06 Cades Cove

Trip Start Oct 10, 2007
Trip End Nov 15, 2007

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Flag of United States  , Tennessee
Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Grabbed a nice campsite in Cades Cove which is near the source of Abrams Creek; now that it is November, I can squat for as long as I like since now there are no reservations allowed. Hunted for firewood (great that one can do it in this park and using a folding saw is great exercise) and read for most of the afternoon then cooked dinner and planned four days hiking and biking -- I'm hoping the warmer weather doesn't mean rain cause the clouds can get dark here quickly.

Cades Cove (named that way because it is nestled between mountains on all sides) was settled by the whiteman in the 1820's; the trees were first "deadened" by chopping around the girth which quickly kills them but opens up the land to sunshine, then after a year or so these are burnt to clear the area. Corn was their major crop (moonshine material :)) for survival plus chestnuts and game. In its heyday, Cades Cove almost reached a thousand people; at he time of expropriation in 1935, most took the buyout and left but some remained on lifelong leases that were non-transferable (last tenant died around 2000). The park has kept the old buildings with fields (rents for pasture and hay to people outside park) and now receives over three million visitors a year driving around the 11 mile loop road (one horrendous traffic jam).

Rode a couple of mountain "roads" which are really exciting since cars don't even try to use them and 4x4's pull to the side as the bikes scream by -- it was even better since these tracks were oneway. Ended up, believe it or not, at the "Dragon's Tail" again so I treated myself to lunch at Deals Gap and got to slay one and a half dragons (Parsons Gap tumbles out onto highway 129 in the middle of the Dragon). After eight hours of tough biking, I'm spent again with sore shoulders and subsequently devoured a cool beer while reading an interesting new book (thanks Pete F), "Cold Mountain" by Charles Frazier, which is a novel set during the civil war in the Smoky Mountain area.

Since the cove is such a zoo today, I resupplied my provisions and toured the Tuckaleechee caverns. Besides photographing a really cute pygmy bat, the caves were really impressive with a three-hundred foot waterfall and lots of stalitites (and the other kind :)) - this cave is about 4 miles long and has one huge cavern that was bigger than a football field. The water tastes pretty good as well; limestone purified and over four-hundred feet below the surface.

Toured around the cove getting glimpses at settlers' lives in the 1800's; they were much hardier and better fit than our generations -- some even lived reasonably long lives. When the park was setup, I figure that two to three thousand people were evicted over time with monies and life-long non-transferable leases. This is also the poorest national park because it was created (NC, TN and Rockerfeller donations) with the stipulation that no entry fees can be charged and it has only been a couple of years since they could even keep the camping fees -- all in all, it is still an impressive park. Next time I return, I intend to use the walk-in wilderness campsites.

Next travels with TomB will be about Korea... Stay tuned...

- Tent now waterproofed; now must wait for the acid rain test.
- It's funny seeing them using leaf-blowers in the campgrounds - a government make work project perhaps? :).
- Campfires only keep one side warm :(.
- Have finally broken out the down mummy bag now that the weather is below freezing most nights.
- Interesting sign: "A lady doesn't need a man to make her happy, but a maid is essential."
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