Saturday, November 3, 2012

Scenic Cherohala Skyway

During a recent visit to Robbinsville, North Carolina we decided to take a day and drive up the Cherohala Skyway.  We were on a Fall leaf-looking mission and knew the Skyway was known for its breathtaking beauty, and splendid Fall leaf color.  The Cherohala Skyway is a National Scenic Byway, and is often compared to the beauty of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

We began our drive on the Robbinsville side of the Skyway.  After driving 15 miles on Highway 143 we crossed the state line into Tennessee, and then the road became Highway 165.  Then you continue another 21 miles on over to the little town of Tellico Plains.  If you drive without too many stops the drive takes about two and one-half hours.

Entrance to Cherohala Skyway

The below map will give you an idea where the Cherohala Skyway is located.  You can see the town of Robbinsville a little below the middle of the map.  Follow Highway 143 west,  and you will see where the Skyway begins and ends.

The drive along the Cherohala Skyway is scenic right from the start.  This below photo was taken just as we pulled onto the Skyway.  From here, in the below photo we could see the 3,800 acre Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest.  This is a memorial set aside to honor Joyce Kilmer, the author of "Trees."  When we studied that poem in high school I just loved it.
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth's flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree. 
Joyce Kilmer

There are so many breathtaking views all along the way.

There are several picnic areas along the way.

As we traveled on up and up it became apparent we had missed the peak leaf-looking time.  Many of the trees had already lost their leaves,  especially at the higher elevations.

We pulled into one of the scenic overlooks and noticed a hunter with his hunting dogs parked there.  It was hunting season in Graham County, and I have heard the men there take hunting very seriously.  From the look of the technology I guess that is true.  I asked permission to take a photo of them and got the OK.

In the below photo, these two fellas looked like they were taking everything very seriously.  The black and white puppy dog was so tuned in to what he was doing he would not even look my way......he was on a serious mission.

Have you ever seen such a sweet face as in the below photo?  Don't you always wish animals could talk.  I would love to know what he was thinking.  He is all hooked up to hunting equipment, and he looks like he might be thinking......."I am not a model, I am a hunting dog, so why are you taking my picture?"

Well!  he must have decided there was not too much going on in the way of wild critters coming his way and decided to rest awhile.  Can you see all of his hunting buddies in the cage below?  We talked to them a little and they all seemed excited about their adventure.

In the below photo, if you are looking back at just the right time, you can see a part of the roadway you just came from.

The Skyway weaves along westward through the southern Appalachian Mountains.  Amazingly, these mountains are considered to be some of the oldest in the world, formed more than 200 million years ago.

In some places there was still a good bit of leaf color, but definitely past the beautiful peak of leaf color season.

In the early 1900's Hooper's Bald was once the location of a private hunting preserve stocked with buffalo, wild boar, elk, mule-deer, bear, wild turkey and pheasants.  The preserve failed, but today the Russian Blue Boar population continues to grow in spite of hunting and the encroachment of civilization.  An encounter with a wild hog is unlikely for the typical visitor. These animals tend to stay in the deepest forests.

In the below photo is a photo of Hooper's Bald, elevation 5,290 feet.  Here you will find very primitive restrooms, two picnic tables and a quarter mile hike to the Bald.

Continuing on our way we travel on up to Santeetlah which has the highest elevation on the Skyway.

From Santeetlah we begin our descent.  As you can see the trees again become more colorful.

The Skyway has become well known in motorcycling and sportscar circles.  We saw lots and lots of motorcycles enjoying the trip along the Skyway.

As you continue on over the Skyway, just a few miles before you get to Tellico Plains, there is a turn-off to the left on Forest Service Road 210.  This is an 18 mile, side-trip drive down to Bald River Falls.  It is so well worth the extra drive.  You drive along a narrow paved road along side a beautiful creek all the way to the Bald River Falls.

After a stunning drive along the creek, you arrive at the Bald River Falls.  The falls drop about 100 feet into a pool below. 

If you choose, you can view the falls without leaving the car. 

Just past the bridge is a parking area if you are interested in getting good photos or just getting out of your car and enjoying the beautiful falls.

Across the bridge is another much smaller, but very scenic falls.

We enjoyed the beautiful drive back and headed on to Tellico Plains.  There were several places to have lunch.  We decided to visit the Tellicafe for a late lunch.  What a good choice because the food was completely delicious.

There was a very nice Visitors Center when we reached Tellico Plains.

The below Quilt was part of the Appalachian Quilt Trail,  and was located at the Visitors Center.

Well, after a delicious late lunch at the Tellicafe in Tellico Plains, we headed back across the Cherohala Skyway.

We surely did enjoy the drive back across the Skyway, and arrived back just in time to see the setting sun going down behind the mountain.

What a beautiful day it was driving across the mountains.  Thanks for coming along with us and I hope you enjoyed the views along the way.

I hope it is a beautiful Fall wherever you may be,  and wish you many blessings!

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