Small town, big mountains – Island Park, Idaho

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Heading out of Montana, we crossed the Continental Divide at Targhee Pass, excited to experience more of the beauty of Idaho.

We arrived at Henrys Lake State Park, located in the city of Island Park.  Scanning around the park as we entered, we were looking for Barney – the coach owned by Kevin and Laura of Chapter3 Travels.  You see, we had just learned that not only were they in the area, but they were already parked just a few spaces down from ours!  We’d previously met up with these fun folks in Tucson, so we knew good times were ahead!

Henrys Lake State Park

At Henrys Lake State Park, Betsy and Barney were practically neighbors

Each morning began with this view outside our windshield

Steve serves from a growler of stout beer we brought from Smelter City Brewing in Anaconda, MT

Henrys Lake SP is in the city of Island Park.  We learned that in the late 19th-century local stagecoach drivers would use natural clearings in the forest as rest areas for horses and passengers.  As businesses started popping up in these areas the drivers began calling them “parks”, and one of them became known as Island Park since it was surrounded on all sides by beautiful rivers, forests, waterfalls and lakes.

Alcohol turned the park into a city.  To circumvent Idaho’s liquor laws prohibiting the sale of booze outside city limits, businesses along the strip of U.S. 20 banded together and incorporated the city in 1947.  The current population of 272 living in the city that’s 500′ wide and 33 miles long have claimed that it has the longest “Main Street” in the world.

Can you spot the black bear?  Steve says it doesn’t count as a sighting, since I didn’t even notice it until I was reviewing the picture on my computer 🙂

Beautiful summer homes circle Henrys Lake

While following a hiking trail around and through the park, we noticed numerous insects fluttering around a carpet of flowers in the meadows:

Suddenly I noticed two groups of butterflies on the ground, attending what appeared to be a “poop party” on dried cow pies.  I’ll never think of butterflies the same way again!

Given the beautiful backdrop of mountains, lakes, rivers and forest, it’s no wonder this place was buzzing with all kinds of recreational activities.  Island Park is also only 20 minutes from West Yellowstone’s gate.  The proximity to Yellowstone explains the landscape here, for Island Park is situated within the 23-mile wide caldera of an extinct volcano, with its west rim visible along U.S. 20:

In the distance is the west rim of Henrys Fork Caldera, the remains of violent volcanic activity

Caldera Landscape

Description of the caldera landscape

The day of our arrival, we got together with Kevin and Laura to set up a hike for the next morning.  The 7.2 mile moderate trek went by quickly as we all chatted endlessly, and the girls had a field day photographing vibrant wildflowers in the dense meadow.  If there were any bears around they would have heard us coming from miles away!  The 9,000’+ elevation really wiped me out, but the company of great friends certainly made it all worthwhile.

Everyone looked pretty perky before we started!  Kevin and Laura had their bear spray holstered and ready

Camera overdrive on wildflowers!

I’ll never forget this meadow!

A photographer in wildflower heaven

Hubbies captured us as we captured our “same shoes” moment

We’re sporting the same Keen hiking shoes!

While Kevin and Laura were being captivated by wild and scenic Yellowstone National Park for several days, Steve and I explored nearby Harriman State Park and later drove the Mesa Scenic Byway and Teton Scenic Byway.  It once again confirmed what a truly wild and beautiful scenic area this is.

Harriman State Park

Once the site of the “Railroad Ranch,” Harriman SP is located on the Henrys Fork of the Snake River.  We followed several intersecting loop trails that led us past the preserved original buildings of the ranch, then continued on to meadows, lakes and forest.  We did run into mosquitoes in the forest area, which we haven’t had to deal with in a long time.

Harriman State Pa

He’s asking, “What’s not to like about this trail?”  He found out later when the ‘skeeters attacked!

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Cranes calling their friends

Tundra Swans

Golden Lake is home to Tundra Swans

Moose

Bullwinkle having breakfast in Silver Lake

Another section of the huge caldera rim is visible across the park’s large meadow

I didn’t have to use my bear spray, but it would have been cool to see one from a distance

Mesa Falls Scenic Byway

At 114′ high for Upper Mesa Falls and 65′ for Lower Mesa Falls, we enjoyed a double-dose of waterfall adventure.  Both natural beauties cascade into the Snake River in a beautiful forest setting. They were the highlight of our drive along Mesa Falls Scenic Byway.

