Ride the Peak

Trip Start Mar 07, 1997
Trip End Dec 25, 1998

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Flag of United States  , Tennessee
Friday, October 31, 1997

Go with me? Autumn color is running a bit behind schedule. But prognosticators suggest this is the weekend for well-hued hills. We're headed for Cades Cove and the Smokies, even if it's raining.

If it's not, we may add a horse and carriage ride, for lazed-back outdoor indulgence. The moderately adventurous can saddle up for a guided trek through the meadow. And those who relish trails with a hundred-mile view can go mountaintop astride a (hopefully) sure-footed steed.

Where do we find these riding opportunities? The Double M Ranch, near Louisville, has a couple of cabins for rent, and a variety of things to do when you're not in them. Owner Mike Millsaps (aka Bo) will give you riding lessons if you need them. If you've already earned your John Wayne badge, he has 3,000 acres of tall timber you can explore on your own, and another 40,000 acres that go into mountain territory.

What kind of trail grub do you think this modern-day rancher cooks for the overnighters? "I make a terrific chicken stir-fry," says Bo, "it's low-fat!" He also promises potatoes roasted in the fire, and if you ask in advance, you might get beans.

Horseback trips start at $35 for two hours; go to $155 for all day/overnight. He has four-wheelers for rent too; call ahead.

Beyond the Double M, we cut through the break in Chilhowee Mountain, drive to Townsend, and follow the curving road into Cades Cove. "We're located between the campground and the picnic area," says Bonnie Campbell, referring to Cades Cove Riding Stables, where everyone age six and up gets their own horse. The guided gentle rides take you through woods and ferns and splashing streams in a 1-hour trip; it costs $15 per person.

The carriage rides are $7 each; and if you call ahead of time, Bonnie can put together a hayride for you! All this is weather permitting, of course.

But if it does rain? Let the windshield wipers take care of that as you slow-drive the 11-mile road that circles the valley known as Cades Cove. There are 19 tour stops along the way, giving a historical perspective of life in the mountains. Not much has changed; the deer still graze the fields.

Whichever trail you choose, take your camera and capture the color. That will make good memories for the winter days ahead. See you there.

Louisville and Cades Cove, Tennessee
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