By Mike Steely
If you love to get out and go driving, especially while there is still some autumn foliage, there are a few places in our region that you can go… but can’t get anywhere beyond there.
Until the Foothills Parkway segment was completed from Townsend to Wears Valley that park highway was a dead end atop one of the knobs. Opening it up brought a great drive with wonderful scenery along the Smoky Mountains but, alas, the Foothills Parkway between there and Cosby has yet to be built so you dead end in Wears Valley.
There are a lot of ferry roads in our area that no longer have ferry service. Only one continues to operate and that’s Helm’s Ferry at the Union County Boat Dock on the Powell River. Every other road marked as a “ferry” road doesn’t access a river crossing by ferry. Some, like Washington Ferry, now cross a river or lake by bridge. Some don’t cross at all and you’ll find a dead end where the road disappears into the water.
Take for instance the former crossings at Wright, Blythe, Huffaker, Solway, Ruggles or Gallaher Ferry Roads. The Blythe Ferry was a historic crossing where the last forced removal of the Cherokee took place and is now a Trail of Tears park.
Another “You Can’t Get There From Here” route, and possibly the best known, is the “Road To Nowhere” that begins in Bryson City, NC, and climbs the Smokies for six miles or so of beautiful driving then ends abruptly at an underpass. Just beyond the underpass you can walk what was to be the route that eventually would end up in Tennessee. It’s an interesting side trip for anyone in that area.
If you’re interested in visiting the Road to Nowhere you can take I-40 toward Asheville and turn south at Canton on Highway 74 towards Bryson City. In the town look for Highway 1379 and take it north into that portion of the Great Smoky Mountain Park. You’ll eventually end up at the abandoned highway tunnel or underpass. If you’re up to it you can then walk the Lakeshore Trailhead all the way to the headwaters of Fontana Lake.
While you’re in the Bryson City area you might want to drive just north to Cherokee and visit with real Cherokee Native Americans or visit the casino there.
Coming back you may want to take Highway 441 or Highway 28 to Fontana Dam and then Highway 129 to Chilhowee, Tellico Lake and on to Maryville and back to Knoxville.
It’s a good day outing or an easier overnight, just a couple hours from Knoxville. Take your camera; you may catch a photo of a bear, fall colors, or the end of “The Road to Nowhere.”