Well today was rainy, and about 50 degrees. I headed into Cherokee at about 9:30 am. I had not anticipated that it would be so foggy the higher I traveled. At one point you really could not see 10 feet in front of the car. I traveled most of the way in a dense fog. Once I traveled closer ot Cherokee the fog lifted a bit and made for a much calmer ride. I was born and raised in Chicago and learned to drive alongside people on the Dan Ryan expressway doing 90mph..but today I was petrified! Lol..along with the fog, the roads of course were wet, and quite steep at times, and quite curvy! Wow..talk about aging about 20 years! I still enjoyed the ride though, but wished I could have seen more of the surrounding mountains. In my pics, you'll notice some I took from the car while I was driving.
Stopped at Chimney Tops look out point. A bit foggy, but still pretty..and amazing. Stopped at the Chimneys picnic area..this is a very nice picnic area..very clean, and well organized with seperate grills, parking spots, picnic spots..very nice! Funny to see the trash cans with buckle-like latches on the lids in order to keep the bears out. Also see pics for the Bear habitat area sign! But no bears did I see :(
Next onto Oconaluftee Visitor Center. due to the weather (I assume), not many people were here, or any where else for that matter today. This was a nice little area with very informative things inside the center and a shop to buy stuff. Behind the visitor center there is the Mountain Farm Museum..Really neat to see the meat shed, and other buildings used on a farm many, mnay years ago! A few Roosters' walking around, but no other animals. Right back on the road there were about 5-7 turkeys on the side of the road..I stopped to take a pic, and they all looked directly at me as if to say.."what in the world" lol "hasn't that crazy lady ever seen a turkey before?"
I bypassed the Mill but will get to it later. I then went into Cherokee. I noticed that right after the Visitor Center you'll see the turn off to the left for the Blue Ridge Parkway (my agenda for next year hopefully). Cherokee disappointed me quite a bit. Not sure what I expected...but whatever it was, it wasn't met. I am assuming the area is much busier in the summer, as the Village and Unto These Hills are not yet open. The small town is not much to see. The main corner that has the Museum and the outdoor theatre is the best part of town. Not much on the way of restaurants or things to do. I did stop at Hardee's for a burger before leaving town.
I stopped at a small shop at the end of town. I wish for the life of me that I could remember the name of it. It was at the far end of town as though you were leaving to head to Dillsboro..next to the KFC..anyways..it was a great shop with many Indian history books, and lots of great Cherokee Indian things. After stopping at some of the other shops throughout town..this was by far THE BEST shop to buy stuff from! I bought a 11 x 14 copy of The Lord's Prayer on parchment paper written in the Cherokee language. Absolutely ammazing I think, and for only $5 or $6 I think..not much! Love it!
There was also a Minnetonka (spelling) shop that had some really nice moccasins. There were a few Indian Arts & Craft shops that had some amazing pottery and artwork..but way beyond my limited budget. I stopped at the museum, but did not go into the museum part of it. I peeked in and didn't think I wanted to spend the money on it. I did browse around the gift shop and bought A Cherokee Indian scrapbook kit for $1..wow, good deal!
Well then on to Mingo Falls. About 5 miles from town. Drove past what appears to be a new school being built..Holy moly! Huge! and beautiful! Guess the casino is paying off! Looks amamzing! The parling area to Mingo Falls was small. I guess again I expected bigger and better. I was the only person there. The small campground next to it was deserted and at this point I really felt alone. As I got out of the car, a small truck with 'locals' stopped to watch me. I will admit I wished at that point that I wasn't alone, and thought of getting back in the car..but nope...I was on a mission to see the Falls. Well they sat and watched for a minute or so then went on ther way..creepy. The walk up to the Falls was kindof hard foe me due to my breathing condition. There are 159 steps to climb. due to it being wet and rainy outside they were slippery in some spots as they are constructed out of wood, and were covered with tons of leaves. I had to stop about 10 steps to rest for a moments,then on to 10 more. It took a littel while, but I was determined! Well once at the top of the stairs I expected to be at the falls..nope..now it was a short hike up a muddy trail..but not far. At the top of the stairs there was a wooden bench but due to it being wet..I didn't sit. The whole way up the stairs I was so anticipating the falls as you could here them the moment you stepped out of your car. I will admit though, I was a little worried about being alone on this part of my trip as it was eerily quiet, dark, wet, gloomy, and of course having no one else (no other toursits) there was quite weird and creepy.
Well..all I can say from the moment I reached the top..I was awestruck with the waterfall. You are hidden amongst trees and then all of a sudden there if this thundering, huge, beautiful waterfall! I think I cried a little! This waterfall was on my 'bucket list'. sounds wierd to some,,but due to my lung condition I have been unable to get to many of the other waterfalls. I have tried to hike to Laurel Falls numerous times..and just can't do it. so to get to a 'bigger' fall was a very special moment for me. I only wish someone else had been there to take my picture with me in front of it :( I videotaped it, but not with my camera. If I can figure out how to copy it from my camcorder to the web, I'll post the video. Absolutely breathtaking! I think more so because you have to work to get there (well at least I did :) I have been to Niagra falls before, and although amazing and beautiful..this by far outdoes it for me!
Well then onto Mingus Mill for a quick stop and then back to Gatlinburg. Once again the rain and fog did not allow for a great drive..but I made it back safe and sound! My poor vehicle got a workout on the brakes and the transmission from needing to shift into low gear many times. And my hands I think are permanently embedded into my steering wheel! LOL
Also notice in the pics are a few of a roadside waterfall that I came across. Not hard to miss, but it is not noted in the books or travel info for Newfound Gap Rd. There is a pull off on the left of it if coming from Gatlinburg. If you miss it, just remember when you come back from Cherokee that it is not far past the Mingus Mill and the pull off will be on the right.
I almost forgot..all around Cherokee there are these large fiberglass bears that are painted by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians..and are wonderful to see. You'll also notice in my pics that the signs are all in the english language and in the Cherokee language. Really neat to see!
Well back to the hotel for a freshen up and to decided where to go for dinner. I decided on Calhoun's as I had never been there before. All I can say is I think I have a new (almost) favorite place in town to eat. I sat at the bar and tried one of their new beers. I am not a beer drinker but thought what the heck?! Wish again that I could remember what it was called..very good! some sort of light, wheat beer..anyways, it was good. Had the House "ale" pork chops with mash potatoes and cinnamon apples. $9.99 My dinner was delicious! The pork chop was very thick and SO good! The bartender Rick said they used to be a "special" but due to everyone liking them so much, they are now permanently on the menu. My meal also came with corn bread..yum! The service there was great! And the menu was not as expensive as I had though it would be. My hotel gave me a coupon for $5 off..but it was only good if you spent $30..and I wasn't planning on drinking that much..lol
Well..due to the rain, I am calling it a night. Not sure what tomorrow will hold. Supposed ot rain all day. Had wanted to meander around Wears Valley and Arts & Crafts area to look for more things I'm sure I don't need. Oh yeah..almost forgot..Back behind Calhoun's buit before Smokey Mtn. Brewery there is this great shop that sells tons of black bear and cabin type stuff! I have to have one of everything..lol it is called Sleep's Cabin Decor & More!!! A must stop for me each visit now! And his prices are great compared to other places!