SHOW #46 November 26, 2014
This week on Episode 46 Smoky Mountains Radio, Happy Thanksgiving, Here Come the people, Mountain View Hotel, and our Spotlight Hike of the Week (Overnight Richland Mountain). Let’s Go!
It is Wednesday, November 26, 2014 and this is episode 46 of SMR. As always, I am your host Mike, and My goal for the show is to give you the insight and information that you need to have a great trip to the Smoky Mountains. Whether you are hiking, staying in the towns, or taking in the attractions, I hope to have something here to help you have a great trip. Thanks to all of you for joining me this week.
To finish out the housekeeping, I invite you to check out our website, SMR.com. There you will find a wealth of information including hikes from all over the Great Smoky Mountains including length, difficulty, and a short description of what you will see and and can expect as you hit the trails. There are also blog posts on a ton of topics from choosing a backpack to the best way to navigate mountain roads. If you are planning on staying in one of the surrounding towns, you can find information about those as well. You can contact me directly by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook at facebook.com/smokymountainsradio or on twitter @smokies_radio. You can also call the listener line at 865-325 9784. Finally, of course, every one of our shows can be found on the website for you to stream or download. Of course, you can make sure you get episodes the moment they are released by subscribing to the show via iTunes or stitcher. Leave me a review while you are there. Those links can also be found on SMR.com. I do want to wish everyone a very happy thanksgiving and I hope everybody has a great day with friends and family and of course, plenty of food. If you are headed down here now, or are already here, you know it is crazy busy. The good news it will let up shortly. More on that later. For now…
Let’s get on with the show.
Mountain View Hotel
It is difficult to remember a time when there where not so many hotels and motels in gatlinburg that you could swing from one to the next like spiderman and never have your feet touch the ground. Where to stay is perhaps the question I get the most often for this show, and I understand why. There are too many choices and prices. But this has not always been the case. Today, we go back…way back to when all of this first began. To do this, you need to imagine a Gatlinburg with dirt roads….where there were roads at all, no shopping malls, no space needle, no chair lift, and no t-shirt shops (oh what a wonderful thought). To achieve this, we are going back to the late 1800’s and explore the very first hotel in the area, the Mountain View Hotel.
To put it in today’s perspectives, Gatlinburg was then what Townsend is to Gatlinburg today. It was a sleepy little town. And even though the mountains where right at the doorsteps, people did not visit this area much, and there was not a big tourist area. Remember, that during this time, the Great Smoky Mountains would not become a national park for decades. So why was there a hotel made at all.
Well, it started simply enough. Essentially, when family and friends came to visit, they were simply given space in the family house. However, this began to expand rapidly, and he needed to do something, to both get them out of his house and to make a few bucks at the same time. This was a great moment of forethought by Andrew Huff, and he created the “mammoth” 8 room inn in 1916. All of you that have been here know that one trip to these mountains will mesmerize you and get you hooked. And of course, this happened with the early visitors. And when they returned home, they told their friends, who told their friends, and on and on it went. The rest as they say, is history.
If you have been around Gatlinburg and indeed the area around the Smokies, you have undoubtedly heard the name Huff before. Huff is part of the most famous families that continue in the area much like the Ogles. They helped build the town into what it would become. So you can either praise them or hate them depending on your point of view, but they made a huge impact. But getting back to the hotel, as you might expect, travel to the hotel grew like crazy and eventually a large two-story hotel was built. This was a very upscale experiences. This place drew celebrities and politicians and all people of the upper crust. This helped to sell the magic of the Smokies to everyone else. And when the Smoky Mountains became a national park complete with real roads to see all the sights, business boomed and the building frenzy really began.
What is interesting to think about is that many people that did come here to hike before the establishment of the national park started their hike from the area of Gatlinburg. Think about how long that would make your hike to the Chimney Tops. Also, much of that land was private hands, so it was private property that made intruding on lands more difficult. However, once again, the place thrived through the forties, especially as soldiers came home from the war. They visited in major numbers, perhaps as an escape to what they had been through. The boom only got larger in the fifties as now a second generation started coming in to the area. And things did not slow down in the 60’s, but by this time, there was major competition in town and the place began to fade into obscurity. Finally, in the 1980’s the place was closed for the last time where it would remain until it was torn down for good in 1993. Perhaps the biggest insult to injury for this great landmark is that a mini amusement park called “Fun Mountain” was built on and around this spot. It didn’t last long and was essentially abandoned and allowed to rust to death. Today, there is very little there. The remnants of the hotel and the not so “fun” mountain still remain, but it is mostly forgotten. But if you want to see where it all began, this is your spot.
