The size and careful construction of the Apple House shows the importance of this crop to the farms. Apples were eaten raw or used to make cider, apple butter, applesauce, and pies. Hardier winter apples were stored on the ground-floor while summer apples were stored upstairs.
One of the most important commodities on the farms was the meat supply. The most common meat used was pork. They hogs were slaughtered in the fall so the cold temperatures would help preserve the meat during the salting or smoking process.
The Mountain Farm Museum is an open air museum with a variety of buildings depicting farm life in the Smoky Mountains in the past. The museum is located adjacent to the Oconaluftee Visitors Center. If you hit the museum at the right times you can see rangers and volunteers in period costume demonstrating various aspects of life from this time period. You will find much more detail about this museum in the following tips (coming soon).
Mingus Mill is located a very short distance down the road from the Oconaluftee Visitors Center (the North Carolina Entrance to the park). The mill is a Turbine Mill, and was built in 1886. The mill ground corn into meal and wheat into flour for over 50 years. The mill still operates during the summer as an historical exhibit. Sometimes there are rangers or volunteers in period costume in the mill.
I remember from previous visits that the views along the trail and from the observation tower are spectacular. Unfortunately, the weather was not cooperative on this visit. There are signs on the observation tower to tell you what you are seeing and the distances to the other mountains so you can tell how far you can see.
The trail to Clingman's Dome is paved but parts of it is very steep. The trail is 1/2 mile long but rises 330 feet in that distance. Combine that with the elevation and the trail should only be attempted if you are in pretty good condition. If you feel faint or short of breath stop and rest or slow down. The views along the way, depending on the weather/cloud cover is spectacular.
At 6643 feet, Clingman's Dome is the highest point in the park. The mountain straddles the state line between Tennessee and North Carolina. Clingman's Dome has long been a sacred area for the Cherokee. According to their folklore the Great Spirit told them that if they loved Him, their brothers and sister and the animals and plants of the mountain when they got old and sick they could find the Magic Lake here and be healed. Clingman's Dome also provided a place to hide from the US Cavalry during the infamous "Trail of Tears". Note that the informative signs are written in English and Cherokee.
Crossing the Smoky Mountains has always been a challenge, even after the new road using "New-found Gap" was constructed. The communities that sprung up in the valleys had to be as self sufficient as possible. They could not run out to WALMART like we can today. There were very few people that lived in the higher areas like New-found Gap because the land would not support them. The area along US Highway 441 traverses a variety of elevations supporting over 100 types of trees, 1500 types of flowering plants, 58 types of fish, 200 bird species and a variety of mammals.
Ben Morton was a Knoxville Mayor and a member of the Knoxville Auto Club. He was also a strong supporter of the road through "New-found Gap", one of the prettiest drives in any national park. There is a very scenic overlook named for Ben Morton along US Highway 441. The overlook is also a great place to view a wide variety of plant life.
There is a nice interpretive trail and picnic area located along US Highway 441 with a view of the formation referred to as "Chimney Tops". Chimney Tops got its name from the 500 million old formations of slate, schist and phyllite that are shaped like chimneys. The natural haziness of these mountains adds to the effect. The Cherokee called this area "Duniskwalguni" meaning "crooked antlers".
Another neat looking church in Cades Cove is the United Methodist Church. Unfortunately they were doing construction by the church and repairs to the church itself when I visited so I could not get a closer look. Great view though.
Imagine making all 3000 shakes (wooden shingles for the roof). Oliver used these half dove-tail notches to join the corners of the cabin. By sloping them outward they drew rainwater away from the cabin keeping the joints drier and preventing rot. Also note how he sealed the spaces between the logs.
John and Lucretia Oliver moved into the valley in 1818 and were two of the first Euro-Americans to settle in Cades Cove. They built this cabin in the 1820s. Building a cabin like this was very hard work, and John did a good job following the little details that make a cabin like this work best. Look at the beautiful view from the cabin (Photo 3) wouldn't you like to wake up to this view each morning?
There are a few other displays to acquaint you with life in the community like the farm equipment (most of which had seen better days), and occasional special programs like the animal pelts showing the type of animals hunted in the valley.
They also show you some of the other buildings and items required for the farms and the community to prosper. The Wild Hog Trap (Photo 3) helped the farmers to control the wild hogs in the area and keep them from eating crops and harassing livestock.
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