Archive for August, 2010
The two most popular vistas in the Great Smoky Mountains are at Newfound Gap and Clingmans Dome, primarily because both are accessible by car …although there’s a fairly steep half-mile walk from the parking lot to the Clingmans Dome observation tower.
The spectacular view from atop Mt. LeConte requires considerably more effort. It can only be reached on foot, the most popular route being the rather strenuous 5.5 mile trek along the Alum Cave Trail. From the parking lot on US 441, hikers climb 2763 feet to reach the 6593 foot peak, averaging more than 500 feet elevation gain per mile. But the reward is the breathtaking view that Shari Jardina enjoys above.
Most make it a day hike — an 11-mile hike roundtrip. While there are overnight accommodations at the rustic LeConte Lodge, space is limited and in high demand. Reservations generally fill up months in advance.
Shari is an Indianapolis photographer who’s captured many images of the North Carolina Smokies. This one was made by her husband Eric.
One of the best-kept secrets in Bryson City is the local folk that call it home. Visitors don’t have to look far to find hometown pride. They can see it in the buildings that have been renovated instead of razed and in the beautiful flowers scattered throughout the county.
A short trip to West Deep Creek (which locals call the left side of the creek) reveals a garden so spectacular visitors stop in the middle of the street and take pictures. Larry and Catherine Winchester began planting sunflowers as a way of teaching their grandchildren about the land they love. Today it is a tradition.
The “Sunflower Garden” that began with a few seeds has grown into a traffic-stopping row that reaches high into the air. A welcome home sign to all who pass.
Last year, a new outdoor adventure got off the ground — literally — when the Nantahala Gorge Canopy Tours began offering rides on their 1/2 mile-long network of ziplines throughout the treetops in the Nantahala Gorge. Part eco-tourism, part adventure tour, zip lines provide an opportunity to soar through a forest with a unique perspective of the land below. Today, it’s one of the most popular outdoor activities in the area, with their three hour rides routinely selling out. Above, a group of riders await await their turn on a sky bridge.
For centuries, the Cherokee built their villages near the streams and rivers that flow out of the Smokies, largely for the bountiful supply of fish that the waterways provided. And to harvest large quantities of fish, they built fish weirs — “V”shaped constructions of rock that start from the banks on either side of the river and come to a point downstream. Men would line up across the river above the weir and roll bundles of river cane downstream, gradually forcing the fish into the apex of the weir. Nets or traps caught the fish, which were dried or smoked as a food supply for their nearby village.
Even though weir fishing is no longer practiced, many of these rock structures still remain. And a group of Cherokee youngsters from the Birdtown Day Camp recently had an opportunity to learn the “old way” of fishing in a demonstration conducted by WATR — the Watershed Association of the Tuckasegee River — with help from Blue Welch (foreground, above) of Cherokee Fisheries and Wildlife Management.
The program — a partnership between WATR, US Fish and Wildlife and the Cherokee Preservation Foundation — focused on the river ecosystem and the importance of water quality. Roger Clapp, executive director of WATR, sat the children on the riverbank to eat their lunch, and gave them a lesson on what he calls “mudology.” Runoff of soil disturbed by developments, road building and bad streamside planting practices, creates sediment in the river, which is unhealthy for fish, insects and other wildlife which depend on the river.
Photo by Bill Lee
The Great Smoky Mountains are known for beautiful lakes, rivers and mountain streams …but not necessarily for beaches. That’s because the banks are often rocky and steep, and the waters too swift for casual wading. But in downtown Cherokee at Island Park, the Oconaluftee River widens and becomes shallow enough for children to enjoy playing and splashing in the water. It’s the Smokies’ solution for a day at the beach.
Nowhere else in the Smokies will you find as many different ways to enjoy water as the Bryson City area offers. To learn everything you can do in ‘Mother Nature’s Water Park’ go here.