was an exhibit of work done with what appeared to be really thick paint but it was fibers, fabric bits, paper and glue and pastes to complete a strong three dimensions surface texture and a resulting work of art.

There was also a special exhibit of quilts called “Eyecatchers: The Hunter Collection”. It contained twenty or thirty quilts from the collection of Robert & Barbara Hunter. They indeed were eye catching.


So, if you go to Asheville, here is another place you don’t want to miss.
Next we are off towards the southern part of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park.  The vast majority of visitors stay on the northern side near Gatlinburgor Pigeon Forge where DollyWood is. Dozens of campgrounds and thousands of rooms for visitors just outside of the park. We chose the south side and a quiet campground in the homeland of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians.
Roger and Susan


We have been to Biltmore before but it is worth a second or third look. The gardens are in full bloom and the house was lavishly decorated with spring flowers. Probably the most amazing room in the home is the Winter Garden.  When you go on the tour, you enter  biltmore through the massive outer fromt doors and then the even more massive wooden front doors.  Neither have outside door handles. The butler opens the doors from the inside. The entry foyer is huge, the ceiling high and awe is the main word that comes to mind. Just to the right the very large octagonal Winter Garden awaits.  Down a few steps into an oasis of orchids, whites one one side, reds, pinks and purples finished the room. Orchids of every conceivable shape.

Stunning, massive white oak truss work carries the leaded glass dome and the chandeliers. A system of cranks, swivel joints and geared arms open windows in the dome to help keep the twmperature and humidity just right for the flowers and plants on display. The central fountain has a marble and bronze fountain sculpture “Boy Stealing Geese” by Viennese artist Karl Bitter. At Christmas it is replaced with a soaring tree decorated for the season.

Every time I have visited the house, I marvel at the craftsmanship.  Several hundred skilled craftsmen worked on the house from 1889 – 1895.  They lived in a village built for them at the edge of the 125,000 acre estate.  A three mile long railway spur was built to the home site to transport materials and workers. A sawmill and millwork shops were built. Nearby clay was dug to manufacture bricks in the brick factory and kilns that was built. Once fired, the brick kilns produced 30,000 bricks a day for more than five years.

The house sits on foundations fourteen feet wide and twenty feet high. They support a steel frame structure of columns, beams, trusses and joists reaching all the way to the roof. Bricks, concrete and stone filled in between and then finished materials completed the interiors.  The exterior was covered with limestone blocks shaped on site and mortared together.  All fo the finish detail stone carving was done on the stone in place.

The roof was Pennsylvania Slate wired to the steel sub structure.  There is very little wooden structure to make the home almost fire proof.
The stone work is very detailed and precise. gargoyles (drains) and grotesques were everywhere.
The roof flachings were lead and custom made copper panels with an embossed GV or his family crest or his mother’s family crest. 
There are 16 chimneys venting 45 fireplaces.three of them are in the dining room.
 70 ft ceiling, seating for more than 100.

The flowers in the formal gardens were blooming. The consrvatory and the hot houses were full of new plants and flowers.

We spent all day wandering around inside the house and in the gardens. We went back the next morning so that I could go on the “Architect’s tour”. This gives you a special behind the scenes look at the house that the regular tours never see. This was from the roof.

 And the outside of the Winter Garden.

There is more, better get these loaded.
Roger and Susan

More Asheville

The Grove Park Inn.

We were here about 5 years ago in February. 50’s during the day, low 40’s at night.  Every morning had mist in the low areas. It was a fun visit.  The Arts and Crafts Show and Sale had everything from fine art to silver to furniture to glass to pottery. We learned a lot looking at old stuff. There were a lot of new crafts people there too carrying on the traditions with new work.
The interior is quite spectacular. The lobby was huge.  The fireplace is big enough for several people to stand upright inside of it. The elevators are built into the stone work along the sides of the fireplace. It is still amazing.
More later.

Asheville, NC

We have moved from Asheville to The Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  We have cell phone service that goe from 1X to No Service.  Data is very slow.  We sort of expected this but after having 4G service everywhere we have been is it an adjustment.  All that being said, I will try to post to,the blog although they may be shorter and I may have to save some pictures for later.

We arrived in Asheville in Friday, April, 11, 2014. Asheville is at the foothils of the Appalachian. Mountains at about 2200 ft. It is very hilly and surrounded by low mountains. It is spread out through several areas, valleys, gaps or coves as they are called. From one area you can’t see much of anywhere else.  Each has a little different flavor. If you don’t know where something is, even with a map it is hard to find.  We spent about 30 minutes looking for a grocery store and never left the city and never found one.  We did finally find one.  We have been to Asheville a couple times before.  It is a very pleasant  place to visit. We were here in February for the Annual Arts and Crafts show and sale held at the Grove Park Inn. It is one of the major events each year in the Arts and Crafts world.  The Grove Park Inn is an amazing old hotel built during the height of the Arts and Craft period and was furnished entirely with furniture from Stickley and Roycroft.  Much of the furnishings remain more as display pieces rather than everyday pieces.
Nice place to visit, maybe lunch, maybe stay.
Saturday, we went to the Biltmore Estate. It was the home of George Washington Vanderbilt.  It was built from 1889-1895 while he was still a bachelor.  He chose this site over the more common Rhode Island or Long Island locations for the very rich to build their summer homes because he liked the weather, the clean air and the land.  His inspiration came from any European trips visitimg chateaus and castles.  He ended up with a French chateau looking home on 125,000 acres.  The home is the largest home in America, more than 250 rooms, 175,000 sq ft.  From the outside and to,the family and guests inside it looks like three stories.  But to more than 30 staff people there were 7 floors.  Entire floors tucked in between the public floors where servants could do what needed to be done without being seen.

I better try to post this one before it gets too big.

Roger and Susan