Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

When it Snows in the Great Smokies

©Bert Gildart: Yesterday (November 17), at elevations above 4,000 feet, it snowed in the peaks of Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

Down here at Smokemont Campground (elevation 2000’), located several miles from Cherokee, North Carolina, also about the same elevation, no snow fell, but what surprised Janie and me was the departure of campers and resident out of all the small neighboring towns. Rather then to flee from this first manifestation of real winter many did just the opposite.

For awhile, the roads were closed, but when they opened, there was a mass exodus toward the peaks of the Great Smokies, which now reflected back white rather than the smoke-blue, for which they are so well known. We joined them, paralleling as we drove the Oconaluftee River to where it originates near Newfound Gap. Then we entered Tennessee and descended the twisting mountain road now paralleling the tributaries of the Little Piegon River.

And then, we turned around and did it all again.

In a word, this new and fresh landscape we saw was beautiful. Rhododendron bushes were covered in white. So, too, were the rocks in streams, and these white-caped domes complemented those places where stream-waters surged and created rushes of white frothy waters.

People-watching was also a treat, and at Newfound Gap (5046’), forming the demarcation between North Carolina and Tennessee, hundreds—literally hundreds—of people were converting the wet snow into snowballs. Some they threw at friends but in one case a man created a small snowman and placed it on the hood of his car. Then he drove off, presumably back toward home to show all what he had seen.

Yet another couple had dressed themselves in heavy long-rider coats and were strolling around this historic gap where President Franklin Roosevelt stood in 1940 and dedicated the park (formed in 1934). Curiously, these people who had dressed themselves as rugged horseback people were being led around by a small manicured poodle cloaked in a warm red vest.

As with every first snowfall of the year, there were people who had not yet retrieved their “sea legs,” and so there were several minor mishaps. One person had slid slightly off the road and was unable to regain traction. (Later we saw a tow truck.) Other were creeping to such an extreme extent that they were creating some frustration on the part of other drivers, anxious to see something different in this vast winter wonderland.

On the Tennessee side, snows receded as we dropped and soon we reached the Sugarlands Visitor Center, located on the Tennessee side of the park and also near Gatlinburg. Immediately upon entering the visitor center, our attention was drawn to a sign telling us that sometime during the first week of December Sugarlands would host a program entitled “Winter in the Smokies.” The program would feature Appalachian music and Appalachian story telling. My how we wished our timing was different.

Because a ranger had said they might have to close the pass at mid afternoon, we returned early, but the snow from the roads had disappeared and so too had most of the meltwater that would have contributed to slippery roads. As well the road was sanded.

Despite the lateness of the day, people were still arriving to see the first rush of winter, but for the most part, it was too late. Strange, we thought at first that so many should be so appreciative, but quickly realized that we were wrong, for every season has its beauty, and we were indeed lucky to be among the first to enjoy this seasonal declaration for which winter is best known.

Today, that manifestation is virtually all gone, but yesterday, as so many thousands realize, it snowed in the Great Smokies of North Carolina and Tennessee.

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