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    Default The Great Smoky Mountains (extremely image-intensive thread)

    A buddy of mine and I both toured the Great Smoky Mountains and surrounding area last week and I'd like to share with you a pictoral writeup including most of the images we took.

    This thread will contain 209 images, 640x480 each, which are clickable to reveal the 10-megapixel source images.

    Friday
    Western Maryland - Sideling Hill
    Sideling Hill is a ridge within the "Valley and Ridge" Appalachian province. Within Maryland there is a fairly impressive cut straight through the mountain on I-68. Sideling Hill - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    The rock face-

    A view from the other side of the mountain-

    Eastern Continental Divide
    Further along I-68 we see the Eastern Continental Divide in Maryland, located on Backbone Mountain. This is just west of Frostburg MD. It represents the split between the Chesapeake Bay watershed (to the east) and Mississippi River watershed to the west.
    Me going entirely way too fast-

    Leaving Chesapeake Bay watershed-

    Eastern Continental Divide-

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    Senior Membrane spirilis's Avatar
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    Saturday
    West Virginia
    Here we have some pictures of the West Virginia countryside, going from the northern part of the state (just south of Garrett County Maryland) straight through the center of the state. Much of this cuts through the "Valley and Ridge" Appalachians but further down we do encounter the Appalachian Plateau, with its randomly laid-out mountains with small canyons eroded between them.


    Kingsford charcoal plant-


    Some distant rainstorms-





    yep, still being bad-


    Virginia
    We crossed from WV into south-western VA through this one tall mountain ridge--the freeway cuts through a tunnel.



    Mount Rogers
    Mount Rogers is the highest point of Virginia, at 5729ft (1746m) above sea level. It's not very well marked, but there was a small parking lot with a dirt/gravel/rocky road that leads to the top. Seeing as we didn't properly plan for the hike to the summit, we decided to attempt to drive to the top (since it was a dirt/gravel road, and I was driving a Subaru AWD SUV). Unfortunately that was way too rocky for my vehicle so we turned around and head back.




    Yeah, that sucked (this is 'snowysage' manning the camera)-


    Approaching the Great Smokies
    Crossing from VA into Tennessee, and approaching the North Carolina state border, we see the northern edge of the Great Smoky Mountains in the distance.





    The Mellow Mushroom
    Finally stopping in Asheville NC for the night, we take Ivy's advice and have dinner at the Mellow Mushroom right on Broadway St. in downtown Asheville. That was some damn good pizza.


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    Senior Membrane spirilis's Avatar
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    Sunday
    Blue Ridge Parkway
    The plan was to see the highest point in North Carolina--and, for that matter, the highest point in the entire Appalachian mountain range. It's an easy drive from Asheville; take Town Mountain Road to the Blue Ridge Parkway, then take the BRP to Mt. Mitchell state park. Only problem is, the Blue Ridge Parkway was closed for a large segment between Asheville and Mt. Mitchell due to a rock slide on the road which was being cleaned up/repaired. As a result, we were forced to approach Mt. Mitchell from the north side, rather than the south side. This involved going out I-40 east to Old Fort, then taking NC-80 (a treacherous switchback-ridden road) 12 miles to the Blue Ridge Parkway, drive the BRP 12 miles southwest, finally arriving at Mt. Mitchell State Park.















    The Blue Ridge Parkway is astonishingly scenic, BTW. I highly recommend touring it someday. I may be tempted to do a motorcycle tour of it at some point.
    Mount Mitchell State Park
    Mt. Mitchell is the highest point in the Appalachian mountains. Here you find the state park and the trail to the summit. The observation tower is being redone up top; the rangers there said it's due for completion by fall 2008. Regardless, we took the Balsam Nature Trail as far as it went, up to the construction area, and decided to trespass on the construction area to see the summit.













    View from the top, in the construction area-





    yeah, we were here-



    Oh yeah, and there's a restaurant just down from the top which is, as they call themselves...-

    Sassafras Mountain
    This was a waste of gas. Sassafras Mountain is the highest point in South Carolina. As you can see from the pictures below, it's not very well maintained. Duke Power company owns the property of the mountain and provides public access to the summit in cooperation with the state. It looks like it hasn't been maintained for 20 years or more. Looks like someone decided to camp up top though

