Sunday, March 12, 2006

North Shore Road - NC Road To Nowhere 

Here are some shots I took on a hike July 4th, 2005 to Chimney Tops in the Great Smokie Mountains National Park. The Chimneys are an obvious choice for hikers who want a somewhat strenuous hike that covers all the bases plus has a lofty payoff at the top. The rocky slate outcroppings at the top allow unobscured panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys, not common in the Smokies. These attributes and the fact that it can be hiked up and down in a few hours makes it pretty popular.

If you go, start early and you'll have few other hikers with you. The day I went thunderstorms were forecast, which is like everyday in July in Tennessee. Abby stayed back home visiting with her mom and sister Rhonda. I had just got to the top in time to watch the thunderstorm develop. Clouds started sweeping up the valley between the peaks. I watched ravens swoop for cover as the thunder began to roll. The air smelled great, but as the lightning got closer and the rain started to slick the slate, I thought I best get down off the top. The hike down was lovely if you like a drenching rain.

The Smokies are a wonderful place. The trails don't always offer amazing vistas. In fact most walks are closed in by foliage of all types: hemlock, oak, poplar, pine, rhododendron, azalea, greenbriar. But the magic of the place is in the clear mountain stream and its accompanying breeze, the warblers flitting in the grape snags on a dead hickory, the rich humus musk crossed with evergreen balm.


Oh, about the title. On the southeast side of the park is impounded Fontana Lake. Back in the 1940's when the the federal government took the land for the park, they agreed to build a highway on the north shore of the lake. Right now this north shore is only accessible by hike or by boat. Thus it is one heck of a great roadless area hardly touched by the paths of man. Now there is a group of people who would like to have this road to nowhere, this highway finished. This will be a devastating slash across 34 miles of the park. 34 miles of cars and honking, beer cans and dirty diapers. To finish the highway it will cost around 600 million dollars. Quite a chunk of dough.

There is an active lobby against this highway extension on several points: Cost, enviromental damage, futility. Lamar Alexander has come out against the project. You can too. The public comment period on the project has been extended.

Here is the Park Service site with full details on the project:

Here is an informative article on the "road to nowhere" from the Raleigh/Durham News and Observer:

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