Rest and regroup at a Private Campground.
We came Friday night (04-25) and planned to stay over two days while the weather sorted itself out. We did laundry, did email and other office chores, and Tom went to a couple of antiques places and a craft store in Wears Valley, right up the road from the campground. We stopped at Subway on the way back and got sandwiches, so we wouldn't have to cook. For us it was a bit of a luxury. We watched (cable) TV in the evening and Tom worked on the travelog.
We Get on the Schoolhouse GapTrail.
We got up a little early (we never get up real early!) and made it to the Schoolhouse Gap Trail parking lot by about 10:30. We found parking no problem, and got out on the trail. Letty jumped a muddy spot and later we started up a hill. After about 100 or so feet of bumpy twisting hill, Tom told Letty to stop and turn so she could look back down the hill. Tom went up and found the trail was still steep and bumpy, and came back to Letty. He told her to look down the trail and asked her if she could imagine 300 more feet of that downhill on the way back. We decided she should turn around there and go back down to the level section of the trail. She was brave and waited in a shady spot with a breeze while Tom hiked up the trail. About 1.1 miles up the trail, Tom found the unmarked trail to go down into the area called the Whiteoak Sinks, where he heard there might be some Yellow Ladyslippers. He went partly down to where there were some Pink Ladyslippers just starting to bloom. Knowing that Letty was waiting on the trail, he turned around before getting down into the sinks, where the stream apparently dissappears into a cave. Something to put on the list for next time.
We try to hike the Schoolhouse Gap Trail.
This day we planned to get Letty out on the Schoolhouse Gap Trail, and drove over to the trailhead parking lot. When we arrived, we couldn't park in the lot or anywhere near the lot. We were told that a college class was there, and so we went to do something else for the day. We decided to take photos of the wildflowers along the road between Elkmont and Cades Cove.
Yellow Trillium, Columbine, and Purple Phacelia.
Purple Phacelia along the road.
Stonecrop growing on an old tree stump.
Crested Dwarf Iris.
Tom finds the Yellow Ladyslippers, but not in bloom.
While planning this trip, Tom looked at some of the photos he took 5 years ago, when were last in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He had trouble remembering just where he saw the Yellow ladyslippers when he was here. After conferring with Letty and reviewing things in his brain, he decided it was along the Cucumber Gap Trail, near Elkmont campground. Off he went on the hike, looking at the surrounding, and comparing them to his memory. Eventually he got to a spot that fit the description and appearance of the side trail to the goal. Up the trail he went, and there they were. The only catch was that they were not in bloom yet. After this hike and lunch, we drove over to the Cades Cove campground and looked for areas along the road to photograph wildflowers.
Large Yellow Ladyslipper (foliage only).
The Cucumber Gap Trail.
Little RIver Trail
Near Elkmont Campground is the Little River Trail, a gravel trail that follows the river, and has a variety of wildflowers on it. Letty was able to go on the trail, so we both hiked about 3/4 of a mile up the trail and back. Along the trail are some old cabins that are not in use. Tom took photos and Letty helped point out some of the flowers.
Fringed White Phacelia.
Letty waits on an angle while Tom takes photos.
The Newton Bald Trail and a wildflower meadow near the river.
Just outside the Smokemont campground and across the road is the trailhead for the Newton Bald Trail. We parked in the parking area, and Tom hiked up the trail. There were some wildflowers along the way to photograph, and Tom enjoyed the hike. He did not go all the way to the bald (top of the mountain). After returning, we drove across the road again and down near the RV dump station and riding stables. Tom went down the hill towards the river and took photos in the wildflower meadow along the river.
A Yellow Violet.
Golden Ragwort along the river.
The Oconolufte River Trail
We parked at the visitor center on the North Carolina side of the park and went on the Oconolufte River Trail, a fairly level gravel path along the edge of the river. The trail has a variety of wildflowers along it, and views of the river. Letty was able to easily navigate the trail in her wheelchair, and Tom took photos.
What is it?
Blue Phlox along the river.
One Flowered Cancer Root.
We find a lion- A Food Lion.
