August 6, 2023 We heard rain on the roof and when we woke up light rain was falling. Bob cooked our special Sunday breakfast and we did our usual morning routine. It was 75 degrees and still sprinkling a little as we pulled out of the campground for our drive into the park to the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. We took Highway 441 on the parkway toward Gatlinburg.
Our GPS directions took us around the busy part of downtown Gatlinburg. The backway to the road we needed was very scenic and we got to see some of the really cool areas of town set into the hillsides. Those vines seemed to be everywhere, covering everything.
The road passed under this gondola/chairlift ride, the Anakeesta, which goes to the top of Crockett Mountain. From the top, there are beautiful views and activities for all ages to enjoy there.
There were lots of rental cabins and lodges on these back roads, many along the side of the creek.
We entered the Great Smoky Mountain National Park boundary. By the time we entered the park, the rain had stopped.
We followed the Cherokee Orchard Road which was a winding, curvy road to our destination of Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.
This is a one-way loop road through the park.
It is a scenic drive into the foothills of the Smokies along cascading streams with the remains of pioneer farms located throughout the hillsides. It would be an 8-mile drive from the park entrance in Gatlinburg and returning to Gatlinburg. The speed limit was 10 mph since the road is narrow and has no guard rails of any kind.
We came upon a male turkey who was minding his own business on the side of the road.
There weren’t many vistas to stop and view since we drove mostly in the forest, but here was one we stopped for.
The road passed over many bridges that crossed the river because it followed the path of the Rocky Spur Branch and the Roaring Fork River.
The traffic on the drive was far less than on the Cades Cove Loop Road, but there were times when cars bunched up and slowed to take pictures. We were hoping that someone had seen a bear, but no such luck. Most of the drive we spent by ourselves.
We did see a few of these signs around and heard on the news this morning that they closed Rich Mountain Road on the Cades Cove Loop Road due to bear activity.
Even some of the trails warned of bear activity.
We kept our eyes open for any sign of bears. That would be cool to see one. There were many access points to view the swiftly flowing water in the streams.
We found an open parking space at the Ephraim Bates Place, so we got out to look around at the many old structures there. This was one of the remaining farms on the Roaring Fork River.
There was the house with the “granny hole” – the cabin’s only window.
Doors and windows were small to conserve heat.
There was a small barn and a corn crib.
There was also a hog pen.
The doors and windows had latches with carved hinges.
Nine children and two adults lived in that house. It’s hard to imagine how hard life was back then for those farmers and their families. Of course, the homestead was located right along the river –a necessary resource for survival.
We continued on our drive and came upon another structure. It was a grist mill. They used the troughs to divert the water from the stream into the building to spin the waterwheel which turned the grist mill to grind the grain.
Many parts of the river had giant log jams, but the water help flowing.
We found another open parking space to pull in and view the Alfred Reagan Place.
It was a bigger home with two stories. There was no explanation about the house or the family, so we had to use our own imagination.
I climbed the stairs to view the 2nd floor.
There was a lot of space up there.
I don’t know if it was the rainy weather or the weekend was ending so people were going home, but there were definitely fewer people around today.
As we made our way back to the beginning of our drive, we followed the river as it flowed down into the foothills.
There were 5 more bridges to cross over the river.
We weren’t sure if the bridges could hold more than one car at a time, so we waited our turn to go over it.
After our last bridge, we saw this huge white rock face along the road. It definitely stood out from the greens and browns of the forest.
The narrow road was lush with greenery on both sides.
Near the end of our drive, there was a waterfall cascading down the rocks and flowing under the road to join the river bed below us.
At the end of our drive, cars ahead of us were stopping at the historic Ely’s Mill which had demonstrations and arts and crafts for sale.
It was a collection of old historic buildings and a couple of old trucks.
It seems he was also a beekeeper with many hives.
He also had some really nice rental cabins available along the river. What a pretty place this was!
As we got back into town, it was crazy with traffic. Hopefully, many of the weekend people will be heading home, so it’ll be a little less busy for our visit to town tomorrow.
The road back took us along the parkway and through this very long tunnel where no honking was allowed. Bummer!
We got back to the campground around 1:30 to relax in the quiet solitude of our campsite by the river. By now the skies had cleared and the sun was shining. Many campers had left this morning including all of our neighbors. I love Sundays in the campground!
We made some calls back home and enjoyed the afternoon with a nice cool breeze and blue skies. After dinner, we took our usual walk and returned to watch some TV. We had a beautiful day in the park!