the road to nowhere

Lakeside Drive.  It was a typical enough road, climbing out of downtown as it took us past a school and houses and farms.  Typical enough, at least, until we rounded a corner and saw the sign that let us know we were on the Road to Nowhere.

Fontana Lake is beautiful.  Mountains drop straight down to its’ tourquoise-green waters while fish jump and bald eagles fly overhead.  It twists and turns through 30 miles and is so remote that you rarely see another boat.  But, it’s what’s underneath the lake that is the most interesting.


In the 1940’s, WWII had finally reached America and an increase in aluminum was needed for wartime efforts.  The rugged and remote valley of the Little Tennessee River was chosen to create a dam to produce electricity for the ALCOA aluminum plant in Tennessee as well as for Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Manhattan Project.  

The valley was filled with small towns.  People who had been there for generations, working in mines or for lumber companies.  People who loved the beauty and isolation of the area.  Old Highway 288 connected these communities to each other and to their cemeteries.  But, because of the war, things moved fast and, before they knew it, more than 1300 families were forced to leave the area.  The TVA built the dam, the tallest in the east, in a little over two years and Fontana Lake was formed, submerging the towns and Highway 288 far below.

The towns were gone but the Federal government promised to replace Highway 288 with a new road.  The road was to hug the north shore of Fontana Lake from Bryson City to Fontana, providing a way for the former residents to have access to the generations that remained behind in the old family cemeteries.

Construction began on Lakeview Drive in Bryson City.  The road entered the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and everything was going well until an environmental issue halted construction.  The issue was eventually resolved, but construction of the road never resumed.


The road now follows the lake about six miles into the park and abruptly ends at a tunnel.  It truly is a “Road to Nowhere”.   You can now park at the tunnel and hike through it.  Once through the tunnel, the asphalt ends and half finished guard rails give way to hiking trails that continue around the lake.  



 And the cemeteries still remain, more quiet and isolated than ever.  The only way to access them is by hiking in or taking a ferry that the Park Service offers during the summer so former residents can visit their ancestors.  One of the only reminders that this was once a valley filled with small towns bustling with activity.
Below is a map of the area.  You can reach the tunnel by taking Lakeview Dr. East (aka the Road to Nowhere) out of Bryson City.  The road ends at a parking area near the tunnel.

Advertisements

the most romantic picnic spot

It’s difficult to find a more beautiful place than the Smoky Mountains in June.  Spring’s lush green is everywhere.  Colorful wildflowers blanket the hillside.  The sun sets late, slipping slowly behind the mountains as lightening bugs flicker in the evening sky.  The heat and humidity of later months has yet to arrive.  And, best of all, the rhododendrons are in full bloom.


Catawba Rhododendrons, native to the Southern Appalachians, bloom in late-May at lower elevations and in mid-June higher up. The purple-pink bloom lasts only for a short time but is beautiful. One of the best places to view them is at the Roan Mountain Gardens on the North Carolina side of the NC/TN state line.  

Here you can wander through a naturally occurring rhododendron garden high up at an elevation of over 6000 feet. The main path is paved so it is accessible to most people. The bushes are dense and, when in bloom, make for a magical hike.


But the best part are the picnic areas. Tucked away in corners of the park are picnic areas. Moss covered tables nestled under pines and the rhodendrons. As the flowers fall they cover the ground creating a pink carpet. A fairytale setting for a romantic picnic!

You can find more information about Roan Mountain Gardens, including its exact location, here.




fall in the smoky mountains

The season was just beginning to settle into fall. The day had been filled with dramatic clouds, dark against the sun, and on and off downpours. As evening approached, I headed out of Knoxville towards the Smoky Mountains. My destination was the Foothills Parkway.

IMG_1578.JPG
Continue reading “fall in the smoky mountains”

full moon pickin party

Right now my life is pretty empty…and I’m loving it!

I was so busy in New Jersey with all kinds of commitments and activities. Yes I enjoyed most of them and brought all of them on myself, but I’ve got to admit it’s so nice to have nothing right now. The best part is weekends. They stretch out in front of me like a glorious blank slate just waiting to be filled with whatever I want, which to me means time to explore my new city!

Nashville is a tourist destination. Downtown is filled with all things country music. Honky Tonks, museums, gift shops, and lots and lots of people. But we wanted a more “real” experience and we found it with the Full Moon Pickin Party. Continue reading “full moon pickin party”

back in time

We were completely alone.  I don’t even know how that was possible given how crowded the park was, but here we were alone.  All was quiet except for the birds, wind in the pines, and of course, the river.  The river,never quiet, just tirelessly moving forward.

Craving a day without crowds we had hiked back to a schoolhouse in the middle of the woods.  The drive was a bit out of the way and then the hike required a climb up a steep road still closed off for the season, but it was worth it when we realized nothing was around.

296

Continue reading “back in time”

my big naming fail

My name is Heather.  My mom swears she had never heard the name before and named me after a song from Brigadoon, but everyone from my generation is named Heather.  Either that or Jennifer, Michelle, or Melissa.  My roommate in college one year was named Heather as well.  People would call our room and ask for Heather!  It drove us crazy so we would just start talking to whoever it was until they realized it was the wrong Heather (kind of awkward with the boyfriends!). Then, when I started working, my counterpart’s name was Heather.  It got very confusing for the doctors that we called on!

So, when I started having kids, I wanted to name them names that not everyone had.  I completely struck out with my first child.  Continue reading “my big naming fail”