Because it was rainy in the morning and the forecast said rain for the day, we decided to go to a campground with WIFI, electric, cable, etc. for the day and one night. We did our laundry and worked on the travelog and email, etc. On the way, in Cherokee, we found the Food Lion Supermarket and shopped for some food. Tom checked his photo file to make sure he had duplicate copies of everything and wouldn't erase anything by mistake.
Hiking at Smokemont.
Tom Went off to hike the Smokemont loop trail and photograph wildflowers. After walking up the trail about 1/2 mile and noticing a sign saying the trail went to the right up the mountainside, Tom stayed on the fire road to the left, and wandered around a little and then back to the sign. He decided to try the mountain trail. After about 250 to 400 feet that seemed to go straight up and had no wildflowers on it, he turned around and went right back down to the level road. Along the way back to the campground there were many flowers, and he did get some photography done. Moral of the story: a level trail with wildflowers beats a mountain trail with none every time.
An early Azalia (I believe).
Blue Phlox took over the edge of the forest many places along the road over the mountains.
A large flowered trillium (Trillium grandiflorum).
The Smokemont loop trail- the view up the trail from where I decided to go back down.
The North Carolina side of the Smokies.
After 2 days at Elkmont Campground, we decided to go over to the other side of the park, and drove up over the mountains, through Newfound Gap, and down towards Cherokee, North Carolina. At the higher elevations, we saw snow along the roadsides- The road had been closed a few days earlier due to snow and ice. We set up at Smokemont Campground and then went in to Cherokee to visit the Qualla Arts Center. Pottery, baskets, jewelry and other art made by Cherokee Craftsmen are offered for sale. We also had to visit a regular souvenir and teeshirt shop to buy some gifts and souvenir items.
Sugarlands Visitor Center and some hikes.
We went to visit the visitor center and the gift shop there. Outside, a guided tour to the nearby Cataract Falls was forming, and we were invited. We had to go a different way for wheelchair access, and the party caught up with us part of the way there. Of course Tom brought his camera and did some photos on the way back. A half hour visit to the gift shop turned out to take 2 hours. Later we hiked up the Ash Hopper Branch trail across form the visitor center. Letty could only go a little way along, but Tom walk up about 3/4 of a mile. On the way back we saw 4 wild turkeys near the trail. ON the way back to camp we stopped to make a cell phone call at a pullout part way up the mountain road to Elkmont. We were told that cell coverage was acceptable from there. Just as we were leaving, cars stopped along the road and people jumped out of their cars. On the side of the mountain was a black bear browsing for food.
These white Canada Violets were near the Cataract Falls.
A black bear about 500 feet from the roadway.
We didn't have far to drive to get to the Elkmont Campground in the Smoky Mountains National Park. We found a site right next to the site we picked the first time we were at Elkmont. (I think in 2002.) A small creek ran right behind the campsite, and we felt right at home.
Cable, Internet, Laundry- who could ask for more?
We needed some amenities for a day, and Letty found a nice RV park campground, Creekside RV Park, with cable TV, full hookups, laundry and free WIFI (high speed internet access). The campground is near downtown Pigeon Forge and all the attractions, but we did no sight-seeing. The second half of 4-13 was resting, working on the travelog, cleaning up, watching TV and taking it easy in Pigeon Forge. The day of 4-14, we did laundry and worked on the computers, including this travelog.
Douglas Dam and Douglas Lake
The mileage when we arrived at the campground at Douglas Dam headwaters was actually 999.9, but I rounded it up instead of off. The campground had a beautiful view of the lake, and the weather was very comfortable. A real nice place to stay, with electric hookup and good television reception for a reasonable (half) price.
Douglas Lake from the campground.
Our campsite at Douglas Lake.
The South Old Mac Trail and the dyamite shack.
We heard that there might be some Yellow Ladyslippers at a spot on this trail near where an old dynamite shack was located. Tom hiked out the trail and found the shack, but no Ladyslippers. A short way further along the trail there were Dwarf Crested Iris in bloom along the trail, and this was a nice treat. After the hike and lunch we moved on towards the Great Smoky Mountains, and stopped at a TVA campground near Douglas Dam. A beautiful place to stay with electric hookup, and since the The Tennessee Valley Authority is considered part of the federal government (we think), Letty could get half price for camping fees.
