Saturday, September 15, 2012

Elk and Llama

Candler, North Carolina (high 74, low 55)

This was the day we were going Elk hunting.   A wild herd has been re-introduced back into this area a few years ago and we wanted to see them.

We headed over to Cataloochee Valley.  We were told  the best time to see them is early morning, or just before sunset.  We were on the road shortly after 7am and it was a tad foggy.

Smokey Mountains

For some reason, I was picturing a nice little valley area and no steep mountain roads. 

I should have known better!   You can’t go anywhere in this area without having to wind your way up a steep mountain road.

The following picture is one of the best parts of about a five mile gravel section of the road up the mountain.  There were steep drop offs and no guard rails on this part of the road.  Many places would not allow two vehicles to pass at the same time.    I didn’t take any pictures of the bad parts because I was too busy trying not to look.  Smile

5 mile dirt and gravel narrow road off the might meet a motor home coming the other way.

We got almost to the top of this mountain and guess what we saw?

A big old motor home!  He was getting ready to go down.  I don’t know how he got up that road but I’ll bet he was freaking out coming down.   Apparently there is a campground up there, but I can tell you there would be no way we’d take our motor home up that road and we had to wonder how he ever got back down.  There were many places where you would have to pull over if another car was coming the other way.  I sure would have hated to have met him.

We finally got up the mountain, and there was a nice little meadow by the ranger’s house.  In his front yard, we saw this guy.

Elk at  Cataloochee Valley

We drove a little further and found a herd.

Elk at  Cataloochee Valley

Elk at  Cataloochee Valley


Elk at  Cataloochee Valley

There were two volunteers who brought some things for us to look at and touch.

A female elk skull.

skull of female elk


Al with elk antlers

After watching the elk for a few minutes, they headed back up the hills where they spend their days.  They prefer the cooler weather in the  forest.

As it turns out, this place is like a park.  There are wildlife viewing areas, picnic areas, trails, and some old buildings that have been preserved.  You could easily spend an entire day there.  It was free with our Golden Access pass.

Elk at  Cataloochee Valley

juvinile Elk at  Cataloochee Valley

Cataloochee Valley

We walked around a while, took a few short hikes and then headed back down the mountain.


The next stop was the Cradle of Forestry.

This was an interesting place, because  it turns out this is where the US Forestry Service was started.

George Vanderbilt built the fabulous Biltmore Estate near Asheville.  He fell in love with the area and bought a lot of nearby land.  He discovered that the people who previously   owned the land were destroying it by poor logging habits, and even after he purchased it, they didn’t stop taking what they needed from the land.  They were destroying the beautiful forests.  Mr. Vanderbilt ended up hiring someone to manage the land after he purchased it. 

He  hired Dr. Carl Schenck  to manage his forest areas and Dr. Schenck started the first  forestry school,  which ended up becoming the US Forestry service.

The Cradle of Forestry

There was a large building where we watched a short movie about the history of the Cradle of Forestry.  There were lots of exhibits for the kids and even “tea with the Llamas.”

Llamas at The Cradle of Forestry

The old buildings were preserved and you could go inside them and see what life was like for the first forestry school students.

The following picture was the commissary.


We spent a few hours there then headed down the road until we found another park called Waterslide park.  It’s a natural waterslide that was pretty popular despite the 50-60 degree water!  The people would slide down the smooth rock on their buts and plunge into an 8 foot deep pool of water.

Sliding rock falls

Next stop: 

Looking Glass falls.  It was a beautiful waterfall and right off the side of the road!

Looking Glass Falls

Looking Glass Falls

We had a wonderful and long day.  We finally got home after 5pm….a 10 hour fun filled day!

We’ve been here in North Carolina a week now and we’ve kept pretty busy every day.  Rain is expected the next few days, so I don’t know how much we’ll be able to explore.   We could probably use a rest and tomorrow is football day for Al anyway.


  1. What a terrific day !!!! You sure found super spots and such variety..... I am in the Smokies as well and it is very enjoyable.... The weather has been so pleasant ...
    At the present time I am in Robbinsille, just west of your location...... Keep having FUN !!!!

  2. Elk in North Carolina...who knew?? Thanks for telling us!

    1. We sure didn't, but evidently they used to live here until they were all killed off from hunting.

  3. Isn't that a gorgeous part of the U.S. We were in the area in February 2011. Here's a blog of the area where you were today, although we didn't go to the Cradle of Forestry:

    There are some other blogs about the area as well.

    Have fun exploring.


    1. Thanks Susan. I'll check out your blog. Any suggestions for places to visit? There is SO much to do in this area, and we don't want to miss anything really good!

  4. Your elk pictures are really good. I was hoping we'd see elk in Montana this summer but no such luck. I had not idea the Forest Service was started in NC. That's neat.

  5. We've spent time around the Pisgah area. Love Brevard. There's a cg near there that is also PPA called Cascade Lake CG. We haven't been there in a few years but you can paddle your kayak on the lake and up the river that feeds it until you get to the base of Hooker Falls. We love doing that. You can get a day pass there for about 5 bucks instead of camping there if interested. Great places around there for hiking. Looking Glass Falls is so pretty and isn't it nice that it was put so close to the road for everyone to see.

    1. Thanks for the tips. We'll definitely have to check out Cascade Lake. Any other suggestions???

  6. See, all that white knuckle driving up and down the mountains in your MH has been worth it.

    I bet you are glad to be enjoying something different than palm trees and sandy beaches. ;c

    Great header picture of that Bull Elk!

  7. What a great day you had in the NC mountains! We are looking forward to checking out that area of the country later this fall.

  8. What a beautiful area! If I wasn't thinking of visiting before, I'm definitely planning a trip now! Although, I don't think I could convince my daughter to slide down the rock. Hmmm.

    1. It is a fun place Paula and I'll bet Olivia would slide down that slide!

  9. What a great day! Really looks like you had a fun and very full day with a lot of variety. Terrific elk pictures.

    Did you see the campground at the top? Guess they were thinking tenters not motor homes there. :-)

    I think you deserve to rest up before heading back out. I sure would like to try that water slide maybe in August?? Or July?? Or maybe the water never gets warmer than 60 degrees in those mountains.

  10. Wonderful elk photos! So glad to hear of all these tips for places to visit in the area. We're gonna come back! But not just yet!

  11. Looks like you are had wonderful day- glad you are enjoying NC - Go bucs

  12. two made the rounds today.
    Love the photos of the Elk. That entire area looks beautiful. I waterfalls is lovely!

  13. wow what a great day you had....great pics.....glad your enjoying NC its one of our favourite places...


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