January 2015 - Where in the park are we?Posted by | 01.28.2015
By Lisa Duff, Marketing and Membership Director
Follow social media the way I do (not 24/7, but close), and you’re bound to stumble upon more than a few disagreements. Take for example the heated discussion taking place on Hike the Smokies’ Facebook page. It all started with what appeared to be the most innocent of questions. Dale Schuler of Columbus, OH, asked: “I'm retired and considering moving to the Smokies area to hike. What would you say is the best place to consider to live and make it accessible to a lot of hiking?”
Oh, my goodness, Dale. What were you thinking when you posting that question? Don’t you know how beloved an area the Smokies is? Don’t you know how many entry points we have? And how many states are involved? And, more importantly, don’t you know that “Opinions are like belly buttons: Everyone has one.” Even me. I read Dale’s question at about 7:30 p.m. the day he posted it. Without hesitation I unleashed my opinion on Dale and the entirety of the Internetdom. With some degree of regularity, my phone continues to alert me each time someone else expresses an opinion. (BTW, thanks Facebook, for keeping me in the loop. Much appreciated.
As of this writing – January 27 at about 4 p.m. - 141 opinions on Dale’s question have been posted. You’ve probably noticed that I’m staying away from referring to these responses as “answers” to Dale’s question. Because there’s no one right answer to Dale’s question. One of the best pieces of advice he’s received so far is to consider renting until he gets a feel for the area. At the very least Dale may want to plan a trip to the Smokies and spend at least a day in each of the “gateway” communities.
So what opinion did I share with Dale and how does it relate to this month’s “Where in the park are we?” photograph? They are, geographically speaking, one in the same: Bryson City, N.C. and its GSMNP access, Lakeview Drive. The image, captured during a recent hike on the lower section of Noland Creek Trail, called out to me as the perfect contrast of Carolina blue sky to stark gray concrete. It’s the underside view of the viaduct that supports Lakeview Drive, a.k.a. “The Road to Nowhere,” just north of Bryson City and a few miles inside the national park.
Bryson City gets my vote to serve as Dale’s next home place for many reasons, not the least of which is the growing support and acceptance of locals toward this national park. For instance, GSMA just this past fall partnered with county officials to open a park visitor center in the historic courthouse, while around the same time the local beer craftsmen (yes, almost every WNC town has at least one), Nantahala Brewery determined to support the park through its GSMA Business Membership and its line of Trail Magic beers. Add to this a mounting list of reasons to spend time outside, the lack of huge, paralyzing crowds, and a true sense of a town coming into its own, and you’ve discovered the perfect, picturesque mountain community.
All that said, let’s take just a brief look at how local refer to Lakeview Drive. Like it or not, you’ve got to admit that calling something “The Road to Nowhere” has a certain allure. It’s right up there with “Hidden Springs,” “Lost Cove” and “X Marks the Spot.” This stretch of asphalt continues to stir up a mess of feelings for some Swain County residents, none of which I’ll attempt to expound upon here. If you’d like to know more about that, may I direct you HERE.
I say to Dale, who you’ll remembered asked for an area “…accessible to a lot of hiking,” that Lakeview Drive is far from “nowhere.” In fact, it’s the exact opposite as far as hikers are concerned. It’s the access point to Noland Creek Trail, where I discovered one of the nicest horse camps; Goldmine Loop Trail, my very first History Hikes; the Benton MacKaye, named in honor of an Appalachian Trail visionary; Forney Ridge to Andrews Bald to Clingmans Dome to the AT…. Shall I continue? A thoroughfare “The Road to Nowhere” is not; a destination and a good place to lace up it most certainly is. But that’s just my opinion.