Tom at the old dynamite shack- NO SMOKING!
Dwarf Crested Iris along the trail.
Frozen Head State Park.
Tom went on the Panther Branch Trail, a day before one of the Wildflower Pilgrimage hikes was to occur on the trail. This trail had an area full of Grand Flowered Trillium and loaded with purple, white, and yellow violets. A waterfall and a rocky babbling brook were featured within about 6 tenths of a mile of the trailhead. Many wildflowers were visible right at the parking lot and turn-around for the end of the end of the road. After the hike and lunch, we went to the small gift shop and just barely got back in the Rv before it started raining. Back up at the campground in an area between the mountain peaks, we experienced a sever thunderstorm with hail, but it only lasted an hour or so. Even in our remote location we were able to watch 'Survivor' on television. (Mostly listen.)
Halberd Leaved Violet.
A Dwarf Crested Iris.
A Vasey's Trillium.
The Clear Creek Trail.
Tom hiked the Clear Creek Trail for about 6 tenths of a mile, and then walked back along Lower Clear Creek Road to the Mill. This trail was a little easier than the River Bluff Trail and had more wildflowers on it. Tom took photos along this trail. After the hike and lunch we headed over to Frozen Head State Park along local roads and state highways, and experienced some of poorer rural Tennessee.
Rue Anemones along the Clear Creek Trail.
The grist mill is where the Clear Creek Trail starts.
The Lenoir Museum.
We visited the Lenoir Museum in the state park. Along with panorama photos of the construction of the dam in the 1930's, there was furniture, tools, and other items of daily living from the past in the local area. After the museum visit, we went to the gristmill nearby and found the Clear Creek Trail, another trail recommended for wildflower viewing. It starts right in front of the mill.
A Cradle at the Lenoir Museum.
The Songbird Trail
We hiked the Songbird Trail, and yes, there were many birds singing. It lived up to its name. We both enjoyed the flowers on the trail, the trees and the river, and the warm spring day. After the hike , we headed in to town to shop for some groceries and pick up some propane gas. Even in the spring weather we will use propane for heat and hot water, as well as cooking.
Tom taking photos on the Songbird Trail.
Letty was able to go on the Songbird Trail.
|Date: 2008-04-07 |
Hiking at Norris Dam State Park.
We found the River Bluff Trail, and Tom got to hike and take photos. We drove across the dam to the east side of the park and found where the Lenoir Museum and the Songbird Trail were. We worked again on getting the RV organized and got ready for both of us to go on the Songbird Trail the next day.
A Trout Lily.
A Red Trillium.
Norris Dam State Park.
We got a little more organized in the RV, and settled in at a wonderful campground at the top of a large hill (or a small mountaintop). We had electric hookup and could watch television with reasonable regular reception and some digital reception. We settled in and got ready for some hiking the next day.
Overnight at a truck stop.
We got underway at about 11 am and found hundreds of fishermen along the road back to the interstate. We were near a state fish hatchery and it must have been the first day of the trout season in Virginia. We drove up into the mountains of West Virginia to visit Lost River State Park so that we could get our park passes stamped. We are collecting state parks in West Virginia to get into the Very Important Park Persons (VIPP) club. We drove on some local and state roads to get there, and then returned to I-81 to continue south. We stayed at an RV park associated with a large truck stop near Lexington, VA.
The Lee Hi Truck Stop / RV Park near Lexington, VA.
A field of Grape Hyacinth along the way to Lost River State Park in WV.
First night with the new sleeping arrangement.
We tried the new pullout "drawer" system for sleeping, and it worked. Not real well, but the advantage of having the wheelchair sit at the side of the coach instead of just inside the rear door was well worth it. Letty, of course slept on the side that didn't change, but of course getting in and out was different. Tom found the the new cushions that he made slid around in the middle of the night, and had to be repositioned often. More on that later. We didn't expect to hike on this stop, just stay overnight.
Getting ready to go.
It always seems like it takes a month to get ready for our six week trip. Actually, we are never ready the day we leave. We just work hard making sure everything we need is in the RV.