Government Shutdown in the Smokies

Day Three of the 2018 Government Shutdown!

On Saturday I went to Carl Sandburg National Historic Site to see how the government shutdown was affecting the national parks.

The next day, I drove to the Deep Creek area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I chose that area because it’s a little out of the way without a visitor center. The Smokies store is in Bryson City.

No signs that the park was officially closed.

Juney Whank falls

I walked the three-waterfall loop – Juney Whank, Tom Branch (see the picture on top) and Indian Creek Falls, a classic 5.5-mile loop. When I started at about 11 am, a very-prepared fisherman was heading to Deep Creek. A few people were walking slowly toward Deep Creek. Nothing unusual.

On Deep Creek Trail, I met a group of guys from Raleigh, walking out of a weekend backpack.

“We started on Friday and got in under the wire,” one said about getting to their campsite.

No one else was on the trail until I reached Sunkota  Ridge junction, the high point on the loop trail. Here, a couple from Louisiana were enjoying a cup of coffee from their thermos and a smoke.

Swain County Heritage Museum

They were navigating from their AllTrails app and didn’t feel they needed any instructions. Instead they asked about good restaurants in Bryson City and Cherokee, where they were staying in a cabin. Still I encouraged them to visit the Smokies Store in Bryson City inside the Swain County Heritage Museum.

But there’s always something new!

Trail use counter


On both the Deep Creek and the Indian Creek Trails, the park had installed a trail counter. The sign was very adamant; this is not a camera. Still I waved to it.

Back at the trailhead, someone told me that the only sign of a shutdown was the same sign that I had seen at Carl Sandburg on a bathroom building.

The bathroom was closed and the sign wasn’t very obvious. Most people who walk the three-falls loop are locals, again treating the national park as a local park. Still, I didn’t see any problems, maybe because there’s little ranger presence on this section.

I drove to the Lakeview Drive, better known as the Road to Nowhere. The  road was open. My curiosity was satisfied.

Smokies stuff

My last stop was the Smokies Store, where I bought Smokies swag for my upcoming trip.

When I was working on my Smokies 900M, I calculated that there were sixteen entrances into the Smokies. Some were very small; others were on private land, but the number was correct. It’s obvious that the staff can’t put signs on all these entrances. But, still, Deep Creek is the second most used entrance in North Carolina. I was expecting more of a indication of the government shut-down.

PS When I got home, I headed to Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Center was open. However the parkway was closed at the first barrier, though it wasn’t clear if that was because of the shutdown or ice in the tunnels.

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