On the way back to the park we stopped to have our lunch at the Oconaluftee Visitor Centre back inside the park. Once back at the campground, it was hiking boots on and off we went for a hike along one of the trails. We chose the Smokemont loop trail which was easily accessed from the rear of the campground
. After crossing a river on a log bridge, the trail began to climb. And climb, and climb and climb. After about a mile of climbing, every time we approached the brow of a hill or a bend, Neil would say "Nearly there", and then we would reach the brow or turn the bend, and the trail would just keep climbing and climbing..... Towards the end of the climb, we just kept saying to each other, "This is ridiculous." We finally did reach the trail summit where we took 5 minutes to get our breath back before beginning the equally long descent. We reckon we must have climbed about 1000 feet! Despite the fact that there are allegedly 1500 or so black bears in the park, sadly we didn't see any.
Back at the site, after soaking our feet in cold water, it was an early dinner and an early night. The mountain air has really had an effect on us. Or maybe it was the exercise!
Miles travelled: 32
Total miles travelled: 11598
Days on road: 103
States visited: 21
National Parks visited: 12
After booking ourselves into the camp-site for another night, we spent the morning at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, in the town of Cherokee, just outside the park boundary. The museum houses the world's greatest collection of Cherokee artefacts and treasures, from tools and weapons to jewellery and clothing to pottery and manuscripts. But more than that it tells the story of the Cherokee, from the mythical story of the creation of the world, their battle to survive in the harsh Paleo period around 10,00 years ago, their friendship with the European settlers of 1540 onwards, particularly with the British, to their forced exile from their homeland by the US in 1838. A really fascinating place and as their brochure says "stirring, not stuffy".