Upper Mesa Falls

Upper Mesa Falls

Lower Mesa Falls

Teton Scenic Byway

We drove Teton Scenic Byway through the backcountry of eastern Idaho, passing through agricultural communities while gawking at the western side of the Teton Range.  The sharp contrast of the mountains against the rolling fields of potatoes, wheat, barley and canola was a feast to the eyes.

Teton Mountain Range

Western side of the Teton Mountain Range

Seemingly endless miles of agricultural fields lined the byway

Before we went our separate ways, Kevin and Laura once again invited us to their home to savor another of Kevin’s creations.  We had them over for dinner one night as well, but I somehow forgot to take pictures as good conversation, laughter and fine wine flowed on into the evening!

Flank steak with excellent veggie fixings – yum!  Please invite us for dinner again!

Our final stop in eastern Idaho was at Ririe, where we camped at Juniper Campground.  This was a fitting final stop, since the region grows a great deal of Idaho’s potato crop.  This is where the state began its association with potatoes, leading to the “Famous Potatoes” slogan still embossed on their vehicle license plates.

Potato fields in full bloom

Other crops covered the rolling hills, including wheat, alfalfa, and all-important barley for beer 🙂

A wheat field at sunset

That wraps up our Idaho adventures for now. The state left us with lasting impressions and we already plan to return!

A last dance in Idaho, but we’ll be back!

 

Next up:  A spring that breathes?



 

Discovering the “Alps of Oregon ” prt. 2 – Wallowa County, OR

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This is the second of a 2-part series covering our fabulous week in Wallowa County, OR.  You can check out part 1 here.

Day 4- Mountain High on the Wallowa Lake Tram

During our six+ years of travel, we’ve always tried to partake in activities that give us a unique perspective on the area we’re visiting.  One of those activities is riding trams to mountaintops where we can experience the majesty of the surrounding area.  We had an opportunity to do just that here in Joseph, as we rode the Wallowa Lake Tramway up to the 8,000′ peak of Mt. Howard.  It was a fourteen-minute trip up in what the operators claim is the steepest four-person gondola ride in North America. Continue reading

Ice Caves, Cows, Camas, and Cinder Cones – Southern Idaho

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Ice Cave

During our six years of travels we’ve never been inside an Ice Cave, and we certainly didn’t expect to find one in the Idaho desert.  So when we discovered that Shoshone Ice Cave was right on the way to our next stop, we weren’t going to miss it.  The place has a huge parking lot, even big enough for Betsy with the car attached!  She was well watched as we went inside for our guided tour.

A caveman riding a dinosaur?  This was an interesting place!

With time to kill before our guided tour began, we perused the small museum to learn a few interesting tidbits about the cave.  The photo below especially caught my attention – ice skating inside an ice cave!

Vintage photo of ice skating inside the cave in the 40’s

During the tour, Garret, our young tour guide told us that this natural ice chest had been used to advantage by early settlers, and it was the only place within hundreds of miles folks could get a cold beer at the time.  Years later it became well known, and like many things it was abused by man as all of the ice was removed and shipped throughout the area for refrigeration purposes.  As this was done, the front of the cave was opened up and the critical airflow needed to produce ice was destroyed.

Coming to the rescue was Russel Robinson, who bought the land in the 1950’s.  He researched air flow patterns through the cave and re-sealed the entrance to restore the natural environment inside. After several years the ice was restored, and the cave was opened for guided tours.

Heading down to the cave entrance

We were advised to bring a light jacket, as the temperature inside the lava cave remains constant at 28º.  It was a fairly short tour, and macho Garret sported a T-shirt as he pointed out various features and facts about the amazing place.

The ice here is formed as super-cold air flows through as water trickles in.  Some water is pumped out to keep the cave from completely filling with ice

Russel Robinson’s legacy was patience and hard work, as he restored this unique spot in the Idaho desert – pretty much in the middle of nowhere.  It was not a grandiose cave like others we’ve visited, but it was definitely unique and worth the stop.  If you’re ever driving on I-75 between Twin Falls and Sun Valley you may want to check it out – especially if it’s a hot day!

