Great Smoky Mountains National Park
is a huge area that is mainly inaccessible to cars. We drove the central road which crosses this huge expanse like a belt. On a perfect blue sky day each twist and turn of the road revealed a vista of trees carpeting the valley and inching their way up the steep sides. Trillium and dogwood were in bloom and gurgling streams bubbled their way along the side of the road. Our goal was Clingman's Dome at 6,600 feet. A large observation platform was a short hike away, but the altitude and steep incline were a challenge. The view from the top was spectacular, but the skeletons of pine trees detracted from its perfection. These trees had been decimated by a bark beetle; fortunately only this elevation seemed to be affected. the route back to the parking lot took us on a short piece of the Appalachian Trail. This trail begins in Georgia and extends over 2,000 miles away to Maine. Folks far more fit than we hike the entire trail starting in Georgia when spring starts there and ending in Maine before the cold weather returns.
This park would be better seen by hiking than by car, but that would involve time and equipment and perhaps the will, which we lacked today. Instead we followed a little side road to an area that had been a logging town, complete with railroad terminus. At the visitor center we saw a film which taught us that this area had been greatly altered by farms and lumber companies. Hill sides were decimated and the ecology vastly changed. Although the residents who had made a living from these resources were greatly affected, today we can once again be grateful for the national park movement spearheaded by Teddy Roosevelt. Today as we admired mile after mile of heavy forest, it was hard to imagine all the economic activity that had taken place here once. We need to return when we have more time to investigate this park properly by foot.