Sunday, October 11, 2015

A Change in Plans, Led to a Wonderful Surprise


Blairsville, Ga (high 72, low 48) 

We decided to take a drive to check out the fall foliage and we heard the drive from Franklin to Cherokee, North Carolina was pretty nice.

We left Blairsville, going through Track Rock and Hayesville, NC and drove Hwy 64 towards Franklin, NC.  It was a beautiful drive.

The prettiest colors were before between Blairsville and Franklin, NC.  Once we got into the Great Smoky National Park, we saw less fall color.

It wasn’t at peak fall color, but it’s getting there.


Fall foliage


Fall foliage


Fall foliage

It was a beautiful drive.

Fall foliage

Hopefully we will be able to stay long enough to see the peak fall season.


It got a little cloudy at times, but we love the way the clouds look when they sit on the tops of the mountains.


The road between Franklin and Cherokee was not as colorful.

The Blue Ridge Parkway starts in Cherokee, NC and our plan was to drive it for a while to get a feel for the fall colors there.  We missed the visitor center and had to turn around because we needed a bathroom break.  The foliage wasn’t real pretty on the Blue Ridge just yet. We only got a few miles on the BRP, but it turned out to be a good thing.

We ended up at the Ocanaluftee Visitor Center which is one of the entrances to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park,  but not right on the BRP,  We  were sure glad we did.


We knew there were a herd of Elk somewhere in Cherokee, but we figured it would be somewhere off the beaten path and our plan was to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway and not look for elk.

As we walked up to the visitor center, we noticed these signs.


We asked one of the Rangers where we could see the elk herd and she said they can sometimes be seen in these fields right by the visitor center, which is just off highway 441.

There were no elk to be seen and we didn’t expect to see any there except during the normal feeding times in the early morning or  late afternoon. 

At the visitor center there is an old farmstead as well as some trails along the river. We took a walk over to the farmstead which is past the big field where the above sign is located.

Fall foliage Franklin to Cherokee, visitor center, elk

The farmstead was pretty interesting, but this huge old tree, which I assumed was a chestnut tree, was probably the most spectacular thing there.

We thought the tree stump should have had some sort of marker at least because of the size of it, if nothing else.

It made me sad.

Chestnut tree

The kids were enjoying the river. I wasn’t sure they should have been playing there but the river was shallow and slow moving, so I guess they wouldn’t have drowned if they had fallen in.   I need to keep reminding myself, not my circus, not my monkeys.  :)


The views were pretty spectacular.

Fall foliage Franklin to Cherokee


Fall foliage Franklin to Cherokee, visitor center, elk

You could look into the buildings, but not enter.

I always notice in these old houses, how they only have useful and necessary items, unlike all the stuff we tend to accumulate nowadays.




The next picture was taken inside the meat house where they smoked and salted mostly pork.  I swear I smelled country ham when I looked inside.


As we walked down the trail, Al noticed something in the far edge of the field.  After zooming in with my camera, I could tell is was a female elk.


Also in the field were several woodchucks.


I took way too many pictures of them, but these are not something we see in Florida.



The ranger told us the bull elk sometimes led the heard over to a nearby school, so we drove over to what we initially thought was a school.

We saw no elk but there was a pretty good size flock of very large and healthy looking turkey.


Apparently, they get plenty to eat because they were all pretty large.




After searching unsuccessfully for elk, we decided to head home and turned back towards the visitor center. We saw a traffic jam along hwy 441 and assumed there must have been a wildlife spotting.

We were right.  That is the same field where we saw the single elk but this time the entire herd was grazing in the field.  



We parked,  walked as close as was allowed and zoomed the camera in and this is what we saw.

You can see how close they are to the road. I didn’t like that.


Elk roamed freely in this area 200 years ago, but were overhunted and none remained.

In 2001 they reintroduced another small herd to an area nearby and shortly afterwards this herd here in Cherokee.  According to the ranger, there are 32 elk in this herd.  We noticed quite a few juveniles, so I guess they are doing well.  They all appeared to be plenty fat and healthy looking.

This youngster still had his spots.  He spotted a wood chuck and walked over to check it out.  The wood chuck saw him coming and went into his hole.

It was kind of cute.





This guy looks pretty young.   Calving season is in May and June, so next year, we might need to visit earlier in the year.



The rangers were all around keeping people from getting too close to the herd.  They have been known to charge or stick their heads into open car windows.  They tell you if you have a dog with you while walking,and an elk approaches you to let go of the dog leash.  Yeah right!  I don’t know of too many people who would let their dogs loose.


Apparently there is one bull elk in charge.  There were some young males on the outskirts but the head guy kept running them back into the woods.  :)

It didn’t take long to spot the guy in charge.




Isn’t he spectacular?  I couldn’t stop taking pictures of him.






bull elk

It turned out to be a spectacular day and we’re sure glad we went to the visitor center instead of a ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway.   We went home via Hwy 74 and through the Nantahala Gorge.  It wasn’t as pretty of ride as Hwy 64 which is the way we came.

It rained all day Saturday, so we stayed home except for a short visit into town to see something I had wanted to see for many, many years. 

More on that later…….


  1. You're in the area we were in at the end of May.
    You were luckier than we were at seeing all the wildlife as well. The closest we've been to a smaller Elk Bull was at an Elk Farm in northern Michigan.I can truly understand why you couldn't stop taking pictures of natures natural beauty.
    Be Safe and Enjoy!

    It's about time.

  2. What a beautiful drive and wonderful scenery, gotta love it.

  3. Wow, what a score! Those elk were just beautiful. No wonder you couldn't stop taking pictures of that magnificent bull. :c)

  4. That bull is spectacular. Jim really wanted to see an elk in TRNP but no such luck, so he's really jealous. Trying to narrow down the pictures to put on the blog is so hard. You did good.

  5. Wow, that bull elk sure has some horns, huh? Just Beautiful. I wonder how old he is, to have grown such a rack. Great photos of the whole day! :)

  6. Great fall colors and wildlife. Not much fall colors here.

  7. I love the elk. The big bulls are just so beautiful. And to hear them bugle is amazing. I love watching the wildlife!

  8. Wow!! Pretty incredible sighting. I always wondered how they can hold their heads up with all that weight.


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