Saturday, Sept. 12
The ride through Smoky Mountain National Park was supposed to be a bike ride, but the weather started out pretty sketchy, so we followed Highway 441 right through to Gatlinburg & back. The scenic highway enters the National Park through the Eastern Cherokee Nation, in (you guessed it) Cherokee, NC. There’s a historic center and a souvenir shop on every corner, but hardly a Cherokee to be seen (except for one young dude on a skateboard). Lots of bikers & enough classic cars passing through to qualify as a show. On the other end, we did stop at the visitor center in Gatlinburg to get maps, but the main drag was so crammed with people it was a little too overwhelming for a stop this time around.
The 441 is truly one of the most awe-inspiring highways. The whole Park route is beautiful & immaculate, start to finish. The road is smooth and gently sloped and runs alongside the Oconaluftee River, with frequent pull-off areas at major trailheads & overlooks for some of the highest peaks.
Next stop: The Ocean!