Page 10 - Jan2020
P. 10

dr agon

                                cont inued  f r om  page  9
                                    Still untamed in 2020, the area   was plain  dangerous  in the 1700s.   A case  in
                                    point: In 1756 the British sent soldiers to establish Fort Louden, one of the first
                                    outposts west of the Appalachians.  The natives were not impressed and attacked
                                    the fort in 1760.  The few survivors beat a hasty retreat back to the 18th century
                                    version  of pioneer  civilization. The mountains remained the same.

                                     By the early 1800s, the dirt  track had given way to becoming a rudimentary road,
                                    leading to the settlement of Cades Cove, now a tourist stop in the Great Smoky
                                    Mountain National Park.  At that time the cove was accessed  by Parson's Branch
                Fact oids           Road , an 8 mile  stretch that still exists and still has 19 water ford  crossings that
                                    remind  you of what  travel  used to be like.   Parson's Road is one -way out to the
             Each year since        Dragon; that is , when you can get out.  In 2002 severe flooding damaged the road
            1992 bike and           and it was closed for several years for repair.  It re-opened  in 2014 but is now a
            sport s car usage on    seasonal road, only.
            t he road has
                                      Time  passed on the trail . Even   as  things changed  in the wilderness, some
                                    things didn't change. The Cherokee continued to fight the settlers and this eventually
                                    resulted in one of the sadder chapters  of America's history, the relocation of the
                                    nation  under President Andrew Jackson of Tennessee to Oklahoma, a journey that
             The road is remot e.   became known as the Trail of Tears.  The Dragon  played a part in that, too.  Some
            There is very lit t le   of the Cherokee refused to leave their ancestral lands and used the path  they  knew
            human habit at ion      so well to evade US  Army forces sent to round them up.
            wit hin  20  miles in
                                     Next, the Civil War brought bloodshed to the area, and a civil war grave can still be
            any direct ion.
                                    seen at mile 6.5 on the road. After the war, area landowners began to collect a toll  to
                                    pass over their private land.  Toll Booth Corner  with corrals for livestock and
                                    primitive sleeping arrangements  was established at mile 3.0.  Local lore says that
             Since 1995, t he
                                    travelers who tried to cross without paying  were hanged on the spot.
            average deat h
            count  on  t he Tail  is     In 1913  a town was built to house workers  who built  Cheah Dam in 1917 and
            only  1.5 fat alit ies    Calderwood Dam in 1930. What became Hwy 129 was then  paved for the first time
            per year. You're        around 1934. It remained a local secret , used only infrequently by hunters and
                                    tourists  who were lost , until the 1950s when a mom and pop motel  with a diner
            safer t here t han on
                                    operated  through the '90s.  In 1958 Thunder Road, starring Robert Mitchum  fillmed
            t he freeway.
                                    part of its  action on the road. At about the 4.5 mile marker,  a few remaining wooden
                                    safety posts installed by Hollywood still remain.

                                      In 1992, however, the 20th century caught up , sort of, with Deal's   Gap . That's
                                    when a man named Doug Snavely heard about the road , drove it on his motorcycle,
                                    and made it his business to put the Dragon on the driver's map.  Publishing the
                                    Deal's Gap Hot Lap newsletter, he moved to the mountain community  and started to
                                    promote  the road to other motorcycle  riders. He was shot at , at least once, by
                                    locals who were not so pleased with his efforts.

                                    In 2000 went on line , increasing the road's  popularity.
                                    Hint: Traffic is usually light on week days, heavier during good weather and on
                                    weekends.   When  will you  make the  journey  to best  the    Dragon? ##
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