Sunday, September 25, 2016

Elk in North Carolina, Sunflowers, Pumpkins and COLD Front


Blairsville, Ga  (high 86, low 62)


It’s been a particularly warm summer this year and the north Georgia mountains are no exception. At least it’s not as miserable and sticky as it is in Florida. 

It looks like a cold front is coming this week with lows predicted to be in the upper 40’s.  Burrr.   I’m not looking forward to that.  We don’t have a heat pump or dual pane windows on the Cameo like we do on the motorhome, so it will be harder to stay warm.    The highs are predicted to be low 70’s, so we will enjoy that.

We finally decided to take a couple trips and see some sights.  What started out as a trip to get a 48v bulb for the golf cart tail light, ended up with us up in Cherokee, North Carolina at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center.   It’s one of the four visitor centers in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park.

We wanted to go see the herd of wild elk.  Yes, there are elk in this area but it wasn’t always so.

“ Elk once roamed the southern Appalachian mountains and elsewhere in the eastern United States. They were eliminated from the region by over-hunting and loss of habitat. The last elk in North Carolina was believed to have been killed in the late 1700s. In Tennessee, the last elk was killed in the mid-1800s. By 1900, the population of elk in North America dropped to the point that hunting groups and other conservation organizations became concerned the species was headed for extinction.

Reintroduction of elk into Great Smoky Mountains National Park began in 2001 when 25 elk were brought from the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area along the Tennessee-Kentucky border. In 2002, the park imported another 27 animals.”

We arrived there during the hot part of the day and not the best time to see them.  When we drove up, there was a ranger vehicle parked along side of the road, with warning signs so we thought for sure the herd was in the field.



We were disappointed to find nothing but a few wood chucks.

Woodchuck at Oconaluftee Visitor Center, Cherokee, NC


There is a trail and Mountain Farm Museum which winds around the field where the elk graze. 

Oconaluftee Visitor Center, Cherokee, NC


Oconaluftee Visitor Center, Cherokee, NC


Oconaluftee Visitor Center, Cherokee, NC


Oconaluftee Visitor Center, Cherokee, NC


The river winds alongside the village.

Oconaluftee Visitor Center, Cherokee, NC


We took a walk in the shade along the river and came across a young bull elk on the other side of the river.

Young bull elk at Oconaluftee Visitor Center, Cherokee, NC


Apparently, he wanted to cross the river and come over to where we were standing.  We backed up to allow him to cross and soon we saw another young elk.

Young bull elk at Oconaluftee Visitor Center, Cherokee, NC

He wasn’t the most handsome fellow, was he?

Young bull elk at Oconaluftee Visitor Center, Cherokee, NC


I don’t know if he lost his antlers in a fight, or if he is starting to shed them.  They shed their antlers every winter, so maybe that was it.


Young bull elk at Oconaluftee Visitor Center, Cherokee, NC


I liked this next picture that the reflection on the water showed his face better than the actual photo of his face.

Young bull elk at Oconaluftee Visitor Center, Cherokee, NC


We stayed around awhile until it became apparent we were keeping them from going where they wanted to go.  We were a little hesitant to go back down the trail because we didn’t want them following behind us with those big pointy antlers.   They didn’t.


Young bull elk at Oconaluftee Visitor Center, Cherokee, NC

We never saw the main herd. The head guy in charge has a much larger rack and he seems to keep the other males away from his herd.  When we were there last year, we saw him chasing the young male back into the woods.  I’m assuming nothing has changed there.

We took a drive around the area looking for the big turkey.  Baxter loves turkey feathers and he is in need of a replacement.   Other feathers just don’t do the job like a big tail feather from a turkey. We found turkey, but no feathers. I think I’m going to have to go on Amazon in search of a turkey feather.    Smile


Oconaluftee Visitor Center, Cherokee, NC


Yesterday, we took a drive over to Dawsonville, GA for the opening of the sunflower fields and the Pumpkin patch.


First stop was Fausett Farms and Horse Trails.  They have 13+ acres of sunflowers planted and it’s a lovely way to spend an afternoon. We should have waited until later in the week when the cold front came because it was HOT there yesterday.





There were sunflowers everywhere.

Sunflowers at Faucettes


Rows and rows of sunflowers.







For $5 a person you could take what turned out to be a very short mule train ride. I’m glad we passed on that since it didn’t take you anywhere you couldn’t easily have walked on your own.






Al was hiding in the sunflowers.




This sunflower field is near Amicalola Falls State Park, which is where the southern portion of the Appalachian Trail starts.  There are some lovely waterfalls there with some great hikes (one all the way to Maine) but it was too hot so we didn’t stop.

Instead, we went to Burts Pumpkin Farm.  It’s always kind of fun to see all the pumpkins and gourds.




Burts Pumpkin Farm


Burts Pumpkin Farm


There are some big pumpkins there.  I saw one with an $84 price tag.  

Burts Pumpkin Farm


They have a gift shop and sell home made goodies, mostly of the pumpkin variety.  It sure smelled good walking around the grounds.

Burts Pumpkin Farm


We love this area because everywhere we go anywhere, there is beautiful scenery.  The drive home was no exception. I rarely leave my camera at home.





We had a friend waiting for us when we got home. 



Sure wish I could find these kittens a home.


  1. Didn't know Baxter was so particular in his choice of feathers. I guess the turkey feathers must enhance his cute looks? :cD

  2. I take it North Carolina hasn't tried to naturalize the elk? Or are they free to go anywhere they want in the mountains? Really love those sunflowers. What beautiful pictures of so many. Since they all come into flower at the same time, I assume they are growing them for the seeds and possibly for oil?

  3. Glad to see you relaxing in cooler temperatures then what you'd have in Florida. Our temps are just starting to cool down and we are also starting to see pumpkins for sale at the roadside stands.
    Good Luck with the turkey tail feather for Baxter.
    Be Safe and Enjoy!

    It's about time.

  4. I remember going to that visitor center when we were there in NC. We both really enjoyed it. Spectacular sunflowers and nice elk sighting! Didn't know Baxter fancied turkey feathers :)

  5. if no homes are found will you take them to an Animal Shelter when you go back home? Might be best to do it now before they get too big. People like younger kittens best.

  6. Beautiful sunflowers! Looks like a great day!

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