Visiting the Mountains
Visiting the mountains has always had a special meaning to me. We were raised on the coast, on the family farm my grandparents owned. Our grandfather was born and raised in the mountains of Ashe County, North Carolina. He always took whatever vacations they actually took had back to the mountains. Therefore, when we were young, we usually traveled throughout the Blue Ridge and Smokey Mountains several times of the year.
Mom always liked to go in the fall when the leaves would begin to change colors and then in the summer. She ran a craft business, making handmade dolls and Christmas decor and our “vacations” would center around her festivals. As a kid it never much bothered us as to the reason we were traveling so much. It was just more time we got to be out of school and explore new places. Many of those festivals, to this day such as Christmas in July in West Jefferson, NC and the Wooly Worm Festival in Banner Elk, NC that we attended, are still going on.
Throughout the area the Blue Ridge Parkway meanders through the length of the mountains. The parkway, which is maintained by the National Park Service is the most visited of all National Parks. One can travel the entire way only on the parkway and be well entertained with all the scenic overlooks, monuments and historical places along the route.
Places to see
One of the most visited places along the parkway is Grandfather Mountain. I spent many days there growing up. I've had the opportunity to return with my nephews to continue the tradition. Today Grandfather Mountain is part of the North Carolina State Park System, and features a park full of local wildlife, a mile high swinging bridge and gift shop. Breathtaking views of the area can be seen from atop Grandfather Mountain. The road up to the summit of the mountain has been featured in many movies and commercials, including Tom Hanks’ Forest Gump.
On the parkway, going around Grandfather Mountain is the Linn Cove Viaduct. It was final part of the parkway completed. The Linn Cove Viaduct is an engineering marvel that keeps the ecological and natural beauty of mountains intact while allowing visitors to travel through the area.
Mount Mitchell, a North Carolina State park located in the Black Mountains, is the highest point east of the Mississippi River in the Eastern United States.
I can remember visiting Cherokee and learning everything I could about the tribe that we can trace some of our ancestors to, and returning to tell my class about what I had learned. I can remember getting in trouble by arguing with my teacher at the time about what I knew what I had seen there, versus what she was teaching, about Native American culture was completely different. Today you can visit the area to learn it’s rich history of the Eastern Band of Cherokee, play golf, or try your luck at the casino.
On the Tennessee side many tourist destinations can be found. Sevier County, is home to Pigeon Forge Tennessee and Gatlinburg, Tennessee. A great place to visit, it's the birthplace of country music legend Dolly Parton. Dolly’s Theme Park Dollywood, located in Pigeon Forge Forge, TN.
On the Tennessee side of the Smokey Mountains, and part of the National Park Service is Clingmans Dome, the 3rd highest mountain in the east and the highest point in the Smokey's. It sits along the Appalachian Trail. Sitting at the top of Clingmans Dome is an observation tower you can climb that allows for some spectacular views. Clingmans Dome is directly in between Cherokee, NC and Gatlinburg, TN.
The Blue Ridge and Smokey Mountains have so much to offer. From historical places to see. Museums featuring a look into the culture of the people who live there now and in the past. And local craftspeople who make a living embracing that past. We could never begin to tell you everything there is to find in a single post but it is definitely a region to consider exploring on your next vacation.
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