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

Blue Ridge Parkway

Saturday, April 12, 2014

[Sorry the pictures didn’t make it. Google Blogger, what can I say.]

We got to Asheville yesterday afternoon. We are staying at Bear Creek Campground.  It is on a hill so there is really no creek and probably no bears. We did some weather checking and rearranged some plans to accomodate the expected rain on Monday and maybe a chance to see the last part of the Master’s golf tournament.
We drove up to the Blue Ridge Parkway Headquarters Visitor’s Center.  We got maps and brochures and lots of really helpful info from a helpful ranger.  There was an interesting film about the Parkway. It talked about building it starting back in the Depression and its completion in the 1980’s.  It hooks up to the Shenandoah Parkway at the north end and ends at Great Smokies National Park on the south.  
On Saturday we packed a picnic lunch and headed north.  There was a detour around a piece of the Parkway that was being repaired. The detour took up through a steep, very twisty two lane road around the repair area.  I would not have driven the coach on that road.

Every turn opens up amazing vistas. The dogwoods and many other flowering trees were blooming. While we were only in the 3-4,000 ft elevation range it still feels like you are in the mounntain, because you are.

The navigator did a wonderful job. We stoped for a short hike to a small falls. More like rapids.

At the end of this day’s northerly driver we arrived at an old estate which was given to the National Park Service.  The fellow that owned it (Mr. Moses) made his money making denim fabric.  His hobby was building roads so there are more than 25 mles of carriage roads on his estate.  Today they are used for hiking, biking and horseback riding.

Nice view from the porch.

And we stopped for our picnic, of course.

It was a very nice day.  A bit of a long drive but surprisingly comfortable in the Jeep.
Tomorrow we are heading for the Biltmore Estate.  Some house time and garden time.  Spring is in full bloom.
More tomorrow.
Roger and Susan

Twin Lakes, Near Clemson, SC

Thursday, April 10, 2014
Yesterday we departed Carleston, SC headed for Asheville, NC.  We wanted to find something not in the city for a couple days to relax.  We found it!  
The Army Corps of Engineers manages the Hartwell Lake and Dam near Clemson, SC. The lake covers almost 90 square miles and has nearly 1000 miles of shoreline. And there are 32 square miles of land in the district. There are 9 campgrouds, 50 recreation areas and 5 marinas in this COE site.
We are at Twin Lakes campground near Clemson, SC home of the Tigers.  We found a nice site.
Most of the more than 100 sites are right on the lake.

We walked around the park today through all of the loops. 12,462 steps!  Along the way we found the Dogwoods in bloom.

We looked at all of the sites with an eye towards where we would like to stay. South exposure, sun, shade, privacy, interesting … a whole bunch of intangibles. There were lots to choose from. All have water and 50 amp electric (very desirable), fire pit, picnic table and a grill. Very nice.

Quiet, calm, relaxing. A nice change from the busy city.

75 degrees warm today.  It is spring here. The trees are early in the leaf stage. Some are blooming pink. The pine trees are all mixed in all over. They were removing a big pine today. The smell of cut pine was very intense.

Just like “On Golden Pond”. A small campfire tonight. Toasted a few marshmallows. Relaxed. We added some piñon pine. Amazing smell. Reminds us of Santa Fe.

Roger and Susan