Cows and Camas Lilies

A spring attraction that caught my interest was seeing the Camas Lilies in full bloom. Whenever we’re close to wildlife sanctuaries, prairies or flower fields, I’m all over it (usually without Steve, as he happily hands over the car keys).  So with my camera in tow, I drove to the Camas Prairie Centennial Marsh located in Fairfield, Idaho.  On the way there I found my answer to the question, “Where’s the beef?”

The cowboy signaled me to go ahead, but these guys weren’t cooperating!

Driving slowly and trying to scare them out of the way, it took me 15 minutes to reach the main road

A festival is held in Fairfield to celebrate the annual “Big Bloom” of the Camas Lilies, which occurs throughout the month of May.  The Camas Prairie here runs along both sides of Highway 20 and is about 15 miles long, but for the best viewing I continued further to the Camas Prairie Centennial Marsh.  For thousands of years, these same plants sustained Native Americans living in the area.

I love being greeted by my feathered friends whenever I visit one of their habitats

Well, my doubts were confirmed – I was a bit late and past the peak bloom.  I missed the blanket of blue in the valley that I was hoping for, but was happy that I’d brought my telephoto zoom lens.  Most of the remaining blooming lilies were a long way from the road, but I enjoyed my photography session as the songbirds and ducks kept me company.  It was quiet and peaceful as the breeze rustled through the prairie grass.

Camas roots were collected by Native American women and used to make bread

Camas Lily

Native Americans also used Camas Lilies extensively for medicinal purposes

Camas Centennial Marsh

A glimmer of blues in the Marsh

A lone Pronghorn had more food than it knew what to do with

Cinder Cones and Craters

To complete my “C” themed post, we spent a half day visiting Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve.  What we saw there brought to mind the volcanic havoc underway in Hawaii.  Many of the plaques along the walkways referred to the Kilauea volcano while describing what we were looking at.

Steve surveying an ocean of rock

Geologists have found that although the craters here are volcanic in nature, it was not a volcano that created this moonscape.  Rather, it resulted from several eruptions originating from a series of deep fissures known collectively as the Great Rift that crosses the Snake River Plain.  Eruptions from deep cracks in the earth forced lava up to create cinder cones, spatter cones and lava tube caves.  The most recent eruption was only 2,000 years ago.

Climbing up the short but steep Inferno Cone

From the top of Inferno Cone we could see cinder cones lined up along the Great Rift.  In the foreground are blooming Purple Phacelia

We followed the 7-mile loop road that took us around various volcanic features:

We were amazed that while seemingly barren, the lava fields have become islands of vegetation, and we’d arrived during the annual wildflower blooms.  These plants have adapted to the harsh environment and we noticed they grow close to the ground to resist losing moisture from the heat and wind.

And the star of the moonscape was the Dwarf Monkeyflowers that painted the lava fields in a sea of pink:

Dwarf Monkeyflowers added color to the otherwise black cinder beds

Dwarf Monkeyflowers and Dwarf Buckwheats appear to be planted with equal spacing due to competition for water

Being here during the wildflower bloom enhanced our appreciation of the barren landscape.  But according to biologist Richard J. Vogl, “What you see depends mainly on what you look for.”

We climbed out of the Indian Lava Tube unscathed

 

Next up:  Stunning scenic Stanley, Idaho!



 

Our final stop in Utah – Brigham City

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Each time I return from my hot and humid country of the Philippines, I bring souvenirs with me, in the form of coughing, a lost voice and jet lag.  Thankfully, Brigham City had just what was needed to mend my ailing body.  Wildflowers, birds and a historic site thrown in the mix were just what the doctor ordered for a quick recovery!

I smiled big when I saw that welcome sign 🙂

I knew exactly what I wanted to do when we arrived here.  There was a wild bird refuge nearby, and the Wellsville Mountains had trails waiting to be hiked.  Golden Spike National Monument was only a few miles away, and we were hoping to check out Antelope Island.  Unfortunately, we were told the mosquitoes were in full force on the island so we canceled that visit.

Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge

At the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, I was hoping to see a few Tundra Swans, as they are known to pass through here on their journey north.

“Welcome to our home”, sang the Barn Swallow

This refuge has had a disastrous past.  First, it almost died due to irrigation diversion in the 1920’s, then it was hit with an avian botulism outbreak causing the death of 1-2 million birds.  Finally, in 1983 it was devastated again due to the Great Salt Lake flood that inundated the wetlands with salt water and decimated the refuge structures.  When the lake levels receded six years later the refuge was rebuilt and the vibrant ecosystem eventually came back to life.  And as many other cities do, Brigham City claimed it to be the best birding destination anywhere.