    Nice sign-






    obfuscated view-

    And back to NC, thank god-

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    Monday
    Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians
    The Great Smoky Mountains hold special significance to a particular group of people. The "Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians" is a protected tribe of Cherokee natives who, during the "Trail of Tears" in 1838 under president Andrew Jackson, resisted and fled into the Great Smoky Mountains to avoid exodus. These Cherokee survived the exodus and eventually the US federal government recognized them and provided them a protected area of land, known as the "Qualla Boundary." "Qualla" means "our land" if I recall correctly. The Qualla is located in the southern part of the Smokies and borders the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Some of the national park gravel roads are primarily accessible by driving through some Cherokee backroads. It's a shame I didn't get more pictures of the Cherokee roads. One notable thing is that all road signs within the Qualla Boundary include the english name up above, and the same name in the Cherokee native language down below.
    Oconaluftee River
    One of the main attractions through Cherokee is the Oconaluftee River. Further up on National Park grounds is the Oconaluftee Visitor Center where we submitted our paperwork for the 3 campsites where we intended to stay.






    Beech Gap Trail
    The original itinerary was to hike the Beech Gap Trail up to Mount Sterling Ridge Trail, and hike across there up to campsite#38, where we would set up camp. Beech Gap Trail comprised the first 2.5 miles of this trip. Unfortunately this involved a 2000 foot rise in elevation (in the span of 2.5mi), something I was not really aware of until we started. 9 miles for our first hike is a bit excessive in the first place, but doing an almost 20% grade with a lot of gear on my back was too much for me to handle. We ascended Beech Gap Trail to its top and then after having a late lunch, followed by a 20 minute nap, I declared that I couldn't do the rest of it. I do not want to know what would have happened if I did. We did start up to the trail a bit through what was supposed to be the "flat" part but, it wasn't really flat, seems the trail did a lot of gentle ups & downs and in that physical state I would likely have collapsed. I thought I was in half decent physical shape, but I was totally unprepared for that. After we descended Beech Gap Trail and got back to the car, we found a hotel in Cherokee and recovered for a few hours. I believe around midnight we got the urge to eat dinner, and ended up driving out to Waynesville NC (~45min away) for a taco bell, which is funny since apparently there is a taco bell inside Cherokee on Business US-441 but I totally forgot about it.

    Anyway, here's some pictures of that wretched trail (some showing up ahead, some showing down behind us)-




    Yeah, I'm fuckin' beat-



    He totally wasn't-




    Gaining elevation-

    And finally at the top-


  5. #5
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    Tuesday
    Qualla and the Blue Ridge Parkway
    With our backpacking plans scrapped due to physical exhaustion, I decided Tuesday was a great day to explore Asheville again. Took the Blue Ridge Parkway on our way back to I-40 for the trip to Asheville.






    teh Subaru Forester, my little backcountry navigating tank-




    Downtown Asheville, NC
    Spent most of Tuesday walking around downtown Asheville. I definitely love this place. I'm thinking of doing another short vacation (maybe a 4-day weekend) just to enjoy Asheville some more. Never got around to seeing the Biltmore Estate on this trip, so a future trip is definitely in order.








    yeah, it's an eco-conscious hippie stronghold-


    Ate dinner at this indian restaurant (such fantastic food)-


    There were a lot of scooters on the road as I'd noticed-


    And the infamous Mellow Mushroom, FEED YOUR HEAD!-

    With their goofy menus-


    Yoga, anyone?-

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    Wednesday
    Mingo Falls
    Located on the Cherokee reservation (Qualla), Mingo Falls is the tallest waterfall in the Great Smokies and probably one of the highest on the east coast.




    US-441, North Carolina
    The route from Cherokee to Clingman's Dome (around the center of the park). These are just road pictures for fun On our way up to Clingman's Dome we encountered a rather nasty traffic jam, as traffic was blocked for miles due to maintenance workers trimming the trees at the side of the road. We turned around, got out of there, and waited until after 4PM for the trimming to stop (at the suggestion of the rangers at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center). On the 2nd try, the road was clear. There's a nice overlook along the road where you can see several layers worth of mountains in the distance. So beautiful.

    PS, I totally took these road pics for Jeffster








    Zoomed in a bit-


    Clingman's Dome
    Clingman's Dome is the highest summit within the Smokies, and is also the highest point within Tennessee. There is a big observation tower up top built in the 1960's where you can see the surrounding landscapes. Link: Clingmans Dome - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Supposedly you can see mountains from 5 states all around, probably on clearer days. There was a lot of haze in the atmosphere when we saw it. Hell I bet that's there all the time...
    A big problem all around this region, including Mt. Mitchell too, is a european insect infestation which has been killing many of the evergreen trees near the summits. Balsam woolly adelgid is its name, it's a small insect around 1mm in length which attacks the evergreen Frasier Fir and Balsam Fir, and according to the wikipedia page, it's eradicated around 90-95% of the Fraiser Firs in the Great Smoky Mountains, creating some of the ghost forests you see in these pictures.

