“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.”
― George Eliot
Between summer and winter, there is fall, a transitional phase when each leaves of the tree turns into golden, yellow and red before shedding themselves, paints the landscape in riots of color, before embracing harsh and cold winter nights in their bare branches . We are expected to be sad because soon the trees will die out, but before dying out they presents a regale show for us to enjoy. It may sound philosophical but isn’t it inspiring ? Change is inevitable and is hardest to accept, yet life moves on.
The trees dressed themselves in most beautiful and grandest fashion. Beautiful Smokey looks prettiest in autumn. The rolling blue hills stretched out to the horizon and inside the deep recess of its lush green forest, it harbors the secret of life. The tiny little town of Gatlinburg, which once was a frontier town has graduated to become a cozy resort town and liven up with buzz of festivals and harvest activities. Fall is here, eat, drink and be merry. Lets celebrate life.
From the piedmont of North Carolina, Gatlinburg is roughly 6 hours of drive, and once you leave Asheville and enter the cozy mountain towns, the colorful mountain highways will welcomes you, a nip in the air, and so refreshing, with small mining towns scattered here and there. As you enter the Cherokee Indian reservation, do stop for local hand crafted artifacts, built with indigenous skills that are few generation old. If you started early for the day, that will be right time to grab a bite at MacD and a coffee. After that there are hardly any places to eat, until you reached Gatlinburg.
Though you may not see any snow-capped mountains here, the beauty of Smoky mountains lies in its ombre of blue color hills that beautifully merges into one another and diffusing itself higher into the blue skies, thus giving a smoke like impression to the eyes, shrouded in mist for most of the day. To enjoy this vista in full range, climb up to the observation tower at Clingman’s dome, you will get 360 degree of spectacular view. The climb is steep but is feasible and be sure to bring your jackets even in summer. The temperature drops suddenly to 10 – 20 F.
Clingman’s dome lies en route on US 441 or New Found Gap road, cutting across the state boundary of North Carolina and Tennessee. This is very scenic route with lots of outlooks and vista points. Views from Sugarland mountains, forested with sugar maple trees and Chimney tops are primary vista points and on a clear day they offers stupendous scenic views of Smoky mountains.
Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are two sister towns, some seven or eight signal long, yes that’s how you can measure this two town ! An evening walk along the paved footpaths will reveal the little secrets of this mountain town, you will come across many curio shops, small and large bakeries from old times, pizzerias, couple of fine dining restaurants, few steak houses, couple of ice cream parlor and fudge and candy shops. In short you will love this quaint little mountain town, stay for three to four days, enjoy the craft fair, beer festivals, pumpkin festivals and you will never want to leave this.
Exiting Gatlinburg and entering into yet another backcountry roads, called Cades Coves, a beautiful verdant valley surrounded by mountains where history beckons you. An erstwhile Cherokee hunting grounds, now a horse camp and farms this is the little treasure hidden off the beaten path. Here history stood undaunted, wrapped in the shroud of bygone era, an old grist mill, log cabins, barns, churches all tells a story from another time.
On a heavy traffic day, it will take hours to complete the 11 mile long loop, but do not rush to do it. Enjoy it at the leisured pace, there are few short hikes too and the best place to see some wildlife. We spotted a bear but that was quiet far from our camera range, deers and elks are frequent too. But it all depends upon the weather of the day. For us it was balmy and cool, sun played hide and seek for most of the time. Little drizzle of rain transform it into most charming place on earth.
Continuing on the scenic trail or reserve it for the next day, as we did, Roaring fork motor trail is another gem tucked away from the glitz of touristy town.
Long winding and narrow country roads, this secluded trail is the most charming one we have seen. Where nature invites you at every curves and curls, the scenic bylanes, the gold drenched mist covered roads awaits you, autumn is here simply heavenly.
Rainbow and Grotto falls adds another star to this beautiful place, the trail heads are few miles long hikes. The rushing mountain streams, the primeval forest, log cabins, grist mills all blend together in such a delicacy where the natural and human interventions intermingled into a finer balance.
With little more time in hand, you can camp at the pristine peaceful mountain valley at Cataloochee too.
Some useful articles – New found gap road by blue ridge highlander
NPS articles for more information on Smoky Mountains national park.
Traveller’s notes : US 441 scenic route / New found gap road and Roaring fork loop. Criss crossing Blue ridge parkway through Smoky mountain national park and Pisgah national forest.
Off the beaten path once again