Cataloochee Valley

 

Palmer House

Palmer House

Last weekend, Cindy and I visited the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We had planned to visit the Cataloochee Valley in the hope that we would see a Elk.

We were staying outside of Gatlinburg, Tennessee and the Cataloochee Valley is located in the North Carolina side of the park. Getting to the valley is no easy task. The roads are good but narrow and sometime gravel. In addition we chose to travel highway 32 a narrow road that winds through the beautiful mountains. If you’re not in a hurry and don’t mind being the only car on the road, this is the way to go.

 

Room

Room

Arriving in Cataloochee, we stopped at the Palmer house.  George and his wife moved into the area in 1848 and became one of its most prosperous families. By 1870 George and his son had a significant farm production, and a net worth of $800-$1,000 each. Some of their market crops included corn, wheat, oats, rye, apples, honey, molasses, butter, eggs, pigs, sheep, cattle, tobacco, potatoes and cord wood. Both were informal bankers, lending money at interest and securing it with livestock and land.

Barn

Barn

 

Barn 2

Barn 2

After touring the house Cindy and I walked over the barn. Walking inside I noticed a couple of old buckets lying in the hay. Now the word hey is the optimal word here, because when I appeared up I found myself starring into the face of what appeared to be Prancer himself. The huge bull elk was standing on the other side of the rail.  I just said “well, hello there”. He finished his chew and turned around and walked out of the stable and then out of the barn. He then walked around to the back of the barn.  We still couldn’t believe what we had just seen. Heading out of the barn we went around the front and waited for the elk to appear where I took this photograph.

 

Prancer

Prancer

Until the late 1700’s Elk could be found throughout the entire Appalachian Mountains and other regions of the eastern United States.

Between 2001 and 2002 the park service attempted to reintroduce the Elk back into the area. A total of 52 North American Elk were released in to the park. The Elk wear radio collars and are tagged in order to track the progress and range of the individual animals.

Bull Elk

Bull Elk

Elk are now the largest animals of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The male bulls can weigh from 600 to 700 pounds while the female cows average around 500 pounds. The adult Elk is about 7 to 10 feet long and bull elk can sport antlers that may be as wide as 5 feet from end to end.

We are used to seeing deer around our place. Well if this is a deer it’s definitely on steroids. As it turned out we saw several groups of elk grazing in the fields and along the side of the road.

Most people who visit the Great Smoky Mountains will visit Cades Cove, while very few in comparison visit the Cataloochee Valley. I’m sure that the roads are a big reason, but it is well worth the trip.

Barbwire

Barbwire

 

 

10 Comments

  1. Adam Allegro February 6, 2012 at 6:04 am #

    Awesome writeup! That Elk is a fantastic creature. I am happy for you that you guys were able to see one so close up!!

    • Phillip February 6, 2012 at 7:19 pm #

      Thanks Adam. You are actually suppose to stay something like 100 or 150 feet away. However, I really didn’t expect to find it eating in the barn. They really seemed to be unafraid of humans. We also saw them eating right next to the road.

  2. deniseippolito February 6, 2012 at 6:09 am #

    Phillip, Nice story and images, I haven’t made it to the Smokies but plan to soon!

    • Phillip February 6, 2012 at 10:42 am #

      Thanks Denise. It is a wonderful place. You’ll love it. It is unlike any of the other parks. When it was formed the people feared that the government would begin charging them to travel through the park when they traveled from Tennessee and North Carolina. You have to realize that the Park Service actually took over towns and to put it bluntly, ran the locals out like that did the Indians years earlier. Of course there’s a lot more to that story. Anyway, the government agreed never to charge an entrance fee for the park. It is solely dependent government funds, local sales and donations.

  3. Len Saltiel February 6, 2012 at 6:58 am #

    Excellent writeup and images Phillip. Love the textures of the second image and great catch with the elk.

    • Phillip February 6, 2012 at 10:31 am #

      Thanks Len. I appreciate you say that. It is a three image HDR.

  4. Jimi Jones February 6, 2012 at 8:06 am #

    Excellent post, Phillip!
    The image are really nice and of course, I always enjoy a great story. 🙂

    Nice work, man.

    • Phillip February 6, 2012 at 10:26 am #

      Thanks Jimi. We really had a great time.

  5. Marc February 7, 2012 at 3:17 pm #

    Nice post. Makes me want to go on a trip!
    Nice capture of the Elk, what a beautiful creature.

    • Phillip February 7, 2012 at 8:02 pm #

      Thanks Marc. They are beautiful creatures. It very common to see whitetail deer around our house. They eat our flowers all the time. However, just let me say while I knew that these guys were large, I wasn’t prepared for how large they actually are up close.

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