After Walt Disney World we drove up to the Great Smoky Mountains and the southern bit of the Blue Ridge Parkway. In the afternoon the haze does make the distant mountains appear bluish. An amazing statistic is that this national park by far is the #1 most visited park in the country- far beyond the Grand Canyon or Yosemite. While it is nice, it is not nearly as dramatic as most of the western national parks, but as we drove through the adjacent towns of Galtinburg and Pigeon Forge it made more sense. There are no less than 15 go-kart tracks, at least 30 mini-golf courses and dozens of pancake houses. Don't forget Dollywood and uncountable numbers of dinner shows and the fact that this is the only mountain range in all of southeast US. Most of the visitors come in fall to see the changing colors.
Next up is Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. At 357 miles of known contiguous cave it is the longest in the world. We toured about 7 or 8 of those miles in 3 different tours. The best by far was the Wild Cave tour where they take you through undeveloped sections of the cave and tight squeezes about 10 inches high. This cave is notable for its lack of stalactites and stalagmites so looks a lot different from Carlsbad but no less impressive.