Question: We are planning a trip this fall to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. When will the foliage might be at its peak? Are there any guidelines on campgrounds?
Answer: The peak foliage season in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, in Tennessee and North Carolina, is usually the last two weeks of October. There are 10 car campgrounds in the park, and between May 15 and Oct. 31, three of them must be reserved through the Mistix ticket service, (800) 365-2267; reservations are accepted starting eight weeks ahead. They are the Cades Cove, on the western end of the park in Tennessee, the most popular campground, in a valley with buildings from the early 19th century; Elkmont, on the Little River, near the town of Gatlinburg, Tenn., and Smokemont, in North Carolina, at about 2,000 feet elevation, with fishing and riding available nearby.These sites are $11 a night. The demand for space in the second half of October is high, and park officials recommend making reservations as early as possible. The nonreserved campgrounds, $6 or $8 a night, often fill up on weekends, according to the park, and getting in by Friday afternoon will allow for some choice.
There are always campsites somewhere in the park, they say, but to get one you may have to drive some distance if you arrive on a Saturday afternoon. Information is available from Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg, Tenn. 37738, (615) 436-1200, or at the park in the Cades Cove and Sugarlands visitor centers, both in Tennessee and the Oconaluftee visitor center, near Cherokee, N.C.
There is also backcountry camping at numerous tent sites; permits, which are required, are available at ranger stations throughout the park and at the visitor centers. Reservations, (615) 436-1231, are required for use of backcountry shelters, situated at 13 points along the Appalachian Trail and at Mount Le Conte, Laurel Gap, Kephart, Scott Gap and Rich Mountain.
Another lodging possibility in the park is Le Conte Lodge, on the top of Mount Le Conte at 6,593 feet, near Gatlinburg. The lodge can be reached only by hiking trail. There are five routes, the shortest five and a half miles and the longest eight, with the elevation increasing 1,000 to 3,300 feet, depending on the trail. Hiking is considered moderate to strenuous.
The lodge, which can accommodate up to 50 guests at $59 a person a night including dinner and breakfast, has no electricity or showers, and guests make use of outhouses with flush toilet. The lodge is fully booked (1993 reservations will be taken starting Oct. 1), but cancellations do occur, and openings are filled on a first come first served basis. The lodge closes Nov. 14 and reopens March 26, 1993. Information: Le Conte Lodge, 250 Apple Valley Road, Sevierville, Tenn. 37862, (615) 429-5704.
Another lodge in the park, the Wonderland Hotel, Box 610, Gatlinburg, Tenn. 37738, (615) 436-5490, can be driven to. It is open until Nov. 15 (and is fully booked except for a few days in early October) and then will not reopen next season. A spokesman for the hotel said the Park Service did not renew its lease.Question: I will be traveling to London and am interested in exploring garden mazes. Is there a guide to them?
Answer: Mazes have existed in Britain for centuries, and with a revival of interest in them, a number of new ones have been opening; last year, designated "The Year of the Maze" in Britain, 14 new ones opened. To mark "The Year of the Maze," the British Tourist Authority put out a listing of about 80 mazes. For a free copy, contact British Tourist Authority, 40 West 57th street, New York, N.Y. 10019, (212) 581-4700.