Smoky Mountains Revisited!
Sunday, July 17, 2005 | 3 commentsby
India has a long tradition of people going to the hills to commune with
nature and to get in touch with their inner selves. After a gruelling phase at
work, I was ready for my communing and touching and the nearest hills were...you
guessed it the Smokies.
A quick hotel booking and car rental later, a friend and I were headed to the Smokies. We made good time despite having to do longer stints at the wheel. The really amazing part came at four in the morning when we drove in the mountains through heavy fog. But the hardship had its reward and owing to our delay, we were able to witness the sunrise at Lookout point. All the sleepiness was suddenly gone.
Unlike my last trip, this trip was made in summer and I wanted it to be different from the last one. We again started at Cades Cove. Only, this time we were able to partake of different joys bicycling, watching horses in the paddock, a dip in the gurgling streams.
Also, since we were in a small group, I was able to indulge my weakness for photography, hopping out of the car at scenic locations, hanging by the mountainside taking pictures and so on.
The next destination was Clingman's Dome, the highest point in the national park. In fact, Clingman's Dome at 6643 feet is the second highest point in the US east of the Mississippi. The peak is accessible after driving Clingmans Dome Road from Newfound Gap, and then walking a steep half-mile trail. A paved trail leads to a 54-foot observation tower.
Vistas from Clingman's Dome are spectacular. On clear, pollution-free days, views expand over 100 miles and into seven states. Sunrises and sunsets at the Dome are amazing and so is the feeling of being above and in the middle of clouds if you are lucky.
We decided to get out of the national park a little early this time and headed towards the historic town of Chattanooga, Tennessee. We were looking to visit a few places around Chattanooga Lost Sea, Ruby falls, Rock city and Incline Railway.
Lost sea is not a sea as the name suggests but world's largest underground lake (Yup, the Guinness Book of World Records says so!). The tour brought up another interesting feature cave flowers. 90% of their entire population is found in these caves(if you see the picture carefully, you will see floral patterns the same color as the rock).
Lookout Mountain, Georgia was the scene of a major civil war battle but today it is famous for other interesting landmarks too. Ruby falls, underneath the mountain feature -- a 145 ft subterranean waterfall and beautiful rock formations. Right around the corner from Ruby falls is Rock city. It is a local joke that you can't claim to have lived in the American south till you have visited Rock city. With singing elves, fairyland caverns and mother goose village thrown in with botanical gardens and rocks, it was one of the pioneering amusement parks of USA.
The final stop is the Incline Railway, a train that moves up and down a steep incline on Lookout Mountain. So steep is the climb that the railway is actually not powered but pulled up by a cable and pulley system while another train connected to the same cable descends on the other track.
Our refreshing jaunt across the old south came to an end all too quickly but then, once you've been to the Smokies, you'll want to go there again. Skiing anyone?