This year was my third try at getting to the Smokies, and I finally made it (two previous tries were canceled due to a hurricane and a pandemic). And, WOW, was it totally worth the wait! I could only get three nights and it wasn’t enough to do more than scratch the surface of this beautiful national park. It’s definitely on my “gotta get back here” list despite the crowds, the traffic, and the winding roads.
I took the Blue Ridge Parkway from Asheville to the southern end, which was a lovely drive. The BRP has plenty of places to pull out and let the other people by, which makes driving so much less stressful for me when I’m towing my Alto. Another 2.5 miles north and I arrived at my destination: Smokemont campground, near Cherokee, North Carolina. No services or cell connectivity, but potable water at the dump station. And there are few dump stations with this kind of view…
This early in the season, only the A-C loops at Smokemont were open, so most sites were small but the campground was quieter, a fair trade for someone with a small trailer. My campsite was across the road from the Oconaluftee River, meaning I got to hear it 24/7 and I was so OK with that. Yeah, I did have to angle my pickup in to fit into the campsite, but that was OK too. Look at the dogwoods in bloom and all that spring green!
One walk around the campground, I followed the river up into one of the closed loops and found this view. Honestly, it looked just like this straight out of camera, no retouching needed when nature is this amazing.
Another day, I went on a bit of a trail hike and then realized this elk had other ideas about who owned the right of way. The elk won, obviously!
I was camping with my friends Karen and Steve, who are fellow Alto owners, although different model than mine. If you look closely behind their trailer, you can see them and their dog, Sophie, waving. (Well, Sophie isn’t waving, but Karen and Steve are.)
We drove up to the Clingman’s Dome visitor area, in the heart of the park. On the south side is North Carolina and to the north (including this view) is Tennessee. The views from this spot were incredibly beautiful and endless, and well worth the packed parking lot and crowded walkways.
I’ll give you one more shot of the amazing spring greens of the Smokies. I’ve had two spring seasons this year, one at the coast in March and April and now up in the mountains (April and May). My tree pollen allergy isn’t exactly thrilled by this fact, but two springs is definitely better than two winters any year.
And, yes, if you have a chance to visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park, do it. Even a day trip will be a wonderful experience.
There are trees here that stood before our forefathers ever came to this continent: there are brooks that still run as clear as on the day the first pioneer cupped his hand and drank from them. In this Park, we shall conserve these trees, the pine, the red-bud, the dogwood, the azalea, the rhododendron, the trout and the thrush for the happiness of the American people.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt,
1940 dedication of Great Smoky Mountains National Park