Wednesday, April 20, 2011

DESERTED COMMUNITY IN THE GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK-- BY MOTORCYCLE

click photos to enlarge

I wasn't going to put the following material on the blog but, it was storming this morning and I had a physical therapy session besides.  I really wanted to paddle up Abrams Creek and sit on shore in a natural blind to see if I could photograph some otter.  If I could see otter across the water from the vantage point I have in mind;  the pictures would be superb.  I know where their den is located.  But, it's raining and the wind isn't cooperating either.  Another trip down the Little Tennessee River is scheduled in the very near future to catch the baby (eaglets) eagles before they disappear from the tree.   And then there's the Heron rookery.  There's always something to do outdoors.  If the rain holds off early morning tomorrow I'll float the canoe for a try at the otters.  I need to be on the water before sunup. 
Over a million miles on motorcycles and I end up driving a puddle jumper.  How bout that?  I thought I would test my back with a motorcycle ride.  So yesterday I drove to a place called Elkmont located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  The small community was built in the 1920's and folks started leaving in the mid twenties into the 1930's.  Why did they leave you ask?   Elkmont eventually ended up on national park property when the national park was accumulating lands to extend its boundaries.  Elkmont was originally formed to create a sort of hunting club; an exclusive get away haven for the very well to do folks from Knoxville.  They had leases on the properties but, the leases were not renewed when they reached their maturity.  Hence, folks had to leave.  A super camp ground exists where the community of Elkmont originally stood.  On the outskirts of the small town, get away cabins and summer homes were constructed that were elaborate for their times.   There's more to it but that's the basics of the history.


To access Elkmont I left the town of Greenback and followed State route 321 East through the town of Townsend which is two miles from the entrance of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Once in the park, a left turn put me on River Road which eventually leads to Route 441 which is known as the park road and cuts through some magnificent mountain views within the park itself. The Little River follows the road on the left.  I should say the road follows Little River on the right.  The river was there first.  It is a gorgeous piece of water.

Eighteen miles up River Road lays Elkmont Campground and the hiking trail that leads to the Summer homes that have been left to themselves over 55 years ago.
This is a beautiful ride for someone looking for something a little out of the ordinary.  A short hike awaits you when you arrive at the parking area for Elkmont.
I parked the bike and commenced up a beautifully manicured walking trail.  I had no idea of how far I would have to walk.
Suddenly off to my right I saw the roof line of a building.
I walked through a very attractive stone wall that was made of hand laid stone.  I wanted a better look at this place.
This wasn't just a cottage in the woods.  This was an elaborate home.  I can't imagine this sitting empty and allowed to rot away for the past 55 years or more.
The quality of the place is of some of the best I've seen.  What I found amazing is the lack of rot in the construction.  I've seen worse rot in modern day construction on ten year old buildings than I did on this old place.  Of course the wood is coming apart due to wind and the elements but I notice the care that was taken when fitting the wooden part together.  The cuts are perfect.  People knew how to work with their hands in those days.
The following photo is unique.  A boulder was in the line of the porch supports.  So what did they do?  Well; they incorporated the boulder into the house structure.  I bet the builders didn't do this.  Probably the home owner added that last little support on top the boulder at a much later date.
Below are a couple more shots to show how the boulder plays an integral part in the support of the porch.  I wonder if that meets building code?
Time to walk some more.  An old barn appears on my right.  I'm a sucker for old barns so I briefly inspected it.
When I walked up to the old barn I noticed a stone wall that I had to investigate.
Behind the stone wall was a gorgeous home.  This is insane!  These wonderful old buildings have been left to deteriorate.  It's almost a crime.  Certainly this history could be saved and utilized as a valuable part of Tennessee history.
You have to understand that I'm not supposed to be off the trail.  There is a fine for walking on the grounds where these places are standing.  I guess I might hurt one of them or something.  It's OK to let them sit in ruin for 55 years but don't let anyone get close to them.  Oh well----
My lower back was aching and I walked across the pathway to sit beside Little River for a few minutes.  I was starting to feel tired.  The old back needs some proper exercise.  The river is not near the waterway that it is along the park road.  It is more narrow yet, still flows strong.
I slowly walked here and there looking at each old building and trying to imagine what life was like up here in those early days.  Some of the buildings weren't as elaborate as others.  Yet, they remain on a page of Tennessee history none the less.
A beautiful foot bridge of stone spans a little brook and leads to the next property.
Two chairs sit isolated far out on the property.  I'm not certain which home they belong to.  Their cane bottoms have long rotted away and no one has bothered them all these years.  It's as if the folks who lived here simply got in their Cadillac and drove away never to return.  In essence;  that's exactly what they did.
Ouch!  The lower back is aching badly.  I'm going to wander back toward the motorcycle and prepare to leave.  First there was one particular mansion size home I wanted to check out.  I walked through the little decorative gazebo and up to the house.  Hope the park ranger isn't around.
Just look at this home.  Imagine;  it has sat here undisturbed for over 55 years and more.
Here is the front.  And;  the front door is wide open.
I had to get a photo of the inside.  They'll put me away for years if I'm caught doing this.  Well;  that's what the sign said.
Look at that solid oak floor.  It's almost as pristine as the day it was put down.  I mean there isn't a crack in it.  It's perfect.  The fireplace is awesome!  I better get out of here.
I have to sit down here before getting on this horse.  Anyone who enjoys history and wants to do something out of the ordinary should visit this wonderful place.  It is like taking a walk back through time.  I wondered all the day if the folks who lived here ever visited their old properties again.  It would be interesting to talk with them.  I needed to get back and take the dogs for a stroll before dark.  This has been a great little ride and an informative visit to this historical spot in the Smoky Mountains.  Below are a few wild flowers I ran into during the day.  All the guys will certainly be excited about that.  Thanks for looking in.  Hope you enjoyed Elkmont.
Sweet White Trillium  (Trillium Smile)

Star Chickweed

Philox
Hot Rock Pensteman
Beardstongue
Beardstongue

Beardstongue
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