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.
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.
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.
We drove a little further and found a herd.
There were two volunteers who brought some things for us to look at and touch.
A female elk skull.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Looking Glass falls. It was a beautiful waterfall and right off the side of the road!
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.