It's every bit as wonderful as I remembered, as is the trip up through north Georgia and North Carolina. I headed out at about 8:00 Tuesday morning, about the same time the girls left for Girl Scout Camp. I made a quick stop at the library in Flowery Branch, which is right on the way and is also the closest place I could locate the book I wanted (The Gay Talese Reader; in a strange dream I had over the weekend, it was suddenly very important that I read Talese's 1966 Esquire profile, "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold.") After that, I didn't stop for about 100 miles, which is unusual for me, but I wanted to make sure I actually made it to the Smoky Mountains instead of spending the whole day wandering around small towns along 441.
I did stop for lunch in North Carolina. First, I browsed for a few minutes in City Lights Bookstore in Sylva, NC, but didn't buy anything, then, deciding I really wanted some barbecue, I went back into Dillsboro. The lunch I had at the Dillsboro Smokehouse was great--very good barbecue and macaroni and cheese, and excellent onion rings. Tea that wasn't nearly as sweet as I'm used to in the south, but good anyway. As I ate I read the first few pages of the Talese article. After I was done, I got back in my car and didn't stop until I made it to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center at the southern entrance to the park on U.S. 441.
I spent about two hours in the park, walking, driving, taking lots of pictures. After spending about half an hour walking around at the mid-point, Newfound Gap, where you can, among other things, straddle the North Carolina/Tennessee border, get on the Appalachian Trail, and read about the Rockefeller Foundation's $5 million donation to help complete the park, I turned around and went back to the entrance and, after driving by a couple of large elk who had stopped traffic in the other direction, got on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Someday I plan to drive the whole thing; Tuesday I only drove about 15 miles of it.
After that I just meandered slowly in the general direction of home, resisting the temptation to stop in any of the shops in Cherokee, NC, but stopping at a few other places. I had dinner at a Chick-Fil-A in Demorest, GA, and spent the night at a Quality Inn in Oakwood, GA. I finished reading "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold" before I came home Wednesday morning. It's really good. You should read it.
Here are a dozen pictures from my trip, starting with one of the cabins in the Mountain Farm Museum at Oconaluftee:
Detail of the floor of the cabin's porch--I find great beauty in such utilitarian details:
Detail of a wagon wheel, which was leaning against another building:
The buildings are all roofed with wooden shingles:
Detail of the gears on a piece of farm equipment:
I have no idea what these are, but I love the texture of the wood:
Pitcher and basin inside one of the cabins:
This is the Rockefeller Memorial at Newfound Gap, halfway through the park:
Another view of Rockefeller Memorial; it looks like these two women are taking pictures of each other, but they're really not:
A panoramic view from Newfound Gap:
And another; in this one, you can see one of the park roads winding around a mountain: