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Sunday, April 07, 2013

A Day Off to Visit Smokey Mountain National Park

Hurrah, it's our first day off after a whole five days of volunteering at the Blue Ridge Assembly YMCA. We headed towards Maggie Valley, which is a small mountain town west of Black Mountain. Maggie Valley was about the size of a town we though Asheville would be. It was mostly composed, or so the whole region seemed, of little gift shops selling Appalachian goo-gaws. We also passed through the town of Cherokee, which is on a Cherokee reservation and we discovered has a humongous casino.
Male Cardinal at the Overlook

We shopped in a couple of little touristy shops. At the first place we visited there was a 9 story metal tower that looked like a fire look out tower (sort of) which we opted not to climb. Nearby, looking over the valley a male Northern Cardinal sung and I got a few photos of it.

We decided to head for Gattlingville in Tennessee, but we learned the pass to get over there was closed due to a bad mudslide that took out much of the highway. We were disappointed, but found something to make up for it. We were not only in the vicinity of The Great Smokey Mountains National Park, but to my delight we discovered the Park's Oconaluftee Visitor Center was nearby and open. I crossed my fingers that my National Parks Passport was safe in my back pack. Score! I picked up date stamps for The Great Smoky Mountains NP, the Blue Ridge parkway and The Trail of Tears.

I enjoyed touring the Visitor Center which gives an idea of what life was like for the Cherokee natives and the Johnny-come-lately European settlers that enjoyed living in these amazing Appalachian mountains. 

I particularly liked a little area with photos of Appalachian setters, that told how they lived via their own words. Click on the picture on the right to learn what it would mean if I said 'I lit shuck to the Mountain Farm Museum'.

A View of the Mountain Farm Museum, from the Oconaluftee Visitor Center Porch

The Oconaluftee Visitor Center is next to the Mountain Farm Museum, a real farm that once kept a large family in food and shelter in the 1800s. There is a cute and modest main farm house with a big porch and loads of out buildings.
The Davis Cabin with its big porch where I imagine lots of corn was shucked
There is an  Apple House to store fruit year round, a shed sized Chicken Coop and an impressive & huge Barn with many stalls. There are no animals or crops currently on the farm, but if you're lucky enough to visit at the right time there are living history days when the farm springs alive if just for a day. The farm also has a meat house for storage, a mini-blacksmith shop, a Spring-house from which they could dip for fresh water, a cane and molasses shed where sorghum was cooked into molasses, and a huge corn crib, again for storage.

The Corn crib/gear shed and barn in the background
Inside the barn; feed & fodder storage up top, lots of animal stalls below
A peek into the tiny Blacksmith Shop

In the rear of the blacksmith shop, you can see the big bellows that kept the fires hot enough to smelt metal. That's a pretty big anvil on top the log to the front. I imagine they made horse shoes but also made and repaired their own farm equipment, plows & bucket handles alike.

When we finished visiting the Farm and touring the Visitor Center, we drove as far as we could get on the New Found Gap Road; it was closed due to a blockbuster of a landslide a couple of months back. We then headed back home. Along the way, I decided I had to photos of as many art Bears as possible.  Being named Claire Bear, could I have passed these lovely bruins by? They were all over the town of Cherokee.

A Forest-y Sort of Bear

An American Wildlife Sort of Bear

A Warrior Bear
An I-Have-No-Clue-What-He-Is-All-ABout Bear

King of the Bears: The Cherokee Alphabet Bear

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