After a wonderful mid-day at Camp New Hope and the Kirkpatrick Homecoming, we headed back up to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and Cataloochee Valley.
The first time you travel up Cove Creek Road to Cataloochee Valley, it's absolutely fascinating and wonderful. It gets less wonderful the more times you travel it, until eventually you understand what an ordeal it must have been for the residents of Cataloochee to get to town and back. The road sure keeps the faint of heart at bay, though.
As we came into the floor of the valley on the paved portion of the road, we came upon a little paved side road cutting off to the right. I'd seen it every other time I'd been here, but never paid it any mind. Looking for something new, we decided to turn onto it. Glad we did now. It's another wonderful section of the valley that we'd never seen before. There are a couple well preserved houses with out buildings, and a beautiful old two level barn there. We went on by these, looking for the end of the road.
The road had turned to gravel along about here, and we followed it for about a half mile as it paralleled the creek on the right. We came upon an iron bridge over the creek and stopped there for some pictures. The road continued on the other side, and we followed it for a few more miles. It began to climb and switch back, and after a little while we came to a T intersection. We took a left there, and continued on for about one more mile. It looked like there was no end in sight, and nothing around except deep woods. We turned around here and headed back down across the bridge to the old houses and barn. Consulting a park map a little while later, we discovered that if we'd taken a right turn at the T intersection that would be the Old Cataloochee Road. It would take us, via a big dog leg, back to the unpaved switch-back road we take over Cataloochee Divide, which turns into Cove Creek Road. Following the road we took to the left at the T intersection, you would travel twenty miles through the deep woods, and eventually come out at a little town in Tennessee. Glad we turned around.
Back at the old house and barn, we picked up a park brochure that explained that this was the Palmer House. This old homestead has been very well preserved and maintained by the National Park Service. Here we met a uniformed Park Volunteer, Shirley Ray, who had her "Elk 1" Smart Car parked there. There were a couple other cars and a small group of people gathered, taking pictures of the two elk which had come down to the lawn for some late afternoon grazing. We visited with Shirley for a while. She was very friendly and informative. We learned a lot from her about the park, the volunteer program, and the elk. She was also nice enough to pose by her Smart Car and let me get a picture of her. We fell in alongside everyone else there, and got some great pictures of the two grazing elk.
After this, we drove on over to the other part of the valley that we'd seen before. We spent the rest of the afternoon there, taking pictures of the elk, the old buildings, and the beautiful valley. We stopped by the Beech Grove School, which we'd never seen before, then went on over to the Caldwell House and Barn. We stayed 'til it got too dark to take pictures, then headed back up that long, curvy gravel road back to town.
Here is the link to the slide show: