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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Great Smoky Mountain Railroad

The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad offers many different excursions. Being the cheap retirees that we are, we chose one of the least expensive trips. :) Yesterday we spent the afternoon on the October Leaf Train. Now, you would think we'd gotten enough of the changing colors by now, but there is always more to see. I think I have more pictures of trees and scenery than any one person should ever have! It sure is pretty, though.

We boarded the train in Bryson City, NC. Our trip was to be a 4.5 hour round trip that included a one hour layover in Dillsboro, NC. Well, most of that happened - our
layover turned out to be at the Nantahala Outdoor Center. The center is actually a utopia for kayakers and whitewater enthusiasts, with camping facilities. Not what I would have chosen for a layover, but obviously we didn't have much of a choice. That's where the train stopped, so that's where we got off to stretch our legs. But, enough complaining.

The train traveled through a portion of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and
paralleled the Nantahala River and the Trail of Tears. "Nantahala" is an Indian word that means "land of the noonday sun." Supposedly the Indians called this area Nantahala because the river runs through a gorge so deep that it took most of the day for the sun to reach its depths.

We saw caves dug in the side of the mountain along the Trail of Tears where some of the Cherokee people would hide during their forced removal in 1838. About 17,000 people were forced to leave their homes and move to the "Indian Territory," which is now Oklahoma. Because of disease and the harsh journey, scholars estimate between 4,000 and 6,000 lives were lost during the trip. However, about 1,000 Cherokee rebelled against the move and evaded U.S. soldiers and remained by living off the land. Descendants of those Cherokee still live in this area.

I didn't know that the government had forced the removal of these people because of a gold rush in this area! But, the kicker is that the Cherokee people took their case to the Supreme Court of the United States to oppose this forced move and won! Yes, Chief Justice John Marshall ruled in the Cherokee Nation's favor, but President Andrew Jackson overtly ignored the Court's decision and ordered the
move of the tribe. How sad is that?

We also saw, firsthand, the results of the drought that has hit the eastern United States. Fontana Lake, which is one of the recreation areas in this part of North Carolina, was so very low. There are many folks who own houseboats on the lake and some of those houseboats weren't even on water anymore. That's how low the lake was. Still, the lake is set against the mountains and is a beautiful sight to see.

The train ride was fun. We had a beautiful day and were able to see some historical areas. Couldn't ask for more than that.

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