Drive in dismal drizzle, aware that, in California, it would be greeted as manna from Heaven. A bit later, bright sun highlights forest, sky and clouds.
At a Brevard/NC gas station, chat with an older couple (well, they are about MY age, truthfully) who are also assaulting Appalachian mountains. From “the seacoast”, they choose to drive across their state and celebrate 50 years of married life in Murphy. (They’ve passed through on I-40, but want to “visit” small towns.)
Aside from “Vote NO on Alcohol” signs, and occasional resorts, find most of these small towns easy to pass. Highlands proves an exception: a vibrant town of boutiques and surprisingly “expensive” eateries catering to an affluent, aging demographic attracted by its beautiful lake. Its charm, alas, resists photos, as center-of-the-street parking makes getting unobstructed views impossible.
Fortunately, not far west of town, Bridal Veil Falls offers a small, but pretty stream of water pouring gently over a wide, gray rock face. But, this is only an appetizer, as, a few miles further along, Dry Falls turns out to be something more.
A true cataract, Dry Falls attracts a steady flow of visitors, descending into a steep gorge (easy going down; a labor coming back up). Am unsure how best to describe a feeling of being “behind” falls and looking through them… it’s cool and damp, and, realizing TONS of water fall in front of my eyes offers one of Nature’s thrills.
Road winds uphill and down, so, for the most part, have only brief glances of forest-obscured river. So, when road and river make L-shaped turn, check out a placid river bend.
Curiously enough, hardly a mile farther along, two young girls splash at river’s edge, no more aware than close-by, cigarette-smoking parents, of rushing water’s power.
Having once camped near Hayesville, pause to check out town.
In its town square, a wheel-chair bound, white-haired man directs a bunch putting together an anti-fracking effort. Help a lady carry chairs from her SUV, but demur from a thought of offering my observations about uglification of Williston/ND where it brought jobs (alas, many went to people with no interest in community), but also, petroleum stench, denuded land, and a cacophony of road-widening, plus caravans of supply-bearing trucks. Suspect, considering number of lawn placards, folks here are emotionally tuned into this issue.
DO find a small, old jailhouse which has been converted to a historical museum. Just down a slope, a small Cherokee “homestead” has been re-created. Before Andy Jackson created a “Trail of Tears” displacement, these valleys, rivers, creeks and forests were once home to endless small Indian villages. (A People who lived on and loved this land, existing on its “interest” and not touching its “capital”: wonder how they would view fracking?)
Crossing into Tennessee, find a certain irony, that miles of Appalachian national forest should be named “Cherokee”, and pause at a near empty, Big Creek Access at Lake Ocoee’s recreation area to chat with a fortyish, hippie-esque kayak enthusiast taking advantage of mid-week quiet. An employee of Tennessee Valley Authority, Dan works weekends, which allows him to miss many of the crowds which turn this quiet spot into a “carnival”.