Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Fun In The Great Smoky Mountains

We enjoy visiting our mountain cabin in Robbinsville, North Carolina in the Summertime and look forward to our children and grandchildren joining us when they can.   Everyone very much enjoys the cool breezes, peace, solitude and natural beauty of the mountains.

After a few days of solitude at the cabin we occasionally decide to head over to the bright lights of the tourist area.  Located about 45 minutes away from Robbinsville is the Indian town of Cherokee, North Carolina which is also the entrance to the incredible Great Smoky Mountain National Park.   It is great fun to drive through the Park on over to the towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.  They are both very busy tourist towns and it would take days and days to see and do all they have to offer.

We arrived in the town of Cherokee which is headquarters for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.  As you drive through town it is not at all unusual to see Cherokee Indians in full Indian dress sitting, or doing what looks like traditional Indian dances with crowds of people surrounding them.

As we entered into Cherokee on Hwy. 441 we could not help but notice these colorfully painted bears located in different locations along our route.

 Curiosity took us to the Visitor's Center where we inquired about the bears.

We were told there are 20 painted bears currently located in and around Cherokee.  
There are plans to have a total of 25 colorfully painted bears located all around the town of Cherokee.

One of the bears honors the veterans of the Armed Forces 
 and is located at the Cherokee's Veteran Memorial.

     The idea began in 2005 as part of a public art program featuring the talents of local tribal artists.  

The Cherokee Indians wanted to showcase the talented artists within the area.  


Each bear depicts a different aspect of the Cherokee's culture and unique heritage.

We would have enjoyed seeing all the bears all around town, but I just took photos of the bears along our route on Highway 441, which would take us on into the Smoky Mountain National Park.

The Park was officially dedicated by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1940.  
The Park encompasses 522,419 acres.  

There are 850 miles of trails for hiking including seventy miles of the Appalachian Trail through the Park.  Visitors can hike up to Mount LeConte the highest mountain in the Park, and one of the most popular destinations.  Hikers can spend a night at the LeConte Lodge which provides cabins, meals and rooms for rent.  Hiking is the only way in or out and reservations usually are filled up past a year.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the United States with  more than 9 million visitors a year.  There is so much to see and do here it is no wonder people return often.

The distance from Cherokee, North Carolina across and through the Park on into Gatlinburg, Tennessee is about 18 miles or a driving time of about 35 minutes. 

 The oldest rocks here in the Park are said to have formed over a billion years ago.

There is a black bear population here of about 1,500 and at the entrance to the Park on the Cherokee side it is not uncommon to see elk grazing off in the distance.  There are 240 species of birds and 60 species are year-round residents.   Over 100 species of trees grow in the Park plus 1,400 flowering plants and over 4,000 non-flowering plants.

About half-way through the Park you will find a nice place to stop and stretch your legs at Newfound Gap.  The parking lot sits on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee.  The views from this area are amazing.  The Appalachian Trail comes right through this parking lot.

 In the below photo is some of the family taking a break at Newfound Gap.
Daughter Debi, grandson Ethan, granddaughter Elly, Grandson Preston,
Daughter Sharon and grandson Lawson

There is so much to see and do in the Park.  There are lots and lots of hikes with some being quite long, but there are some short hiking trails as well.  There is camping, fishing, horseback riding, picnicking,  river tubing, walks to waterfalls and historic buildings to visit especially in Cades Cove.

Beautiful creeks can be seen all along through the Park.  

The Park has over 50 species of fish and fly-fishing is one of the favorite activities.

After leaving the Park, daughter D'Nai and family decided they wanted to try zip-lining over in  Pigeon Forge.  In the below photo is D'Nai and husband Don, with our granddaughter Sydney and guide getting ready for their adventure.

Grandson Nate being fitted for his equipment for zip-lining .

Daughter D'Nai, granddaughter Sydney,  grandson Nate and son-in-law Don, 
listening to instructions before leaving for their zip-line trip.  They had a great time!

After spending time enjoying the sights, food and activities of the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge area everyone headed back across the mountain and back to the peacefulness of the cabin.

Two sets of children and grandchildren headed back home.  One to Kentucky and one to South Florida.  One set stayed on.  They wanted to make the river rafting trip down the Nantahala River which is not too far away from the cabin.  The whole family was going to go, but the Nahtahala folks said that due to all the rain in the area the river was too rough and 8 year old Lawson had to stay back with his dad.

In front is grandson Preston (he fell out right after this picture was taken), 
daughter Sharon, John Scott and Will with the guide in the very back.

What a nice way to end the day with a delicious dinner at the "River's End" restaurant,
 after the river rafting trip.

The Good Lord has provided such beauty all around for all of us to enjoy ... It is truly amazing!  For me it is such fun to try to capture some of that beauty with my camera.  

Thanks for coming with us through Cherokee and the Great Smoky Mountain National Park as we enjoy the wonderful beauty of Summertime in the mountains.

Wishing you a wonderful week with many blessings wherever you may be.

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