With Tropical Depression Barry threatening, we had a leisurely start to our vacation travels. This trip, we’re going to see a big hole in the ground. We’re hoping to make our way to Mammoth Cave, Kentucky, exploring the backroads of Appalachia along the way.
The first leg of the journey took us up I-26, then onto the Blue Ridge Parkway. With heavy clouds, the road wasn’t crowded, and things looked rather green and lush. It was a pleasant drive, with one stop for a quick hike.
We followed the Parkway to its terminus in the Great Smokey Mountains, then entered the tourist trap town of Cherokee. This town is typical of those places on the edges of national parks – full of junk. What makes it more unfortunate is that it is home to the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation, and the fact that it has "Indians" means that even more exploitation occurs. Headdresses, teepees, and anything remotely Indian can be found here. Never mind that most of it is from Plains Indians such as the Souix, and have nothing to do with the Cherokee.
In recent years attempts have been made to bring the image of town of Cherokee in line with the true history of the Cherokee people. For example, the outdoor drama "Unto These Hills" has been rewritten and restaged from the Native American perspective, with more authentic music and dialog. However, the junk shops along main drag will always cater to those who lump all Native Americans into the generic group "Indians," regardless of their true culture.
We found a nice place to stay for a reasonable rate. The room was huge, with a sitting area that looks out over the Oconaluftee River. Laura read for awhile, while I wandered down to the banks of the river, wishing I’d brought a kayak.
We decided to follow the river for a bit. We took Highway 19 along its banks until we got to Bryson City. By that time, the Oconaluftee had joined the Tuckaseegee, and were flowing toward the Little Tennessee River. We drove around the small town of Bryson, looking for a place we might return for dinner, then continued our river trek.
The next stretch took us into the Nantahala Gorge. Now I was REALLY wishing I’d brought my kayak. We stood at the overlook to Nantahala Falls watching rafts and kayaks negotiate the rapids. We decided on dinner at The Rivers End, right at the Falls. The food was excellent, and the atmosphere quite casual, given that most of the patrons had just come off of the river.
We headed back to the hotel, and turned in early.