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The Bear Facts on the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

June 18, 2009 by · Comments Off on The Bear Facts on the Great Smoky Mountains National Park 

Black Bear

A Black Bear in Smoky Mountain National Park

By golly, I admit I’m not a country girl. Can’t name the Country Music Singer of the Year, don’t follow NASCAR and camping makes me itch. You won’t be able to kiss my grits because I don’t eat any, or fried okra or hush puppies. Nonetheless, I had a dang good time in Sevierville, birth place of Dolly Parton, and home of the Smoky Mountains .

I recently flew to Knoxville, Tennessee, and then drove to the foothills of the Smokies. I found Sevierville to be a right nice place, even if the name sounds a bit harsh. This is a town where you can go hog wild visiting all the attractions.

Smoky Mountains

A View within The Great Smoky Mountain National Park

But the mountains are what called to me. I fell in love with the “Land of Blue Smoke,” as the Cherokee called their native homeland. What appears as wispy smoke from a fire rises out of the peaks and valleys. The enormous amount of water in the area and the respiration of the trees causes this mystical natural phenomenon.

The Smokies are also famous for bears and, of course, I was hoping to see one. Alas, I did not, that being my only disappointment.

Waterfalls in the stream

Flowing water in Great Smoky Mountain National Park

I thought I’d give you a little history on the park and add a few interesting facts at the end. Future blogs will explore the attractions, activities and restaurants in the Sevierville and Pigeon Forge area.

A Brief History of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Smokies were formed 200-300 million years ago. That makes them very, very old!

Sometime not that far back, Native Americans, the Cherokee, settled in South. However, between 1838 and 1839, the government rounded them up and forced all the Cherokee from their homes. In total 17,000 were sent to a reservation, what’s now Oklahoma, but sadly, many died along the way. That saga is known as the Trail of Tears.

After the Cherokee left, the logging companies moved in and began cutting the forests. Concerned US citizens wanted to protect the natural beauty but the government was not allowed to buy land for national park use. Private money had to be raised to purchase the acreage.

In the late 1920s, the Tennessee and North Carolina Legislatures appropriated $2 million each for land purchases. Additional funds were raised by individuals, groups, and even school children who pledged their pennies. By 1928, a total of $5 million had been collected. Trouble was the cost of the land had now doubled. The Laura Spellman Rockefeller Memorial Fund came to the rescue. They donated an additional $5 million, stipulating that the park remain free and open to the public.

Rural mountain families or hillbillies, as they were often called, had also built cabins in the Smokies and did not want to leave. Eventually, they too, were forced out. Many remained in the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge area but struggled to eke out a meager existence.

Between 1933 and 1942 the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), an agency created during the Depression to provide work and wages for the unemployed, built a number of the currently used rails, campgrounds, beautiful stone bridges and buildings.

The park was dedicated by President Franklin Roosevelt in October, 1934. This year makes the 75th anniversary, as good a reason as any to visit.

The Smokies and Sevierville welcome all with Southern hospitality. You’ll find the landscape rises in scenic splendor and the people are down-home friendly. I heartily recommend you mosey on over.

Mimi in the Mountains

Debi in the Smokies of Tennessee

Now in case you don’t know much about the wildlife or offerings in Great National Smoky Mountains (I sure didn’t before I went), I’m leaving you with the bear facts:

  • The Great Smoky Mountains are among the oldest mountains in the world, formed perhaps 200-300 million years ago
  • Entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park is free. The park is one of the only major national parks that does not charge an entrance fee.
  • There are over 800 miles of maintained hiking trails.
  • 1,500 bears live in the park. This equals a population density of approximately two bears per square mile.
  • In the Smokies, the average annual rainfall varies from approximately 55 inches in the valleys to over 85 inches on some peaks-more than anywhere else in the country except the Pacific Northwest. Waterfalls can be found on nearly every stream and river in the park
  • Elevations range from 800 feet to 6,643 feet.
  • Temperatures differ about 20 degrees F from base to summit.
  • Auto touring is the most popular way to see the park There are 384 miles of road to choose from in the Smokies.
  • Seventy eight historic structures, including grist mills, churches, schools, barns, and the homes of early settlers, preserve Southern Appalachian mountain heritage in the park.
  • Fishing, biking and horseback riding are permitted in certain areas only.
  • Biological diversity is the hallmark of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. No other area of equal size matches the park’s amazing variety of plants, animals, and invertebrates. Did you know?
  • Over 10,000 species have been discovered in the National Park; Scientists believe there are over 90,000 more to be discovered
  • 100 species of native trees (more than any other North American national park)
  • 1,400 flowering plant species
  • 4,000+ non-flowering plants
  • 200+ species of birds
  • 66 types of mammals
  • 50 native fish species
  • 39 varieties of reptiles
  • 43 species of amphibians

And here’s the kicker, the Great Smokies have lungless salamanders and fireflies that synchronize their flashing lights. Pretty daggum amazing.

Sevierville on Dwellable

More Angels and Demons in Glorious Rome

June 5, 2009 by · Comments Off on More Angels and Demons in Glorious Rome 

Part 9- The Finale

Although Mimi’s virtual Angels & Demons blog tour is complete, I must add one more post. Here are some photos showing a few more angels and demons in Rome, and some of the city’s other wondrous sights.


Storey grave in the Protestant Cemetery of Rome


Pyramid of Cestius in Rome

This weeping angel hugs a grave in the Protestant Cemetery of Rome . John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley are also buried there. The cemetery’s main attraction is the pyramid of Caius Cestius. Cestius was a wealthy and eccentric magistrate, inspired by Egyptian relics. In 12 BC, he commissioned himself a tomb. According to the inscription, it was built in just 330 days using brick and marble.


Bocca della Verita, the Mouth of Truth

Bocca della Verita, the Mouth of Truth

This grotesque face is actually a medieval drain cover set into the portico of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, a beautiful 6th century church. Legend says the mouth will snap shut on the hands of liars. The two little boys waiting in line ahead of me were very nervous. They asked, "Does it take just a few fingers or your whole hand?"


Statue of Cardinal Rodrequez


Scala Santa, the Holy Staircase

The tomb of Cardinal Rodreguez in Santa Maria Maggiore, dates from 1299. The church is famous for superb mosaics and a gorgeous marble floor. Below, is the Scala Santa or Holy Staircase that Christ is said to have climbed to his trail. It was dismantled and brought to Rome by St Helena in the 4th century. The faithful climb to the top on bended knees.


Ruins at Largo Argentina

The remains of four temples, dated among the oldest in Rome, were discovered in the 1920’s at the center of Largo Argentina. The site is now a cat scantuary where scores of furry friends make their home.


Piazza del Campidolgio


Rooftop view of Rome & the Vatican


City Lights of Rome

Sunrise an sunset are spectacular times to shoot photos. The city comes alive at night (above) yielding a new perspective on ancient classics. Below is a view of the Tiber River before dawn.


Mist on the Tiber River before dawn, Rome


Roman Soldier at Colosseum


Exterior of Rome's Colosseum at dusk

For a fee you can have your photo taken with this Roman soldier at the Colosseum.


Rome's Trevi Fountain

The Trevi Fountain, made popular by Aubrey Hepburn in the movie Roman Holiday, draws a mob of tourists. They come and throw three coins, supposedly assuring their return. I'm just superstitious enough to believe it, so I always visit and toss my coins into the foaming fountain. Arrivederci Roma.

All photographs copyright: Debi Lander.