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We told you on Monday about the massive rock slide that has closed Interstate 40 near the North Carolina / Tennessee border. (Note – All photos are from the Asheville Citizen-Times). Just a few weeks ago, we shared our pictures of driving through the gorge coming home from the Siberian Husky Club of America National Specialty.
Aerial view of the slide area – Pigeon River Gorge
You can see how big the boulders are next to the truck in the right lane
The first problem to be solved was how to get equipment to the top of the slide (for obvious safety reasons, you can’t start at the bottom of the pile). Building a road to the top is a possibility, but long, expensive and buried in red tape since all roads in a National Forest require a environmental study. Helicopters could lift equipment to the top as well, but that still is a very complex way to do it. They have settled on an approach to hoist equipment to the top. You can read the details here. Best guess at the moment is that the road will be closed for three months.
Sadly, we are used to this in the area. I-40 itself has been closed several times since it was opened in 1968. July 1997, a rock slide closed the interstate for 2 months and one in March 1985 closed the interstate for almost 3 weeks. We also had the interstate closed for a period in 2004 when the road bed underneath collapsed into the Pigeon River during the hurricanes of that summer.
This stretch of highway is very isolated with only a few exits that connect into the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Pisgah National Forest, or the handful of private homes in the area. Detours are complex and somewhat lengthy, though we do now have “Future” I-26 open to the north of Asheville creating an interstate option. But that still adds an hour to an east-west trip.
As we mentioned Monday, this entire area depends heavily on tourism for its economy. The Leaf season is almost complete (this will be probably be the last big weekend) and Ghost Town in the Sky closes after this weekend, but ski season should start very soon. Cataloochee Ski almost opened last week, but delayed because of our warm temperatures. These two are my neighbors (along with Cataloochee Ranch, which I have mentioned many times on the blog), so I pay special attention to them, but we are really hoping for the best for all of the tourist attractions in our area during the important Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday stretches.
If you are in our part of the country, please come visit this winter. We really appreciate the support!
And, by the way, we might be very comfortable around the rocks, but we want to be clear. The Herd did not cause this one!
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