Roaring Fork Motor Trail...
Nov 3, 2011
|We arrived in Pigeon Forge & got settled into our site here at Eagle's Nest last Friday, late afternoon. We had nice weather most of the way and were glad to find that we could receive both our Internet & TV without a problem. With all of the surrounding mountains and trees we figured we wouldn't have much of a chance. Apparently the month of October is 'leaf-peeper's' month, so no Passport America discount until November 1st. But, the normal rate was still one of the best around & we're on PA now, so we are happy campers.
If you've ever visited Branson you have a vague idea of what Pigeon Forge is like. However, Larry & I both agree that PF is larger, cleaner, easier to navigate with better roads, traffic, lodging, restaurants & showrooms than Branson. Just our opinion of course, but if I had to choose one or the other to visit again, it would hands down be Pigeon Forge.
Sunday we drove into Gatlinburg to visit the 'Christ in the Smokies' Museum & Gardens. It was wonderful! But more on that later. I took almost 300 pictures & it will require two posts to share the beauty of the area with you. And no, I won't post 300 pics, don't worry!
After our visit to the Museum we decided to see Roaring Fork, one of the larger and fastest flowing mountain streams in the park. Once the site of a small Appalachian community, today the stream's area is home to the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and the Roaring Fork Historic District. I'm going to share our drive on the Roaring Fork Motor Trail today & our visit to Christ in the Smokies tomorrow. I'm anxious for you to see what this beautiful area looks like!
The narrow, winding, Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail invites you to slow down and enjoy the forest and historic buildings of the area! We'd heard that the 6-mile-long, one-way, loop road is a favorite side trip for many people who frequently visit the Smokies and we can certainly understand why. It offers us 'tourists' a view of several rushing mountain streams, glimpses of old-growth forest, and a number of well-preserved log cabins, grist mills, and other historic buildings.
Before entering the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, a stop at the Noah “Bud” Ogle self-guiding nature trail offered a walking tour of an authentic mountain farmstead and surrounding hardwood forest. Highlights included a streamside tubmill and the Ogle’s handcrafted wooden flume plumbing system. Just beyond the Ogle farmstead was the trailhead for Rainbow Falls, one of the park's most popular waterfalls. The hike to the falls is 5.4 miles roundtrip and is considered moderately strenuous. We decided to pass on that one for today. Actually it was getting late in the day & we wouldn't have had time for it even if we'd wanted to. It was dark by the time we exited the driving trail.
The entrance to the motor nature trail is located on the right, a short distance past the parking area for Rainbow Falls and you have to watch for it. Easy to miss. An inexpensive booklet ($1.00 donation) was available at the beginning of the trail, detailing the landmarks along the route. Made the drive much more interesting and was very informative.
We learned that between 1800 and 1810, the first permanent Euro-American settlers arrived in the White Oak Flats area around what is now Gatlinburg. In the following decades, their descendants spread out into the surrounding coves and valleys. Richard Reagan (1776–1829), the son of one of these pioneers, settled on a large plot of land just south of Gatlinburg along LeConte Creek. Some of Reagan's children settled to the west in the Sugarlands, while some of them moved east to the hollow along Roaring Fork, which was then known as "Spruce Flats." By 1900, three of Reagan's grandsons, Alfred Reagan (1856–1928), Aaron Reagan, and John H. Reagan were still farming along the stream, just above Gatlinburg.
The Bales family settled in the upper section of Roaring Fork sometime in the 1830s or earlier. Caleb Bales (1839–1913), apparently a son or nephew of the first Bales to settle on Roaring Fork, owned a farm just south of the Reagan lands. Caleb's sons Jim Bales (1869–1939) and Ephraim Bales (1867–1936) would spend most of their lives on Roaring Fork farming land inherited from their father. As the Bales and Reagan families lived on adjoining lands, it's no surprise that they intermarried. Caleb Bales married one of Richard Reagan's granddaughters, Elizabeth, in 1861. Ephraim Bales married a great-granddaughter of Richard Reagan, Minerva, in 1889. Caleb's daughter, Martha, married Alfred Reagan in 1879. Got all that? LOL...
Around 1850, the residents of Roaring Fork constructed a crude road connecting the area to White Oak Flats (this old road is now a stop along the Roaring Fork Trail). By 1900, the community had matured into a mountain hamlet with its own school, church, general store, and tub mills.
In 1976, the Roaring Fork Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. We think it's wonderful that all of this history is being preserved for future generations to see and learn from. Wow, what a tough life these folks had! Think I'll quit whining about having to go to the laundromat! In a couple of days we plan to take the Cades Cove driving tour. Another of the several tours available in the 384 miles of road to choose from in the Smokie's. Now we understand why the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is America’s most visited national park. We're having a great time...Check back soon to see more!
P.S. Two short videos on today's post in addition to pics...