Friday, October 28, 2011

Cherohala Skyway / "Tail of the Dragon": Unnecessary Preview #2

I guess I've already previewed this weekend's road trip to western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee, but I left out a few things, and it only seems right to have my last blog post before a road trip be about the road trip itself.

So...I originally said that the trip would either be this weekend or next weekend. The plan was, we'd do this weekend unless it looked like it would be rainy all weekend, in which case we'd postpone it until the following weekend. This weekend it is! We're leaving Saturday morning and returning Sunday evening. The drive may start out wet Saturday morning, but by the time we get to, let's say Hickory, we should be in the clear. It'll be cold, too: highs in the 50s, and lows around freezing. We're going to be bringing lots and lots of blankets for Marla.

I'll try to post pretty pictures / updates on Twitter throughout the trip, provided we have cell phone reception. Some of the roads we'll be on, I'm not so sure. I originally posted a map with the two primary targets (Cherohala Skyway and the "Tail of the Dragon"); now, here's a map of what could be our full route.

View Larger Map

The first stop of interest will be Clingmans Dome at the heart of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Marla's first state highpoint! I'm pretty sure Clingmans Dome was my first, too. How much additional time we spend in Great Smoky Mountains will depend on time. And we have no idea, this being our first real road trip with a kid. I tried to work a lot of extra time into the schedule, to the point where we don't really have anything else planned the rest of Saturday, aside from driving from there to our hotel in Tellico Plains, Tennessee. We're saving the main attractions, Cherohala Skyway and the "Tail of the Dragon", for Sunday morning. Sunday morning is the best time to go for a drive, I think. Maybe we'll get lucky and beat all of the motorcycles! It should be a gorgeous morning, too. Although, we are going to be driving directly into the sun along the Cherohala. Oh well.

Let's talk stats! Marla is, obviously, going to get a lot of new counties out of this trip, given that she's only been to 10 so far and has yet to even go as far west as Greensboro. I'm counting at least 15, and up to 17 new counties for Marla, plus her third state (Tennessee). But I'm going to get some new counties, too! I've already visited every North Carolina county, but I'm missing quite a few in eastern Tennessee. I'll get Blount and Monroe counties at a minimum, and if we make a couple of short side trips, I'll get Loudon and McMinn counties, too.

(In case my aunt and uncle who live in Loudon County are reading this: our schedule was too tight to go far enough west to visit for more than, say, 10 minutes. It also would have been a little too far from home to make that the overnight stop on this trip. We'll be back in the area, I promise you.)

Tennessee is a state that I feel I have done far too little exploring. Kentucky, too. There is lots of potential here for future trips, and I planned the trip so that we would spend a decent amount of time in Tennessee, as opposed to North Carolina. Nothing against North Carolina, but...I like other states, too. But we will experience parts of North Carolina that I've never experienced before, such as Graham County, NC, which is where the Cherohala Skyway and "Dragon" begin or end (depending on your perspective). Sure, Graham County is colored in on my county map, but I've only spent about 30 seconds total in Graham County, EVER. I've frequented the area between Asheville and Great Smoky Mountains bunches of times, as well as the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge side of the National Park. But I rarely do I go west of, say, Bryson City.

We've been looking forward to this one for a long time. Are you ready, Marla?

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