On Top of Old Smoky
Our campsite at Pride RV Resort in Waynesville, North Carolina put us close enough to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to see the fall colors changing. We left GSP RV Park in Greer, South Carolina around 9AM and drove to nearby Blue Compass RV for some service. Our RV needed the wheel bearings replaced and repacked. While waiting, we went to breakfast and did some shopping until noon. When the rig was finished we departed for our two day visit to the "Smokies" arriving on Thursday afternoon, October 12 around 4 PM.
The RV parks in the area are very busy this time of year because the changing seasonal colors are a big deal here, like in New England. It's not quite as dramatic as Vermont or New Hampshire but spectacular enough to draw a large crowd here in the south. There are other attractions in the area as well. Nearby in the town of Cherokee, North Carolina is a huge Harrah's casino and Native American reservation. In Pigeon Forge, Tennessee there is what I call "Hillbilly Disneyland" and "Dollywood".
So Friday morning we got started around 10:30 AM and drove southwest on US-19 from the RV park through Maggie Valley to Cherokee turning north on the Newfound Gap Highway, US-441. Our first stop on the route was the Mingus Gristmill, the largest in the Smokies. Its 200 foot-long wooden flume brings water to the mill's turbine. The gristmill's stone was turned by a water-powered, cast iron turbine. From the water pressure built up in the penstock at the flume's end, the turbine generated 11 horsepower- enough to run the mill's machinery. As early as the 1820's, more progressive millers began using turbines to power their mills rather than waterwheels.
From the mill we continued on to Clingmans Dome (Kuwahi), a mountain in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina in the Southeastern United States. Its name in Cherokee is Kuwahi or Kuwohi (ᎫᏩᎯ or ᎫᏬᎯ), meaning "mulberry place." The road in was 7 miles long and the last mile was bumper to bumper traffic but worth the wait.
At an elevation of 6,643 feet, it is the highest mountain in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the highest point in the state of Tennessee, and the highest point along the 2,192-mile Appalachian Trail.
From the parking lot we walked the half mile trail uphill to the observation tower built in 195; the 45-foot concrete observation tower features a circular observation platform accessed by a spiral ramp. The ramp is 375 feet in length, and rises at a 12 percent grade, in sync with the Clingmans Dome Trail.
The platform, 28 feet in diameter, allows spectators a 360-degree panorama of the surrounding terrain. Cantilevered signs point out the various peaks, ridges, cities, and other features visible in the distance. Depending on the haze, visibility ranges from 20 miles on hazy days to 100 miles on very clear days.
From the Dome we detoured to walk a section of the Appalachian Trail back down the mountain hiking thru both North Carolina and Tennessee...yeah baby!
The Dome took most of our day but we continued on avoiding the tourist trap of Gaitlinburg, Tennessee by way of the Gaitlinburg Parkway, US-321 and on to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. We got to Pigeon Forge and found the parkway congested with vehicle traffic. On both sides of the parkway thru the town were countless small amusement parks, Go kart tracks and mini golf courses with a variety of themes. It went on for miles with restaurants and souvenir shops interspersed along the way. This is the home of Dollywood... Dolly Parton's version of Disneyland. I didn't take any pictures; I just wanted to get out of the craziness. It seems like Heaven for kids and an expensive Hell for their parents.
We braved the traffic and continued on to Sevierville, Tennessee and US-411 to Interstate 40. We had an early dinner at a roadside diner called Haywood 209 Cafe and then returned to our campground. It was a wonderful full day enjoying our Great Smoky Mountain adventure!