Friday, I attended a Great Smoky Mountains Association board meeting in Gatlinburg. In the evening, Lenny joined me for a Christmas party given by GSMA for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park staff.
On Saturday, we took a drive to check out the new construction on the Tennessee side of the Park.
Our first destination was Cades Cove.
The loop road had been paved this past spring, using Federal Highway Funds. The road was really smooth and nice going. The Park had added new pull outs to try to ease congestion. It was early morning in the middle of December but traffic was already slowing down people. So were the deer and turkey. No bears – they had probably bedded down for the winter.
We stopped at the Cable Mill area at the half-way point to see the Visitor Center.
The mill was iced up, creating a great photo, I think.
After the spin around the loop, we drove back on Little River Road and stopped at the Sinks. The improvements in that area was funded by stimulus money. The Sinks was a messy rocky area, looking down on fast moving cascades.
The Park put in a wheelchair accessible overlook which allows visitors to enjoy the cascades without climbing on rocks.
Of course, there were still fools that climbed down to the slippery rocks.
The Sinks is also the parking area for the Meigs Mountain trail.
Our last construction stop was the new Jakes Creek Trail parking area. It’s located by the Elkmont Campground. Again, before, parking for that trail was hit and miss and very crowded. They moved the parking down a little, adding about 0.3 mile to the trail. But it’s worth it.
The Park got a lot more stimulus money for road repairs. I could have spent days checking out all the refurbished roads.
We drove through the park and stopped at Oconaluftee Visitor Center. Two rangers and one GSMA sales person were tending the desks but we were the only visitors.
It must have been even more empty today,with the snow and US 441 closed.
Winter is here!