Gatlinburg Vacation   Zachary Stewart
  Sep 13, 2007 10:34 PDT 


I am back from our family vacation to Gatlinburg, Tennessee
and surrounding GSMNP. Because it's been a couple of
years since I have been up there, everything seemed new and
fresh. In downtown Gatlinburg, I measured a redbud over 40"
in circumference below its branching at about 2'. Also, I was
blown away by the size of a tuliptree behind a fence near the
Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts; had a classic open-grown
shape, fairly tall, and - below its rather low branching - a very
large trunk (probably well over 10' CBH!)! Not bad for a city!
I also saw - and photographed - a very large sweetgum in the
parking lot nearby. 

Now, into the mountains: First let me say
that the state of the forest is rather depressing... HWA has
claimed just about every hemlock of note, and at Clingmans
Dome nearly every mature fir is long gone - even the spruce
look bad... anyway, the Roaring Forks Motor Nature Trail was
awesome. Although we didn't get out often, the views were
incredible, at least to me. I'm sure most of y'all have seen all
of it before, but the size of the hemlocks, tuliptrees, red maples,
and, perhaps most impressively, white oaks was incredible.
We stopped about a third of the way down the road to see a
snake on a tree trunk; I went exploring while I had a chance
and met up with a HUGE white oak not far off the trail... and this
was before the cove with numerous gigantic (though unfortunately
dead or dying) hemlocks... I'd love to return soon and actually
walk the trails there. 

Anyway, on Tuesday, we went to
Clingmans Dome. The enjoyment of this trip was dampened
by the sight of the snag forest surrounding the peak: virtually
no Fraser Fir were alive, except for trees about head high,
and little else but the mountain ash looked healthy... the
weather was pretty refreshing (at least to me!) with temperatures
in the upper 50's or low 60's and a stiff 10-15mph wind; overcast
skies and a very low cloud deck reduced the visibility to a
few hundred feet! The spruce forests between Newfound Gap and
Clingmans Dome looked healthier than any of the other conifer
forests that I saw in the Smokies. It's truly still an incredible
place in the Smokies, despite chestnut blight, Dutch elm disease,
adelgids, acid rain, etc., and I plan to return in a couple of years.


RE: Gatlinburg Vacation   James Parton
  Sep 13, 2007 21:20 PDT 


I went to Clingman's Dome about a month ago. Like you, I noticed that
the general health of the ecosystem was not good. Dispite this, I found
the view beautiful. I stayed and photographed the sunset, while
shivering in the breeze. It was worth it, my pictures turned out great.

Have you ever been on Andrew's Bald? A mountain near Clingman's Dome. I
did not even know about it until today. I was donating blood today when
a volunteer who hikes alot told me about it. It is a 5,900 foot bald
topped mountain which is hiking accessible.

James Parton
RE: Gatlinburg Vacation   Zachary Stewart
  Sep 13, 2007 21:36 PDT 

I enjoyed the view immensely as well - although the visibility at the
time was pretty poor! It's simply an amazing place. I haven't been to
Andrew's Bald; we did very little hiking on this trip, but I expect to
do a lot of hiking next time!

- Zac
RE: Gatlinburg Vacation   Edward Frank
  Sep 15, 2007 17:39 PDT 

James, Zac, ENTS,

For those of you wishing to get a taste of the view from Great Smoky
Mountains National Park, There are two LIVE webcams online from the park

View From Look Rock, Great Smoky Mountains National Park (webcam)

View From Purchase Knob, Great Smoky Mountains National Park (webcam)

As I write this the view from Look Rock is still dimly lit. Purchase
Knob is almost completely black.

Other National Parks:

Ed Frank
RE: Gatlinburg Vacation   James Smith
  Sep 15, 2007 17:48 PDT 

Despite all of the horrid problems with the stressed ecosystem, the
Great Smoky Mountains National Park remains my favorite place in all of
the Southeastern USA. It's just the most beautiful spot in the East, as
far as I'm concerned.

I finally talked my wife into hiking up LeConte to stay on the lodge up
there. We've put our names in for dates, but we'll take the first
available. I've hiked to the summit of LeConte many times, but I've yet
to stay in LeConte Lodge.
RE: Gatlinburg Vacation   Zachary Stewart
  Sep 15, 2007 18:08 PDT 

Yes, I think it is the most beautiful place I've ever been. Of course,
no place is perfect, and the Smokies are no exception... all these
non-native diseases and critters really get on my nerves!
And I don't think I have been up Mt. LeConte yet. Next time we go, I
plan to hike a lot more than we did this time.

- Zac
RE: Gatlinburg Vacation   James Smith
  Sep 16, 2007 18:45 PDT 

If I had to pick just a few hikes in the park, I'd choose Alum Cave
Bluffs Trail to the summit of LeConte, the Chimney Tops Trail to the
summit of the Chimney Tops, and the Appalachian Trail to Charlies Bunion
and back to Newfound Gap. Not a lot in the way of old trees, but great
for spectacular scenery.
RE: Gatlinburg Vacation   Zachary Stewart
  Sep 16, 2007 21:23 PDT 

James and James,

Just about everywhere in the Smokies is beautiful, in my opinion! And
yes, the typical unappreciative American does get on my nerves...
we always enter Gatlinburg via Little River Road, and constantly have to
pull off to let somebody driving at about 50mph go by... I can't
understand why people would even use these beautiful scenic roads if
they just wanted to speed down them and ignore the scenery... and I
imagine nobody like that gets out to hike... it's a shame that so many
people don't appreciate what's left of our pristine Eastern forests. I
don't even see why people such as that even visit the National Park.
Also, I found a couple of very interesting pocket-sized hiking guides by
the Great Smoky Mountains Association, "History Hikes of the Smokies",
and "Hiking Trails of the Smokies" while in the mountains; reading the
history of GSMNP and these trails from books such as these add even more
enjoyment to hiking in the Park!

- Zac
RE: Gatlinburg Vacation
  Sep 17, 2007 18:07 PDT 

    For many people, lack of appreciation of natural scenery is a byproduct of the self-induced hectic paces at which they live. Our modern society is one of constant self-indulgence with artificial stimuli. Consequently, the visual appreciation of a landscape is largely a lost art, if people truly were ever capable of that appreciation. Still something stirs inside many Americans to make them want to experience nature. Some want to turn back the clock and experiece a simpler, quieter time, but alas, in some virtual form replete with head phones. When the vast majority of modern American's get into nature's realm, they don't know what to do.

      One of the reasons that ENTS was created was to bring the essence of tree beauty and spirit within the grasp of people who have the capacity to appreciate trees, but need a little help in connecting and companionship to prevent them from feeling isolated. The good side of technology is the capability it gives tree people to share experiences with one another over great distances. So here I sit, babbling away, occasionally looking up to stare out the window and into the blue green needles of a glorious white pine and listening to the penetrating shrieks of blue jays. Don't know what it all means, but I like it. I like it.