Vacation 2014: North Carolina Side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Our schedule was flexible, so we stayed a little longer to explore the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.   The beautiful drive led to spectacular views.   There are many places to pull over and soak in the beauty.

The perfection of that tree on the left!

Such an honor to set foot on such a piece of history:

This overlook area was a CCC (Civilian Conversation Core) project done during the Great Depression.   Their efforts can be seen throughout the park.


We all looked forward to the tunnels.   Notice on the car: 70 degrees exterior?   Nice, and it was even cooler as we travelled higher into the mountains:)

 Next, our journey took us to Clingman's Dome.    It is the highest point in the park.   I reflected on the words below for quite a while as I stood in the beautiful place.

"Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find that going to the mountains is going home."

The beautiful Cherokee story of the creation of the Smoky Mountains


Joey and the children climbed part of the path to the observation deck at Clingman's Dome.   It is an extremely steep half-mile walk.   I walked about five steps and then decided it would be incredibly stupid to go further.   So, I enjoyed the views near the visitors center, especially of the haze moving over the mountains.


How beautiful is this tree?!

Natural rock formation

"I'm just like Spider-Man!"

The visitors center at Oconaluftee was beautiful.   All of the park's centers offer great museums and bathrooms, clean and plentiful.   The museum inside the center included oral histories and photos from people who grew up in the area before it became a national park.   There is also a Cherokee history section that included displays about our Cherokee ancestor, Nancy Ward, the Pocahontas of the West.

The newest of the visitor center buildings, this one was built with many green technologies.


Back view of the visitors center: stunning views and an inviting long porch with rocking chairs

The lure of the mountains

"It is good and right that we should conserve those mountain heights of the old frontier for the benefit of the American people...But in this hour we have to safeguard a greater thing: the right of the people of this country to live as free men." --Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt at the dedication of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, September 2, 1940

Behind the main building at the visitors center is the Mountain Farm Museum and Mingus Mill, a real working mill where you can buy cornmeal.   Yes, we made sure to bring home a bag!

The life that has existed under this roof: oh, the stories to be told.

To call this primitive construction would be an insult.


Another blacksmith's shop


It's a beautiful short walk to Mingus Mill.   Mills fascinate me.   I was just awestruck by the engineering and craftsmanship of the two mills we toured.   They were so vital to the survival of the residents and their construction in such remote locations makes them all the more impressive.   You can still buy cornmeal ground at Mingus Mill at several of the visitors center and in the mill itself.   A kind older gentleman is the Senior Miller and he is available for questions and just good conversation.   We found out he was a retired teacher and school administrator who retired to the area to be closer to grandchildren.   He started out as a park ranger in his retirement and was then asked to become the miller when the miller at that time was unable to work any longer due to his asthma.   Just as we miss beautiful moments when we walk past intriguing paths in nature, we miss precious memories when we don't stop to speak to our fellow man.

The senior miller is visible in the window.

SHUCKS, that's a nice chair!   Now, that is green living.

The harnessing of water's power at this turbine gristmill is just ingenious.  


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