Into the Smoky Mountains

A few days ago I visited with my family the Great Smoky Mountains… or should it be Smokey? Keep reading, we’ll find out. It was an long overdue trip, but definitively we experienced a beautiful time going into the Smoky Mountains.

There’s an important clarification I need to make, because it made the trip even better.

The common thing to do is to stay in Gatlinburg, TN. However, when I tried to make the reservation for the log cabin we decided to stay in, the dates didn’t work out, and other cabins either weren’t secluded or didn’t match our budget.

I had to switch locations to Bryson City, NC, which in this case made us travel 90 extra minutes South and across the other side of the hills. Doing such adjustment was great.

But first, here’s why they are called Smoky Mountains…

Smoky Mountains
Smoky Mountains

Smoky Mountains, The Place of the Blue Smoke

The native Cherokee people traditionally called the Great Smoky Mountains Shaconage, which translates to “place of the blue smoke.” Euro-American settlers drew from this name in their own label of “Smoky Mountains,” with “Great” being added at some point or another to reflect the massiveness and grandeur of the range.

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The Cherokee name is plain to see on one of the many long, mountain-upon-mountain vistas the Great Smokies serve up from such vantages as Newfound Gap, Clingmans Dome, or Charles Bunion. There’s a whitish-blue mistiness to the scenery, a beautiful kind of haze that slightly blurs the long ridges and rounded peaks.

That haze is the optical result of a natural photochemical process. The trees, shrubs, and other plants of the dense and diverse Southern Appalachian forests emit natural hydrocarbons called terpenes that react with ozone particles wafted down from the stratosphere. Moisture condenses on these aerosols, which then scatter the shorter wavelengths of light in the blue-violet spectrum to produce the signature haziness.

I was able to experience the haze effect, and it brought up on me the question regarding the name, because it gives the idea that is based on smoke. If it was smoke, it would look like California during a fire, not good. But in this case, going into the Smoky Mountains and seeing the haze is just… breathtaking.

Some pictures of our trip

Here are some images I captured during the trip. Not enough to make justice to the scenery, but is a nice glimpse to what can be enjoyed there.

  • Spectacular Smoky Mountains.
  • A great background, only available at Smoky Mountains.
  • Oconaluftee River, part of our Smoky Mountains visit
  • Oconaluftee Visitor Center, as part of our Smoky Mountains visit
  • Fork Dickerson Park
  • Nantahala River, by the intersection with the Appalachian Trail, just outside of the Great Smoky Mountains.
  • Mountain Perks Expresso Bar, at Bryson City, NC.

A mandatory stop during this trip is the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, where the images, scale-size village representations, tools and clothing class with the modern world. Treasures from the ancient villagers are guarded by the descendants of the warrior tribe, and shared with us, to preserve their memory and legacy.

The town itself doesn’t resemble the old tribe’s way of living, but it’s museum helps the visitors catch a glimpse of the people who lived here in the past. I was in awe with all the knowledge I gathered in this short visit.

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A place worth visiting again

We enjoyed all activities, city walking, train riding, trail hiking, and of course, eating 🙂

While driving towards Smoky Mountains we saw other cities with plenty of activities. We’ll definitively go back for more fun.

Our stay in Bryson City was very nice, because we didn’t get to experience the crowds in Gatlinburg. However, I have to say, we missed the experience that millions have enjoyed, and we have put it in our calendars for future vacations.

😎

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