s/y Nine of Cups
Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Tennessee
August 2012
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Great Smoky Mountains National Park
covers 521,895 acres in Tennessee and
North Carolina. Created in 1934, this park
protects the last of the southern Appalachian
forest and has the highest visitation of any
national park in the USA at ~9 million/year.
Park factoids:

  • High point: 6,643' - Clingmans Dome
  • Low point: 870'
  • The park has been designated a UN
    International Biosphere Reserve with an
    estimated 100,000 different types of
    plant and animal species found here;
    many still not identified.
  • Cherokee word "shaconage" meaning
    "blue, like smoke" was the original name
    for this area.
  • The park contains the nation's largest
    collection of historic log buildings.
  • The Smokies are among the oldest
    mountains in the world.
Perhaps we expected too much from the nation's most visited national park. If 9 million people visit per season, it's unreasonable to expect that you'll have any part of the park to
yourself. We camped in a crowded campground and drove the Cade's Cove Loop at sunset midst an endless stream of bumper-to-bumper traffic. The sunset was beautiful and we
spotted several white-tailed deer bucks in a meadow. Wildflowers were abundant. Approximately 68 miles of the Appalachian Trail pass through the park. Hiking the trail would
be the way to see Great Smoky Mountain National Park. A drive-through in high season was nothing but frustrating. Next time, hiking, camping and in the autumn.
We stopped at the Sugarlands Visitor Center, but it was so crowded, we left almost immmediately. Along Cade's Cove Loop, we stopped at
several of the old cabins for a look-see, mostly to get out of the line of traffic. The Cade's Cove Primitive Church was off the main loop road and
provided a respite from the throng. The park is a center for lungless salamanders, but we didn't see any. Of course, we didn't go overturning any
rocks to find them. I took a picture of a postcard showing a commonly seen red-spotted salamander which we didn't see.
We visited the park for such a short
period of time and saw so little of it, it's
probably unfair to judge it. That said, too
crowded, too many people and
Gatlinburg, the entry to the park, is just
too commercial for our taste.
Next National Park site?

Fort Smith Historic Site in Arkansas