A lone Pelican on his breakfast hunt – Steve loves this guy!

In the morning we drove to the refuge and followed the auto tour through the 74,000 acres of pristine wetlands and marshes of the Bear River Delta.  The Tundra Swans were long gone, but a few locals were hanging out enjoying their breakfast in the swamp:

Hundreds of White-faced Ibis were on the move as we left

Golden Spike National Monument

After gawking at the birds and breathing some fresh air we drove west to Promontory Summit, Utah.  This is the site where the last spike was driven to join the transcontinental railroad that connected the western states to the rest of the nation on May 10, 1869.

We made it to Golden Spike National Monument just in time to see a re-enactment of the original ceremony, which completed the nation’s first transcontinental railroad.  This historic event linked America’s first transcontinental railroad, and ultimately opened the western frontier to settlement.  Steve and I had both learned about this event long ago, but it was very cool to actually be at the site where it happened.

Re-enactment of the “wedding of the rails” ceremony at the last spike site

Re-enactment of the dignitaries that attended the original ceremony

The last spike

I’m pointing to where the last tie and spike were laid to marry the two railroad companies

A gorgeous replica of Central Pacific Railroad’s Jupiter got Steve’s attention

A replica of Union Pacific Railroad’s No. 119 moving to meet the Central Pacific RR

While there, we drove the East Auto Tour route, stopping for lunch at Chinese Arch which was named to honor thousands of Chinese workers brought in to accomplish Central Pacific’s portion of the railroad.  Those 10,000 Chinese workers faced tremendous obstacles as they tunneled through the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Along with Irish work crews, they were famously known for accomplishing a feat that would never be duplicated, including laying ten miles of track across the Utah desert in a 12-hour period.

We had Chinese Arch to ourselves, along with a great view as we enjoyed lunch

Back to hitting the trails!

Brigham City is near the northernmost point of the Wasatch Front, and the steep Wellsville Mountains branch off of it.  The tourism office touted these mountains as the steepest range in the world.  Why?  What makes the Wellsville Range special is that it’s only five miles wide at the base and rises almost straight from the valley floor, which is at about 4,500′ in elevation.  When we looked closely we noticed that indeed there were no foothills leading up to these mountains!

Wellsville Mountains –  no foothills, so from either side it appears to be a giant mountainous wall rising directly from the valley floor

We’re not sure if it’s really the steepest range in the world, but it did offer several moderate and strenuous trails, and we followed one of each to get my legs back into hiking mode.  And I was smiling ear-to-ear when we arrived at the trailhead for our first hike, which was carpeted with yellow wildflowers!

Wild Parsnips blanketed the area

Arrowleaf Balsamroot flowers were in full bloom as well

Arrow leaf Balsam root

A vast swaths of Arrowleaf Balsamroot flowers were wishing me to get better soon

On another day we followed the Deep Canyon Trail, which eventually leads to Box Elder Summit at 9,372′.  I hiked most of it, but my lingering cough caused me to stop when Steve announced he just had to reach a nearby fog-covered summit.

 

 

Off he goes to the summit…

…I’ll just wait here for him – cough, cough!

As Steve headed off, I got busy with my camera as colorful spring wildflowers begged for my attention. With the whole mountainside to myself accompanied by chirping birds, I was in solitary bliss.

This guy, Green tailed towhee stopped singing as I entered his space

Steve returned with a smile after about an hour and said, “I’m going to feel this tomorrow!” (and he did).

Steve’s view from the top

This was a perfect stop for me to mend from my long trip.  What more can I ask for – an unforgettable display of wildflowers, singing birds and hiking are the stuff that gets me going!

And with that, we said goodbye to Utah!

 

Next up:  Hello, Idaho!



 

So much more to do – Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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There was lots more to do at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park – more than I could fit into a single post.  I have to say that despite going through and around the Smokies for the 10 days we were there,  we barely scratched the surface.  We were based near the town of Cherokee, about 5 miles  from  the south entrance to the park.  This turned out to be a long post, so grab your favorite beverage and take your time checking out our adventures at GSMNP.

