Saturday, December 3, 2016

Fire in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Gatlinburg, TN

Having lived in Chattanooga for almost ten years, we've experienced various hazardous weather, from snow to flood and tornadoes. And now fire! Although that occured in the Great Smoky National Park area, which is about a three hours drive away from the marina. Still, the smoke and haze had been felt as far south as Chattanooga and Atlanta. This past Monday, hurricane-forced winds spreaded the wildfires into the town of Gatlinburg, forcing thousands of residents and tourists to evacuate. The fire raged through the mountains burning more than 17,000 acres, killing 13 people and damaging almost a thousand structures. Read more here.

Clingmans Dome, at 6,643 feet, is the highest mountain in the Smokies
View from Clingmans Dome
Since we're in Florida, we hadn't paid attention to the weather in the southeast region. Until we saw pictures of the devastation on Facebook. Of a dock destroyed in our previous marina - Midway Marina on the Tenn-Tom Waterway in Fulton, Mississippi, a favorite stop of the Great Loopers. (Thank you Margaret for posting the pictures!) Apparently, tornadoes had raged across the southeast region that night. Fortunately, no one was hurt or injured.  Of the burned West Gate Resort in Gatlinburg, entrance to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, We had enjoyed a week's stay at the property in September last year, so we knew exactly the location of the fire. Per their website, only the cabins at the top of the mountain were scorched, but many buildings in the lower elevation survived.
View from our suite balcony
Resort grounds
Our stay in Gatlinburg was filled with adventures and fabulous southern food. We were thrilled to see bears on at least two occasions.  Our day trip to arty Asheville, N. Carolina was quite memorable. Somewhere along the way, we must have taken a wrong turn, and the GPS redirected us down this narrow serpentine mountain road. We thought nothing of it because we saw a car every so often. Until the asphalt ended and turned into a gravel road. It had brought us to the Big Creek Trailhead. We were not planning to hike, let alone the Appalachian Trail.

Were we elated when we saw a sign to the Big Creek Country Store! We hastily made our way there to  ask for directions so we can get back to civilization pronto! On one particular hike, we either got lost or underestimated the distance as the trail seemed to go on forever; we were totally exhausted when we finally got to our car. Our adventure culminated at Clingmans Dome, the highest elevation (6,643 feet) in the Smokies. We enjoyed a short hike to the Observation Tower to see the spectacular views, and returned to the car vicinity for a picnic. While eating, we looked over to our car and stared in disbelief at a flat tire. Driving a donut spare tire down the winding mountain road was nerve-racking.

Big Creek Country Store

We are sad to hear news of disaster, even more so when it happens right around the holiday season. We pray for the victims and hope they will get their lives back in order soon.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Fall Colors at Point Park, Lookout Mountain

A friend from Mississippi posted this question on Facebook last week - "Still waiting on my favorite time of year. Autumn, where are you?"

In Southeastern Tennessee, we were having the same summer weather, with temperatures in the 80s. It was hot! Rain finally came last Thursday bringing cooler temperatures with it. We were pleasantly surprised to see some nice fall colors up in Lookout Mountain when we hiked from Cravens House to Point Park (elevation 2,135 feet). The colors were the best we've seen so far this fall.

Fall Colors along the TN River
As we were leaving for our hike, we sighted the Columbus ships Nina and Pinta; they had spent the night at Hales Bar Marina. We saw them again when we were atop Lookout Mountain. They were heading for Knoxville, and will call on Chattanooga November 10-27.

How are the fall colors in your neck of the woods?

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