The traffic around Atlanta was tolerable and the drive was easy -–up the valleys, all four lane now on US 23 to the Great Smoky Mountain Expressway -–easy except for that one long hill over Brushy Fork Mountain to Dillsboro. There we “joined the circus.” We were in trail with three huge circus midway haulers. We were crawling, but we were in good company.
Big splashy drops of rain out of a partly sunny sky greeted us at the Park boundary. The Park looks newly minted -–fresh asphalt, new Visitors Center at Oconaluftee, freshly baled hay still standing in the fields which are now an “Elk Viewing Area.” Sixty million dollars in stimulus money helped the park dig out of a 100 million dollar maintenance backlog, but the new Visitor Center was paid for totally with donations from Friends of the Smokies and fees on the North Carolina Smokies car tags. (We anted up for our renewal membership and now have a brick in that beautiful building.)
Smokemont Campground has also had an overhaul with new water system and new
asphalt, but the old CCC stone restrooms are still standing tall.
We set up in a steam bath, but we were soon rigging fly rods and down to shorts and wading boots. The water is painfully low, but easy to wade and it is true—some of the prettiest water on Bradley Fork is IN the campground. Hard to figure where the fish were; we both stepped on some and caught them in both riffles and pockets , but not many…