(I’ll put more information about this in the show notes and on Smoky Mountains radio.com)
Here Come the People
Yes indeed it is about that time. The crowds are crazy. If you come around a holiday, we’ve said before it is going to be crazy. There are two points of great news with this however. First, the weather is going to be good for at least the next couple of weeks. While snow is pummeling the country, temps are expected to get into the 50’s and 60’s. This is great for visitors. You should be able to get out and about without much worry. The second great thing is that the crowds won’t last long. Once Thanksgiving weekend is over, the crowds will thin out greatly…at least for a little while. Basically, if you can get here from December 1-19 and you can still expect to not have much in the way of crowds to deal with. Once Dec. 20 hits, it is going to get packed culminating on Dec 31. So if you have the chance to plan your trip in that time frame, DO IT! Do it, like Dante and his wife will be doing next week. Thanks for writing in and for your kind words. I really appreciate that. Oh, and happy anniversary to you both. Dante had a question that I think fits into this conversation and is timely as well, so I thought I would tackle it here. They want to do a lot of scenic road traveling, and want to know the best way to go. First let me start with the bad news. Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail AND Clingmans Dome Road are both going to be closed when you come, so you won’t be able to get to Clingman’s Dome without doing a lot of hiking. BUT, everything else that you want to do is right by each other. If you take the parkway in Pigeon Forge to the Gatlinburg Bypass (take a right onto that), it will eventually dump you out right into the national park with Sugarlands Visitor Center on your right. If you go straight, that is Newfound Gap Road and you can take that all the way to the top of the scenic overlook. If you take a right at the Visitor Center, that is little River Road and you can take that all the way to Cades Cove. A lot of people like to see both of these areas in a single day, so let me give you some time frames to think about. From Sugarlands to either Cades Cove or Newfound Gap, expect a little more than a thirty minute drive one way. To get through Cades Cove, expect at least an hour. If you get out of the car to see the sights there, expect 2-4 hours. So all total with driving time to and from, set aside a minimum of about 5 hours and as much as 8 to 10 if you really take your time and see everything. You will be able to see Clingmans Dome in the distance from Newfound Gap, but that is about it. If you are going to go over the top of Newfound Gap into Cherokee, add another hour or two to your round-trip total. It is doable in a single day, but you will spend a lot of time in the car. But if you have just one day, I say see as much as possible. Hope that helps. Let me know if I can help you further. If you have questions when you get there, just shoot me an email. I’ll get back with you quickly.
I’ll put more info about this in this week’s show notes and on SMR.com
Spotlight HIke of the Week (Richland Mountain)
Our Spotlight Hike of the Week this week is as promised, a multi-day hike. Today we take a long hike around Richland Mountain on a strenuous, 12.5 mile hike. It’s not high mileage for an overnight, but it gives you up to three nights to complete your journey. I’m going to do this an overnight, but you have two additional places to stop for the night along the way that I will highlight.
So to start with, you will reach the trailhead by heading to the North Carolina side of Newfound Gap Road. The trailhead will be on your left if you are heading from Newfound Gap. You will be looking for Kephart Prong Trail. The parking area is small, but you won’t have a lot of company. This hike starts with plenty of water to the side and is a great visual as you hike, but you don’t have to worry about tons of water crossings like you did in our last hike. Jack emailed me this week and attempted the hike from last time, and told me I must be crazy for doing that one. He apparently left the hike wet. Anyway, getting back to this one…
Just after the 2 mile mark, you will see a trail junction with Sweat Heifer Trail. Ignore this and continue straight. You will almost immediately see Kephart Shelter. This shelter is one of only a couple in the Smokies that are not located directly on the Appalachian Trail. If you have never stayed in a shelter, it is a neat experience, so you could bunk here for the night. Remember that you cannot tent camp at a shelter, so be sure to plan for that and make your reservations early. If you choose not to stay, its a great place to chill and have a snack or lunch and be on your way. The next 2.5 miles are uneventful as you dead to where this trail dead-ends a the Dry Sluice Gap Trail. Take a right here. The next three mile are peaceful bliss as you go through areas that are not heavily traveled and so very quiet. You don’t get road noise or any of it. It is an amazing place to hike and be in peace. And that takes me to where we will spend the night. You will take a left onto the spur trail called Cabin Flats Trail for a half mile to campsite 49. That is where we will spend the night in complete peace. there are no other trails around and your water source is right there. It is perhaps the best wilderness experience in the Smoky Mountains. I absolutely love it.
The next day we come down the .5 mile spur and take a left to continue onto the Bradley Fork Trail. Again you are surrounded by water from the Bradley Fork as you hike for the next 5 miles. This is one of the reasons I love this hike in summer. Water is all over place, so refilling your bottles is never a problem except in the worst drought conditions. Your final option for overnighting is at the junction with Chasteen Creek Trail. If you don’t want this, then just keep going. If you do, hang a left and the campsite is almost immediately on your right. It will be campsite 50. Continuing on our trail down, As you descend, you will again begin to hear civilization and Smokemont will come into view. You will finally end your journey at the Smokemont Campground. You might be saying, wait a minute, my car is on Newfound Gap Road. Well, I have a couple options for you. One, have somebody drop you off and pick you up. Two, hike it all in reverse. that is my least favorite option. Three, have a shuttle service pick you up and drive you back up the 8 miles to where you left your car. Four, hitchhike to your car. Anyone driving up the mountain is going to pass where you are going. I did this the last time I did this hike a few years back, and I wrote in my notes that I waited less than sixty seconds to get a ride. Any of these ways work, so do what’s best for you. Regardless, this is a terrific and unique hike that you won’t find in many hiking books or people’s top 20 hikes list. The scenery, water, and overnight opportunities, and serenity make this one awesome.
I’ll put more info about this hike in our show notes and on Smoky Mountains radio.com
Thanks for tuning in everyone. I do hope everyone has a happy and safe thanksgiving. For those of you traveling, I hope your flight isn’t cancelled or your interstate closed. Be safe and have a great one. I’ll be with family myself this weekend, so no show this sunday, but I will do a show at some point next week. So until next time, put down that turkey leg and piece of pumpkin pie, turn off football and get off the couch, and ……go take a hike!
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Theme music provided by “The Breakmen” and their terrific song, “KM19″