Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Smokies offer different dynamic

Vehicles few and far between on mountain

Each time we visit the Great Smoky Mountains, there seems to be a different dynamic in play.

Our most recent trip was of that variety.

We have spent summer camping trips to the area when there was a lot of rain. We have been there in clear weather and during times of intermittent thunderstorms.

Whiteout at Newfound Gap overlook 

But nothing which I consider as dangerous.

This last time, back in early March,  it was a little different.

There was the appearance of danger all around. Heavy rains from the previous week put all rivers and streams at a higher level and running faster than we have experienced previously.

Self-portrait in winter wonderland

As mentioned in the previous blog, traveling the Little River Road from Townsend to Gatlinburg was an exhilarating experience.

The river was running swift and deep. At places the water was within two to three feet of the roadway. Normally it is about six to eight feet below the road.

We saw more than usual waterfalls cascading down the sides of the hills along the roadway. There were big ones and small ones. Definitely different that what we are usually expecting, But it made for a pretty sight.

And then there was the trip from the Sugarlands Visitors Center near Gatlinburg up to Newfound Gap.

As we headed up to the pass, I told wifey that we could go on over to Cherokee but if the there was snow falling, the road would probably be closed later in the day and we'd have to take a longer way back.

We stopped and ate lunch at the Chimney's Picnic Area. There were only two other vehicles there at the time. We backed into a double parking spot and angled our van so that we would be parallel with the Little Pigeon River.

Chimney's picnic area

We had our meal of fruit and sandwiches while watching the river rampaging down the mountainside.

During the summer, thousands of people use the picnic area each day and enjoy the river which is of a more peaceful nature.

As we headed higher, the snow began falling and getting heavier. Misery loves company and we enjoyed the fact that others were making the trek with us up to the pass.

Newfound Gap road work necessitates momentary stop

Crews were working on portions of the road along the way and we had to stop for a short while since traffic was routed over a one-lane stretch.

The higher we went, the more snow was falling. I kept telling wifey that we would probably not go any farther than the gap.  We continued the climb admidst the winter wonderland.

It was exhilarating. If it weren't the middle of the day, we probably wouldn't have tried to go up the mountain. In spite of the snow, there was still a lot of daylight, and we finally made it to the gap in what one could describe as a whiteout.

In the parking area we looked toward where North Carolina is. But visibility was only about 30 to 50 feet. People were out shooting pictures and enjoying what scenery there was.

'Must-shoot' photo required by wifey
The wind had picked up and the flurries were getting heavier. After about 10 minutes of shooting some pictures (wifey remained in the van), I got back in and we headed back down to Gatlinburg.

Cherokee would have to wait for another day.

Next post: March 29, 2011

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