A Weekend in the Smokies

August, 2015
Seeing the Great Smoky Mountains was my old dream. I often browsed online resources, looking at images of the place and jotting itineraries of my visit. And then, I found an opportunity to bring these plans to life.
My schedule for the coming weekend was open. Not enough for any thorough exploration, yet sufficient for a tour of the most famous places. I left home on a Friday afternoon, and by late evening covered most of the distance. Exhausted, I stopped at a roadside motel for the night. In the morning, I was on the road again, approaching my first destination - the Cataloochee Valley.

Cataloochee Valley

The name Cataloochee derived from a Cherokee phrase meaning "wave upon wave of mountains". It is not apparent when you drive the gravel road to this remote area, but eventualy you get to point, where the views clearly explain the naming. Being there was nice: only a handful of people, historic buildings, and I even encountered a bear, peacefully pichking berries along the road.

To the Cades Cove

I left the valley in the afternoon and set my course to the Cades Cove - a popular destination with a few things to see and activities to do. I had little time for anything major, but the road trip itself was very amusing. Nevertheless, I made a few stops, to strech my legs and walk a few steps away from the car.

To Fontanta Dam

Heavy traffic, which is a known plague of the Cades Cove's one-way road, delayed me, and in order to get to Fontana Dam - my next destination - before dark, I decided to take an alternative route: the Parsons Branch - a seasonal, narrow, and minimally maintained gravel road. Driving it turned out to be a lot of fun. Add an encounter with another black bear, and it became clear that the desiciton was a smart move.

Next Morning

I spent the night in a campgroud, not far away from my morning location, where I wanted to catch the sunrise. A few hours, that I had at my disposal, were spent on a short hike to the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower - the highest point in the park. By the afternoon, I left behind Smokies and busy towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, thinking of the memorable experience of the weekend.