A bit of history

A visit to the Museum of the Cherokee Indians enlightened me about the plight of the Cherokee Indians in the early 1800’s.  My take away from perusing through cultural and historical displays was that the Cherokee people who live in North Carolina today are referred to as the “Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.”  They are the direct descendants of those who avoided the Cherokee’s forced removal to Oklahoma in the 1830’s, also called the “Trail of Tears.”  The 56,000-acre Qualla Boundary in western North Carolina adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is their current home.

We did not encounter any live bears during our stay, but I was happy to see these critters around Cherokee that seemed harmless enough.

A Gourd Festival?

On the same day around the corner from the museum building, a Gourd Festival was in progress.  I was curious, since this was the first time I had heard about this kind of festival.  I saw gourds of various sizes, shapes and odd forms for sale.  Crafters and gourd enthusiasts crowded the area, displaying their works of art or attending activities like hands-on gourd crafting.  I was fascinated with the details and craftsmanship of the finished gourd art on display.

Hitting the trails

Hiking at GSMNP

OK, which trail are we taking?

Lets talk hiking.  I understand now why the GSMNP is also called, a “hiker’s park”.  As we drove through on US 441, the main north to south scenic highway, we noticed many trailhead markers along the way.  With about 150 hiking trails to choose from, we were in hiking heaven!  We’d been longing for some more challenging hikes with serious elevation changes, and we weren’t disappointed here.

The hikes we chose took us deep into the forestlands. Some included breathtaking views, several ran along rushing streams with cascading waterfalls, and most were adorned with millions of wildflowers that made me stop frequently for photos.

We categorized our hikes as either waterfall, vista or wildflower hikes.  Below are details of just a few of the ones we chose, and we went out almost every day to explore until our legs throbbed in pain!

Waterfall hikes

Waterfalls, streams and rivers abound in and around the park.  I learned that many parts of the Smokies receive over 85″ of rainfall on average each year.  All of that water trickles and then rushes down the mountainside, creating multiple waterfalls, streams and rivers.  We loved the hikes that let us enjoy the sounds of water along most of their length. It is so green and lush everywhere.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Riverstreams

Mingo falls

Mingo Falls

Tom Branch Falls

Tom Branch Falls

Following a three-waterfall loop from Bryson City, we came upon the Juney Whank, Indian Creek and Tom Branch falls.  How often do you get to see three beautiful waterfalls on one hike?  We also saw several others along our driving route that day.

Abrams Falls

Abrams Falls

To reach Mingo Falls, we followed a 0.4 mile trail that included steep wooden stairs, and we were out of breath by the time we reached the top.  At 120′ tall, this is one of the tallest and most spectacular waterfalls in the Smoky Mountains.

The hike to Abram Falls was about five miles roundtrip.  The waterfall itself was only 20′ high, but a long and deep pool at its base creates strong currents beneath the falls. The strong undertow there was responsible for the deaths of several people.

Warning at Abrams Falls

We learned there have been more than 4 deaths here – they should make the number changeable on the sign…

Wildflower hikes

The Smokies explode with wildflowers during the springtime months.  It is commonly referred to as “The Wildflower National Park.”  But alas, we missed many of the beauties by arriving a bit late in the season.  The best time to see the hillsides carpeted with colors is April and May, but I managed to snap a few leftovers on some of the trails where the wildflowers were abundant.

Mountain Bugbane

Mountain Bugbane

wpid25799-2014-05-23-NC-1320400.jpg

To catch a few of those remaining spring wildflowers, we followed the Oconaluftee River Trail, an easy 3-mile roundtrip that began at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center and ran alongside the river.  Next, we followed the 6.2-mile Smokemont Loop Trail and burned some calories on its 1,400′ ascent through creekside cove hardwood forests and drier oak- and hickory-dominated ridge tops.  I was able to see a few blooms and can identify only a few and marked some with a  (?).

The Icewater Shelter Trail (5.4 miles) was our first true taste of serious mountain hiking, since this trail ascends quite steeply at the beginning.  Parts of it are very rocky with large boulders, and other sections follow smoother ridge lines.  A few clamps of Bluets were swaying in the breeze along this trail.  It is a section of the Appalachian Trail that goes to the outcropping at Charles Bunion.

