Day Trip to Cataloochie Elk Refuge
May 18, 2009
Hello to All,
Just wanted to update our travel journal with a day trip we made this past week over to North Carolina, to the Mt. Sterling area of the Great Smoky Mountains. Chris, and I have been very interested in visiting this end of the GSMNP for years, but never took the time to drive over there.
In my childhood, my Dad used to take us to this end of the park everytime we visited the National Park. This end of the park was worked by the CCC's back in the 1930's and they were very instrumental in building many of the trails, roads and rock bridges in this area. My Dad was in one of the CCC units that improved this part of the park, and was always very partial to the Mt. Sterling area. Some of my fondest memories, as a child, was our visits to this area.
In the early 2000's, the federal government decided to let loose a herd of ELK in (near Mt. Sterling) the Cataloochie Cove area of the park. This is a very remote area and is only accesible (after getting off the interstate) by driving many miles over gravel and dirt roads.
So....we thought we would take a crack at it...We departed home around 8:30 AM and traveled I-40 over to North Carolina to Exit #20 and got off. From there, we picked up a county road that took us about six miles on a black top road where it turned into a gravel road for approximately ten miles. The road was steep and rough at times, and climbed through 2,700 ft in elevation according to my altimeter on the GPS. We made this trip in our Hyundai with no problems other than it took about one hour to go sixteen miles. Some of most beautiful scenery we have seen in a long time was along these mountain roads. Especially on top of the mountains.
When we arrived at the secluded area of the Cataloochie, the road turned back into black top. Here is where the campground and the protected elk heards are located. We arrived in the Cove around 11:30 AM, and discoverd that the elk would not be out at that time of the day. So, we just toured around looking at the old houses, churches, barns and open fields in the area. Kind'a reminded us of Cades Cove, but on a much smaller scale.
We toured around the campground located there and talked with the campground hosts. They were a very nice couple. The campground was very pristine, but, primitive (just like Cades Cove). I would not recommend towing anything over a pop-up or a small Class C RV to this location, because of the steep, graveled mountain roads, and all the switch backs you have to manuever to get there. This campground appeared to have a lot of campers with horses, as this is a nice area to ride horses.
We did see a lot of wild turkeys and butterfles. The ELK and DEER were not to be found on this day for us. We agreed we will come back again real soon, but plan to arrive in the middle of the afternoon and wait for the elk to come out. The only rest rooms are in the campground. There are no vending or beverage machines. So, if you go to this remote area make sure to pack a lunch and plenty to drink. I would make sure that your vehicle is full of petrol as well. There is no cell service in the Cataloochie area. However, sometimes a faint signal can be found if you drive back up the mountain roads and gain some altitude.
Now, the real "fun" was on our return trip. In our discussion with the campground host we found out there is an alternate route to get back to Maryville via Cosby. This route is about 25 miles shorter than the interstate route, however, there is a 20 mile stretch of gravel, winding, mountain road that cuts through the national park, and ends just short of Cosby, Tenn...in the Cold Creek area. Then the road becomes paved, and then it is just a 70 mile run back to Maryville via Hyway 321. Let me tell you this alternate route is only for the brave, and those folks with good vehicles and tires. This route took us through some very scenic areas, but very remote (let me stress REMOTE again). We climbed through 4,000 ft in elevation on the gravel road, and had to come back down as well. No Guard rails on this route! When we arrived in Cosby, we both got out of the car and kissed the black top!!!
During our breather stop at Cosby, we found a little roadside BBQ stand and ate a sandwich. Not the best sandwich we have had, but it was food!! The trip from here on to home was uneventfull, and we arrived home tired, but in good shape. That one section of gravel road (20 miles) from Cataloochie to Cold Creek took us 2 hours, and then another 2 hours home. We both agreed: When we go back, we would opt for the interstate route for sure!
Well that is about it....Hope you enjoyed our update. Wish you could have been with us. You know, things are better if you can share them with a friend!!
Oh Yes...in our last update we told you about the tire failure and damage to the RV. We have contacted the Tire Distributor and they have replaced all five (5) of the tires now. We are still awaiting the repair of the wheel well on the Cougar. That is OK, as we are not planning to head out again soon.
Chris and I are in the midst of planning our next road trip. If any of you have any comments, questions or suggestions on destinations that you think we must consider please, feel free to contact us by leaving a message in the GUEST book. We will get back with you as soon as possible.
In Dad's memory....the ADVENTURE continues.........................
Archie, Chris and Chad