The Great Smoky Mountains (08/06/03)

Last updated 8/6/03                                                                                                                                     Russian Translation Here           

The Smokies are named that way not because there are volcanoes, like I foolishly believed (there aren't any), but because of the thick fog that often covers the mountain tops and lies in the deep valleys. I don't think there was any fog when we hiked and drove through the park, but we certainly appreciated the beauty of the nature. The park is known for its waterfalls in multiple locations and broad-leaf trees which offer a magnificent display of fall color later in the year. They are quite impressive when green, too! Even intimidating, when you're driving on a winding narrow one-lane road amongst them ("motor nature trail" that takes you into an honest-to-god jungle).

On the hike to Laurel Falls and beyond we saw many wild-growing mushrooms, and I was vividly reminded of my childhood mushroom gathering experiences. They don't fine you for that in Mother Russia, you know... you can just drive out to a forest with your whole family in summer or fall, go on a mushroom hunting expedition, collect a basket or two for a mushroom fry at home and bring back happy memories of bonding with nature. I wish there was some way of doing it in the U.S. too, maybe for a fee... Let me know if such places exist -- I got a vast source of untapped knowldege about mushroom and berry gathering tucked away in a far corner of my brain, next to rope jumping skill. The orange colored mushrooms in the picture below are my favourite kind, their Russian name is "leseechki" which means "little foxes", because of the color, but for the life of me I can't remember the English terminology for them. In any case, they are best for a 'shroom fry!

Smoky Mountains is a national park with free entrance, which is something we didn't understand (most national parks charge some entrance fee) and felt should be changed. They'll be much better served by charging a modest entrance fee and using the proceeds to improve the roads in the park and mark the trails -- both are kept in not as fine a condition as their brothers in, say, Yosemiti. By the way, the Smokies are the most visited park in the whole of United States, beating even Yellowstone! Our guidebook says that the park is within a day's drive for half of the U.S. population... I don't get that; you can't possibly get here in a day from New York or Boston, so I don't know where they got half the population from. The park does span two states, North Carolina in the south and Tennessee in its north portion. Most visitors descend upon the Smokies in fall season when the leaves are turning colors. By coming in August we got to beat the crowds, although some places are always popular (like Laurel Falls in the pictures below).


View of the Smokies       Laurel Falls - nice but crowded       Another view of Laurel Falls       Views of the Smoky Mountains National Park

A frog we came across while hiking       In Russian these mushrooms are called "leeseechki"       Another mushroom, probably poisonous       The wildlife we saw on a hike to Laurel Falls

Cherokee Plaza Motel where we stayed       All doors are decorated with flowers like these        Motel where we stayed in Cherokee, NC, near the park. Check out the "flower power" look!