|Observation Tower on Clingman's Dome, GSMNP|
|View from Newfound Gap, GSMNP|
Once we arrived in Gatlinburg, we decided to check out an area of the park that I had found out about from reading on the National Park's website. The Roaring Fork motor nature trail parallelled the Roaring Fork for several miles and wound through the park from Gatlinburg.
|Roaring Fork, GSMNP|
On our way through the trail, we were able to stop several times and see some of the original homestead buildings left behind when the park was created. It was amazing to think about these people making a living in that rugged country. I also learned more about the history of these settlers and how difficult life was in the mountains at the turn of the last century.
|Ephriam Bales Cabin, Roaring Fork GSMNP|
On our way out of the park on the last leg of the motor trail, we were fortunate enough to get to see a black bear cross the road in front of us. In all my years trout fishing in bear country, I've never seen a bear in the East. In fact, the only wild black bear that I had ever seen previous to this trip was in Yellowstone Park. I was excited for my wife too, because this was the first wild bear that she had seen. After the bear crossed the road, we were lucky enough to be able to get a picture (from inside the car) as it paused on the side of the mountain.
|Black Bear, Roaring Fork GSMNP|
|Meigs Waterfall, GSMNP|
On our trip through the cove, we saw numerous wild turkeys and whitetail deer, and also saw more of the historic buildings left behind by the settlers of Cades Cove. It was amazing to see just how little the deer in this part of the park were bothered by people, but I'm sure with the amount of visitors this area sees every year the wildlife has become accustomed to posing for pictures.
|Whitetail Doe, Cades Cove GSMNP|
One other area of the park that we had planned to explore was the Cataloochee Valley. We had both been wanting to explore this area and see if we could see some of the elk herd that was introduced to the area by the Park Service several years ago. We saved this for last, as we planned to visit the area on the way back home.
After travelling the winding gravel road over the mountains that followed the course of the old Cataloochee Turnpike that served as the main road for the settlers that lived in the valley, we arrived in the valley itself. It was interesting to learn that at the time of the park's creation, the Cataloochee Valley was the most populated area in what was to become the park. Our main purpose for the side trip into Cataloochee was to hopefully get a look at some of the elk that were introduced into the valley in 2001. As we drove through the valley, we did see an elk calf in one of the first meadows. This was the only elk that we observed on the trip through the valley, but we plan to come back again and explore the area more.
|Elk Calf, Cataloochee GSMNP|
Overall, it was a great weekend for wildlife watching and exploring in the most visited National Park in the country. I did see several places that I've put on my list to explore with a fly rod one of these days, and also made a side trip to Townsend, TN to do a little shopping at a fly shop. The park provided a nice change from the traffic and bustle of Gatlinburg, and I'm sure we'll be back to visit it again soon.
Thanks for stopping by!