Monday, June 13, 2005

Smoky Mountains

We’ve been on so many great trips that I should write about but in order to do that I guess I’ll have to start from the most recent and go backwards. Central Georgia may not be a great place to be but it is a perfect starting point to get some where that is in only a few hundred miles.

We headed out from home 9ish in the northerly direction. It’s been hot and muggy here the past week and some mountain air seemed like just the thing. We were driving a Ford Taurus rental car – at the weekend rate you can’t beat it and the van has an electrical glitch that has it out of commission for the moment. The van gives you a wide-screen view of everything with the huge windshield but its lumbering bulk makes it difficult to turn around to go back and look at anything. Lucky for a trio of turtles we were driving a more maneuverable vehicle. It seems somewhere the gun sounded for all turtles to cross the road. All three were doing their best to comply but ended up stuck in the middle, hinged-up tight, afraid to go forward or back. David knows about my fondness for turtle road-side assistance and needed no prompting to come about and go back for the stranded slow-pokes. The first was smallish and waited several minutes before coming out of her shell and nudging up under my foot on the floor of the car. The second poked his head out immediately and regarded me with a look that seemed to hold irritation, like I was delaying his progress - not exactly grateful to be rescued. We released the two of them near the woods by a creek. Big number three did number one all the way across the road while I him at arms length to avoid getting turtle-pee on my boots. We opted to just help him to a clearing just beyond the road and not put him in the car incase he felt further evacuation was necessary. I hope all three had a less eventful journey after their release.

We cruised through Georgia and along up to the North Carolina/Tennessee border marveling at some of the “human” wildlife at our coffee and gas stops. There really are all kinds of people out there and some are just plain strange. Is it something in the water? Limited gene pool? Who knows?! On our way through Rabun Georgia we stopped at the Foxfire Museum . We just went through the gift shop but will have to tour the museum at a later date.

By this time we’d determined our destination was to be the Smoky Mountains and we still had quite a ways to go. Our route took us up past Cherokee and through the heart of Great Smoky Mountians National Park . It is as beautiful and as grand as it sounds. The green is so lush it really deserves another unique color-name all to itself. The rivers wind along the road-sides and we watched an angler charm a nice fat trout from a deep pool with his fly rod – what a beautiful sight. Not the big, graceful loops of open water fly fishing but more quick flicking curls that snuck in under branches and behind rocks. Bands of clouds from the remnants of tropical storm Arlene made the light iffy but we made some pictures of him anyway. David managed to get some good waterfall/river shots as we continued up the river. The low light lends itself to long exposures which gives water photos a dreamlike quality.

When the light went completely we continued up through the Disney-anna of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg for sheer morbid curiosity. Why anyone would spend 2 minutes in either of those tourist traps when there is the breathtaking beauty of the Smokies right down the road is beyond me! We drove through without even stopping for gas lest we be afflicted with whatever disease causes people to stay in such places. We looped back through the park and settled for the night in a little motel on the North Carolina side.

Up in the morning and out by 8, slow for us but considering Arlene had caught up with us in earnest there was no need to rush. We breakfasted adequately at the ‘only game in town’ in Bryson City. The bible belt suffers sorely from places to eat in general but particularly on Sunday morning. To heck with all this church going – what would be heavenly is a sinner who can cook a good breakfast! Another on the peculiarities of Southern dining – folks here will eat nearly any animal product including many I consider inedible (mostly related to pork) but they have a distinct aversion to real dairy products, namely butter and cream. Slather ‘spread’ on a divine biscuit and it is a sorry thing indeed. Pour non-dairy ‘lightener’ into coffee and it’s rendered undrinkable in my book. But we ate it anyway and continued on our journey stuffed but not particularly satisfied.

Arlene continued to come in waves but in between short intervals of brightening and even moments of blue sky peeked through. We tried our luck at fishing under a railroad bridge. The fish must have considered our food offerings as questionable as we had breakfast because floating a worm over clearly visible 18” trout’s head didn’t even produce a quiver of response. We stopped and tried our luck at a couple of other little streams including one by a beautiful WPA built tunnel. I even tiptoed over submerged rocks to get to a likely but the fish were out to lunch elsewhere it seems.

We headed sort of in the direction of home on a road that took us through Nantahala National Forest and my favorite stretch of road from the whole trip. The road winds around at eye level with the river and it’s a beautifully rocky white-water torrent. About 4 pm we stopped for a brief view of a large waterfall and made a few pictures. We will go back there when the weather is better because about that time the waves of rain merged into a constant flow that we drove through most of the way back home. We have a lot of photos to go through and quite a few spots bookmarked to go back to when time permits. We both want to learn how to fly fish and that seems like about the perfect place to learn how! So Central Georgia may not be the place to be but it sure is a great place to start out!


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