Zooming along the expressway approaching Huntsville (AL), we suddenly see a very odd sight – a rocketship pointing up into the sky. How could we not know that there’s a NASA Visitor Center here? Pulling in to investigate, we see a space shuttle, and the Space Camp logo. It’s already mid-afternoon, and we know that this will be a full day’s stop. We’ll have to make this happen next year. It looks like a fabulous spot to visit.
For the first time, we snuck into Georgia (the very NW corner) to a state park called Cloudland Canyon. Here’s my interpretation of the name….
Georgia = The South = Hot
Cloud = Water = Humid
Get it? We steamed ourselves for two days in a beautiful setting, after pitching down a steep state road, then climbing back out the other side to the State Park near the top. Arriving on Saturday afternoon, the campground was packed. Our reservation guaranteed us a campsite, but not any particular one, so we had to choose from the three that were available (out of about 100 sites). We lucked out, and got a great campsite – one without neighbors right on top of us, and a bit of extra space on each side, and our own sculpture park. Whew! We hiked with Jezzy on the West Rim Trail, which gave us great views of the canyon and a few waterfalls. Wish we would have had an extra day or two to spend here, so that we could explore some of the other trails. Although this park is old, and the facilities are a bit dated, it was clean and beautiful. We would come back here again in a minute.
This battlefield was the site of a Confederate victory at Chickamauga, and later, a decisive defeat at Chattanooga. Of the many areas to explore, we decided to tour Missionary Hill, where an unexpected charge by Union forces overwhelmed and drove back Confederate forces, setting the stage for the victory at Chattenooga, and the ultimate defeat of the Confederate Army soon thereafter. It’s a curious drive – up a narrow, winding road past mansions, many with plaques and/or cannons in their yards. At the top is a luxury condo building, and a park with more commemorative monuments of the battle and its combatants. Very different than Shiloh, as that was a small area confined totally to the National Battlefield Park.
The rest of the drive down US 64 toward Smoky Mountain National Park is spectacular. Can’t think of a prettier stretch of highway to wander. We stopped along the Ocoee River for lunch, then stopped again farther down to admire the site of the 1996 Olympic Whitewater course. It’s gorgeous. There are several small TVA dam projects, and we stopped at every one to enjoy the scenery. Lots of cars with kayaks, and people with wetsuits walking along the road. What a great drive.
Onward to Smoky Mountain National Park, NC. We wanted to spend a few days at Smokemont Campground, hoping that the thousands of rhododendrons in this area would be in bloom. Unfortunately, we are a few weeks early – damn! I had convinced myself that this would be the time these would all be blossomed out (and there are thousands of them in the mountainside, and along the river). We were here one time before in October, so I guess this is strike two in my quest to see them all in bloom.
It’s very quiet here, and we’ve got the same campsite we scored two years ago in our first visit here. After big thunderstorms the first night, it finally clears around noon, and we wander trails along the Ocanoluftee River.
I really wanted John to haul this big boulder home for me. Answer = NO!Everything here is that crazy combination of green shades, peculiar to spring. It’s that fuzzy, hazy color that makes me happy inside.We saw lots of butterflies on the Trail. Question for all you readers with butterfly knowledge….why are they are clustered in the horse dung in the Trail? That’s where there were all hanging out.
We’re so close to the end of our trip that we’re already talking of it in the past tense. In about 10 days, we’ll be home – mowing the lawn, planting the garden, trying to erase a few months of neglect from our home. Hard to believe, so guess I’ll just ignore it for the next few days.