For years, we have heard the Cataloochee section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park hyped regarding its wildlife. For years, we have wanted to go, but it is about 2-1/2 hours from Pigeon Forge, where we usually stay. This time, we planned for it, and went. We had read that the road was gravel and narrow, but we did not realize how steep or high on the mountain that you had to drive to get there. In fact, you have to drive up one side on narrow, winding road, and then, down the other side with the same conditions. Another thing that no one seems to mention are the sheer and steep drops if you should miscalculate and slip off the edge. Nor do they mention that many of the drivers on this narrow road drive too fast and round the sharp curves to meet you face on. It is quite disconcerting. And this from a man who grew up navigating narrow, winding roads in my native Eastern Kentucky. Once we finally got to the bottom, after about a forty to forty-five minute drive, we were expecting fields of wild elk and sightings of many black bears. We saw neither. We did get to see two wild elk grazing along the road as we descended into the valley, which was a thrill for us. However, once down, we saw no more elk, and no black bears. We saw a couple of wild turkeys, and a cluster of pretty butterflies on the ground, but that was it. It definitely was NOT worth the dangerous and long, nail-biting drive for us. We won't be going back. There was camping at a campground in the valley, or cove, as it is known in the mountains. Perhaps, if camping is your passion, and you spend a week there, maybe you will see the wildlife. We did meet a family that told us that they saw about 27 elk in the fields last year, and had expected to see the same this year. They were also disappointed.
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