“They” all said it was quite the drive. “They” all said it would take a long time. Most encouraged me to skip this stop but it’s in the auto touring pamphlet…and “they” promised me ELK!
Do any of my readers remember my trip to South Dakota when my sister and I got lost on the Pine Ridge Reservation and drove the ” longest dirt road in the world”? Well that one was straight. I found it’s twisted cousin here in the Cataloochee. Actually a good portion of it was on the way into the valley.
The brochure describes the Cataloochee as a an “idyllic mountain valley “, off -the- beaten- path”, and lovely destination. I’ll add fun if you are adventurous.
The 11 mile dirt road is basically a one lane road that spends much of it’s 11 miles twisting back on itself. There are sharp corners with blind turns and pray you don’t meet a vehicle coming in the other direction. There’s no shoulder to speak of and very little room to pull over. I did meet a few cars and we mostly hugged the sides of the roads til we could squeak by. It was the longest 11 miles I’ve ever driven. More than once I wondered if I’d gone the wrong way but there really wasn’t any place to make a wrong turn.
Finally I found a gate and a small sign “Cataloochee”. But beyond the gate was , you guessed it. More dirt road. I’d come this far I. I wasn’t going to stop now so Onward!
Finally as I rounded a turn and slid (literally) down the dirt and gravel hill, the road dumped me out of the trees and into a big valley. Several historic buildings were bordering the road. I came to a one lane bridge with not 1 ranger but 3 all parked right at the bridge. I stopped and asked if I’d found the Cataloochee and where were the Elk?
I was assured that I was in the right place but that it was too early. I could cross the bridge and follow the road to the end where there was a trail head and a place to turn around. They said the elk would be around eventually as it got closer to sunset.
I wasn’t looking forward to driving out on that road in the dark but I wasn’t giving up either. I drove to the trail head and parked to wait.