Freedom and Liberty

Freedom and Liberty
I travel in Freedom but sleep in the security of Liberty (not only on the road, but in this amazing country of ours)

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Driving the Cherohala Skyway in the Smoky Mountains

Location: Sweetwater Valley KOA (el. 960 ft.); Sweetwater, Tennessee

all pictures taken with Nokia Lumia Icon 929 cell phone
(click pictures to enlarge)

First, does anyone know how to get a song out of your head. Sirius radio played "Mirage" by Tommy James and the Shondells yesterday and I can't get it out of my head. It's a good song and it was the first time I really listened to the lyrics, but dang, it needs to go away already.

One of the main reasons for me coming to this area of Tennessee was to drive the Cherohala Skyway. It is a National Scenic Byway in the Smoky Mountains. I had heard about it years ago and put it on my list of things to see and do but am just now getting around to it. The word "cherohala" is a combination of two words. They are Cherokee and Nantahala which are two of the National Forests in eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina. The skyway has plenty of places to pull over to see pretty views on a clear day. The elevation tops out at 5,400 ft. I had planned to make the drive on Friday in hopes of it be less crowded due to it being a workday, but it was too cloudy. Saturday was a clear day but very chilly with the temperatures in the low 30's at the tops of the mountains. 
This is along River Road which is a side branch of the skyway. It reminded me of the roads in Yellowstone that parallel the rivers. I like it.

After a few miles you're rewarded with the Bald River Waterfalls. 

A panoramic view

This was an empty campground/picnic area. I bet it will be slap-full come summer time

Another panoramic view. I sure am glad my cell phone has that option

another view

That was a wildcat/bobcat/lynx that crossed the road in front of me. It ran off into the brush on the right side and was gone. If reminded me of the old Jerry Clower story about "Knock Him Out John". If you want a laugh, check it out on Youtube.

There were about 6 pairs of these things. I'm not sure what they are, if you know please comment. They are treated timber round poles with a horizontal piece of wood at the top. There also looked to be several PVC pipes attached to the pole towards the top. It's still a mystery.

Mountain Lake

Fishing pier on one of the lakes. 

Nice lake front houses. Not sure about winter though since this was at about 5,000 feet.

Upstream (lake) side of the Cheoah Dam on the Little Tennessee River. Construction began 100 years ago in 1916 by Alcoa. They needed lots of electricity to make aluminum so they built several hydro-electric dams along the river.

Downstream side of the dam. Those openings at the top are the gates and the water spills down the face. They are only opened during extremely high water conditions. 

That big pipe in the left center is the penstock pipe that carries water down to the powerhouse on the right where the turbines are located. The fall of the water spins the turbines which produce electricity. At the time of its construction this was the highest overflow dam with the largest turbines in the entire world. Pretty impressive for a 100 year old structure. 

This is another dam which created another lake. It is the Calderwood dam and was also built by Alcoa in the mid -1920's. 

another panorama picture. Calderwood dam on the right and the lake it created curves around to the left. There are some interesting things with this dam also, but I will let it slide.
People talk about destroying nature and such. The dams shown here are an example of technology and nature co-existing. I'm sure there was damage to nature during their construction but it seems like a peaceful co-existence to me now.

Since it was my birthday, I packed a picnic lunch to take with me. I ate my healthy (yeah, I know) turkey sandwich will parked in a pull-off at the top of a mountain with the temperature right at 32 degrees. I was the only one there on a gorgeous day with clear skies. It was very quiet and peaceful. I guess the only thing that could have made it better, was if I had bologna instead of turkey, but we can't have everything.

Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road. 


  1. Thank you for the tour. Those dams and river roads remind me of Idaho/Montana. Be safe.

    1. Your welcome Barney,,,I agree they do look similar

    2. Barney did you forget to pay your monthly blog bill? Your site says "Blog removed"

  2. Thank you so much for publishing photos and stories about the places most of us will never see. Wish I had a rig and was following in your footsteps

    1. Your welcome Ed,,,, I'm glad you're enjoying the blog

  3. Belated happy birthday. Hope you have many, many more.

  4. Darrell it seems that you are some kind of tornado magnet. And that will require that I stay at least one state away.
    Those telephone poles with the PVC on top, are very weird. But you are deep into redneck country, and possibly even moonshine country. So they might be some kind of a revenue agent early warning system the locals build.
    PS. Happy birthday, you don't look a day over 35.


    1. Thanks Boon, I don't need anymore tornadoes. Lol

  5. I am going to say that they might be raptor perches, especially if there were high voltage wires on the poles. Raptors like to perch on top of poles, and on occasion they get too close to the high voltage and are electrocuted. If this happens several times in a small area, the power companies, who don't like the bad publicity, will put up raptor protection, usually a perching area far enough away from the wires so they can land and take off safely. Can't really see any wires in your picture, but that is what they look like.

    1. These are poles for the endangered flying squirrels to safely cross the highway. Not sure how the squirrels would know how to use them but that is what they were put there for.