Appalachian Adventures in North Carolina
Updated: Feb 1, 2021
As we left Pigeon Forge and headed over the Smoky Mountains into North Carolina, we found a little more of an authentic Appalachian experience. We spotted several timber mills, dairies, and even a few Christmas tree farms. Many of the fall leaves are already past their prime, but it is still stunning here - very green and what leaves that are left on the trees are very colorful. Our little campsite was in Waynesville, in the Maggie Valley just about 20 minutes from Asheville, NC.
Stuart had a great time pulling a few trout out of the little creek.
We thought the best way to explore the Appalachians would be on horseback! We took a ride with a truly rugged mountain man. Our guide, most affectionally referred to as Redneck Jon, was back-country North Carolinian through-and-through. We stopped at an old cabin, and Jon told us stories about Civil War soldiers shot on the doorstep and fighting in the communities nearby.
We were surprised to spot an elk all the way across the country! It was a pretty sizable bull, just grazing in a man's yard, and it was completely unbothered by the man walking in and out of his garage. In 2001 and 2002, the National Park Service reintroduced 52 elk into the nearby Cataloochee area of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park as part of an experimental project to determine if elk could survive and reproduce in the area. Some of the elk did survive and have since wandered outside of the park to establish ranges.
Raymond said he's heard the next world record elk is expected to come from this area.
Our horse-riding guide told us that the elk here are not good eating as they get into some bad-tasting plants.
The North Carolina backcountry is also full of several fun surprising roadside attractions. For example, we happened on a huge peach and a giant can of Bush's Baked Beans.