I have noticed that over the past few days one of the keywords that is still driving people to this blog is Cades Cove. Living in East Tennessee, I am very fortunate to live so close to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Cades Cove, a very popular spot in the Smokys, was slated to have the loop road resurfaced from March 1 – May 21, 2010. Trails affected by this closure are Abrams Falls, Cooper Road, Gregory Bald, Gregory Ridge, Hannah Mountain, Indian Grave, and Rabbit Creek trails. The campground, the campground store, the picnic area, and the horseback riding stables will remain open, though bicycle rentals will not be available. (The store and stables don’t open until April 1st.) The last time Cades Cove Loop road was repaved was 1978… over 30 years ago. It is in bad need of repair and truthfully needs to be wider and marked better for pull over spots. You can read more about the scheduled work at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/cades-cove-road-improvement.htm.
This work was to be completed under a Highway Trust Fund. Today was supposed to be the first day the road was completely closed to traffic so workers could being work on it. However, there is a funding shortfall as a result of KY Senator Jim Bunning who blocked legislation last week that included the Highway Trust Fund. Thus, there was an ordered furlough today of over 2,000 federal employees… including the federal inspectors that are overseeing the Cades Cove Loop repaving. No inspectors… no work can be done. So while today was supposed to be the first full day of work on the Cades Cove Loop road, the work has stopped and the road remains closed. I just gotta wonder how long this funding issue will keep the road closed. Hopefully we don’t have another Road to Nowhere brewing. Cades Cove is just too popular to be left closed. In the meantime, enjoy this nice picture of a deer and the traffic that goes along with it.
EDIT: The bill passed the next day and work resumed on March 3. Hopefully the work can still be completed by May 21, 2010 if not sooner.
After using July 3rd to recover from the travels, what better way to enjoy the 4th than to go hiking right? Bryan, Chris Rowe, and I meet up to go hiking up in the Cumberland Gap area. I hadn’t done anything in that area, so I was game. Well as you can see from the picture above, the trails aren’t as well traveled as trails in the Smokey Mountains and were quite overgrown. The specific trail we took was up the Lewis Hollow Trial to the Ridge Trail to the Gibson Gap Trail back to the Campground.
We started out the hike from the picnic area and headed up the Lewis Hollow Trail to Skylight Cave. It is less than a mile to the cave and it is all uphill. Based on what we thought, it seemed this was the best way to go, because the majority of your elevation is gained in the first mile or so. The trail was in decent shape up to the Ridge Trail. About a mile into the Ridge Trail, the pathway gets pretty overgrown. As it would turn out, the next 2.5 miles would be overgrown. At one point, someone who was concerned about the itchiness one risks when tromping through overgrown paths wanted to turn around and find another trail to do. I agreed with the other person, we’ve already gained the elevation, lets finish this hike.
Gibson Gap trail wasn’t near as overgrown as the Ridge trail was, but it was pretty steep in places it would have made sense to use switchbacks. The path of Gibson Gap could have been designed better. While we were on this trail though, we noticed something in the air. It was the sound of thunder. We were still a good 3 miles from the trail head when we heard this. At about 2 miles out from the trail head, I decided that it would probably be better if I went on ahead at a fast pace since the car was at the picnic area and not the campground. So for the next two miles I trail jogged my way to the campground. Luckily I did have my GPS with me, because I really needed it. The maps that I had were from the park service website and didn’t really have everything marked (plus I didn’t know where I was going, only a vague idea). What I didn’t exactly count on, was there was about another mile and a half that I would have to walk to get to the picnic area where my car was parked. Luckily, it had only just started to rain by the time I got to my car. Bryan and Chris had gotten off the trail just a couple of minutes before I showed up in my car, so it worked out good for them. We were able to get back to the car before the storm hit.