    First, a weird sign-

    Second, the walkway to the top-


    Views from the top
    Southern view-






    Eastern view-





    Attempting to zoom in on Mt. Mitchell (it's barely visible, but there as a subtle shade of blue-

    zoomed out-


    Northern view-





    Western view-





    More random views-


    (I think Pigeon Forge, TN is visible in these-)




    Miscellaneous signs down at the bottom of the trail (near the parking lot)-


  7. #7
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    Newfound Gap
    The Appalachian Trail passes through Newfound Gap, with an overlook parking lot and a cool sign signifying the border between North Carolina and Tennessee. The Appalachian Trail defines the NC/TN border.



    US-441, Tennessee
    IMHO, the Tennessee side of US-441 has better scenery than the NC side. One cool feature includes a loop in the road where you pass over a bridge, loop around, then pass under that same bridge through a tunnel.







    Cool little loop-bridge-tunnel contraption-




    Roaring Fork Motor Trail
    After arriving in Gatlinburg, we decided to drive the 6-mile Roaring Fork Motor Trail, a narrow asphalt road through some of the park which takes you to a couple overlooks and some majestic dark deep-woods scenery along a river.




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    Thursday
    Cades Cove
    Cades Cove is an area in the northwest corner of the park which features some unique geology. During the formation of the Appalachian mountains, when the North American and African tectonic plates collided, the rocky crust which folded and ascended included newer rock up above, and older rock down below. During the millions of years of erosion which has taken place since then, most of the newer rock has washed off into various water bodies and older rock is exposed. However, a unique phenomenon occurred around the area of Cades Cove. Instead of the crust rising in unison, a segment of crust passed over another segment and subducted it. This higher crust has since eroded, revealing a patch of newer limestone crust underneath in a small flatland surrounded by high mountains (known as a "limestone window").
    Cades Cove was settled by a number of families who built log cabins and farmed on the flatland. The community that lived in this area lived in relative isolation to much of the rest of eastern Tennessee. The community was quite opposed to incorporating Cades Cove into the national park, but as the settlers died out more and more land was annexed until in 1999, the last remaining resident passed on and the entire place was incorporated into the national park.










    Rich Mountain Road
    In the northwest corner of Cades Cove there exists a primitive gravel mountain road which rises over a couple nearby mountains, and ends up in the town of Tuckaleechee, TN. This road is maintained by the national park service. Not a whole lot of overlooks, but it rose to 4000+ ft elevations and therefore was pleasantly cool and had a number of pulloffs which would make nice picnic locations.






    Laurel Falls
    Laurel Falls is another waterfall in the park and seemed to attract quite a few visitors. It's relatively close to Cades Cove and we passed the trail head on the way to Cades Cove. It seems there is a lot of bear activity among the trail, and indeed we did find a family of 1 mother and 3 cubs who passed down the hillside on our way to the falls, and back up the hillside on our way back.

    The falls itself-






    And some bears!


    (taken from afar with maximum analog + digital zoom)-

    More footage available in video format (not sure the best way to present this, so I'll present links to the MJPEG AVI files)-
    mvi_1784
    mvi_1767
    mvi_1787

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    Friday
    Cumberland Gap
    Cumberland Gap lies around the Kentucky/Tennessee border inside the Cumberland Mountains, a segment of the Appalachian Plateau. This gap provided a convenient point of crossing between the eastern and western (Kaintuck) frontiers and was a central point of travel for Daniel Boone's expedition into the newfound lands of Kentucky. It was, however, nicknamed "The Warrior's Path" because it was also an established route for various native american tribes and many skirmishes happened upon the gap, not the least of which included Daniel Boone's expedition. Since the gap was a strategic point of travel, control of its paths were contentious.








    Eastern Kentucky
    Here we have some random pictures of the Cumberland Mountains, detailing the random ridges and mountains with erosion-cut valleys snaking between them that is typical of the Appalachian Plateau. These areas are typically quite poor, but we passed through a couple towns that seemed firmly established around nearby coal-mining operations. I was impressed at how the highways cut through mountains, or rather impressed at the sheer number of mountains we found which were quite literally amputated, with huge sections of the mountains removed, revealing the rock faces underneath. I do not know when or how those highways were created, but cutting through those mountains must've been quite a herculean effort.




    (we departed Kentucky and crossed the Virginia border at Black Mountain here)-

    (somewhere within Virginia, actually-)

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    And that should be all of them.

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