Bluets

Mountain Bluets

Vista Hikes

The vista hikes we did were real “lung busters” and calf toners, with rewards of great  panoramic mountain views.  The .5-mile ascent to Clingman’s Dome, which I mentioned on my previous post, gave us a 360-degree view of the Smokies.  Outside the park we tackled Whiteside Mountain in the Nantahala Forest.  This mountain is a distinct landmark along the eastern Continental Divide for aviators and ground-bound folks alike. The 2-mile trail is rated difficult because of its steepness and switchbacks, which include steps placed to help negotiate the rocky slope.  At the top we had a great view of South Carolina and the face of this mountain, which is prized by rock climbers.  It was closed to those folks while we were there because it was nesting season for the  Perigrine Falcons that return there every year.

Whiteside Mountain

Whiteside Mountain at Nantahala Forest

A 1.2-mile roundtrip hike to the summit at Waterrock Knob was a steep climb, gaining 412 feet in elevation.  This trail begins at Milepost 451.2 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, just 18 miles from where the parkway ends at the Great Smoky Mountains Visitors Center (Milepost 469).

Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway looking east – Blue Ridge Mountains

Blue Ridge Mountain, Waterrock Knob trail

Blue Ridge Parkway and the Smokies, looking west

After completing all of these hikes, we believe the calories we’d been carrying since leaving Florida were finally melting away, and our hiking muscles were coming back – yay!  But most of all, we felt really good and reinvigorated from being back to nature and far from the noises of civilization.

Waterrock Knob Parking lot

Maybe wearing green for pictures isn’t such a good idea out here?

Scenic Drives

Although hiking might be the best way to enjoy the park, scenic drives are also available to those who prefer to view the mountains from the comfort of their car.  In between our hiking days we took the suggested drives to Cade’s Cove Loop and the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, which were about 56 miles from our home base in Cherokee.  We also checked out the nearby Road to Nowhere  in Bryson City. Highway 441 GSMNP

The most popular drive, with bumper-to-bumper traffic on a one-lane 11-mile loop road, was Cade’s Cove.  A “cove” in the mountains is a flat valley between mountains or ridges. Cades Cove used to be a farming community in the early 1900’s, and today this is a showcase of natural and cultural treasures preserved for generations to come.

Cades Cove

As we drove here, we saw preserved pastureland, churches, preserved structures and some wildlife.  We never saw a bear, but this cute deer caused a traffic jam on the one-way street.

Deer

Cades Cove Loop

Sharing the narrow road

Cades Cove

Checking out Cade’s Cove

As the name suggests, the Roaring Form Motor Nature Trail is a nature trail viewable from your car.  As we drove the 6-mile-long, one-way loop road we were essentially following Roaring Fork Creek, a stream within a series of rushing cascades.  There were access points to waterfall trails, but we just drove on the road enjoying the forest.  The beautiful green scenery and sounds of rushing water was so soothing that I was afraid Steve would fall asleep while driving.

Roaring Fork Motor Trail

Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

Did I mention that it’s very green out here?

The Road to Nowhere

The Road to Nowhere

We learned about this drive from the packet of “Off the Beaten Path” information that our RV park hostess gave us.  The road was originally named Lakeview Drive, but since it was never completed the residents called it “The Road to Nowhere.”  In 1943 the federal government promised to build it for access to the Fontana Dam, as compensation to local residents who gave up their land for the project.  Approximated 6 miles of the road, including a bridge and 1200-foot tunnel, were completed by end of 1969, but the remaining 26 miles was never finished.  It is a nice scenic drive from Bryson City into GSMNP, where it dead-ends.

Tunner at Road to Nowhere

Walking through the dark 1,200 foot tunnel was a bit creepy.

The tunnel is closed to car traffic and can only be walked through on foot.  Midway through it, I grabbed Steve’s hand as it was a bit scary walking in the dark – even though we could see light at the distant end.

End of runnel, Road to Nowhere

Finally, a light at the end of the tunnel

While walking around Bryson City we stumbled upon a local brewery – a perfect way to end our long day of auto touring.

Back at the campground, our feathered friends provided us with entertainment as we relaxed after each long day in the mountains.

Sparrows

I want my snack..

Northern Cardinal

Ain’t I handsome?

And that wraps up our magnificent and glorious stay at the mountains.  We feel that we made the most of our time with a close-up experience of the best, nature has to offer in the Smokies.

Resources:

Park Map http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/upload/grsmmap2-2.pdf

Trail Map http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/upload/trail-map_JULY13-full.pdf

For more information, visit The Great Smoky Mountain National Park’s Website!