Around and Around We Go

Trip Start Jun 07, 2013
Trip End Jun 16, 2013

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Flag of United States  , Tennessee
Sunday, June 9, 2013

It was supposed to rain in the afternoon so we decided to hit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the morning and then head into town later to do some inside stuff. However, it didn't start raining until around 4pm, so we ended up spending the day touring a portion of the park. The roads were narrow and winding and, although the speed limit is 20mph, there were times when we were crawling along at 5mph. When you are lucky enough to find a turn-out to take pictures of the scenery, they aren’t very big, so it’s a roll of the dice on whether you’ll actually get a spot or not.

We started out at the Sugarlands Visitor Center, where we stocked the kids up with their National Parks Passport book (there’s a sticker to collect at each National Park you visit and then a date/place stamp at each visitor center you visit within a Park) and a Jr. Park Ranger activity book (filled with nature activities and things to look for in the park). We decided to do the popular Cades Cove loop in the park, but first had to make our way there via Little River Road which is filled with switchbacks. It took a while to get there, but the scenery was gorgeous. The Cades Cove loop is an 11 mile one-way road that winds around a flat valley between the mountains. It’s supposed to be a great place to see wildlife, but all we saw were deer and wild turkey. We did end up in a traffic jam at one point and after it started moving again, we came around a corner and there were several park rangers off to the side of the road. Come to find out, we had just missed a bear sighting! There are several old churches and homesteads to explore around this loop, along with lots of hiking trails.

We stopped off at the Cades Cove Visitor Center for a picnic lunch and to take the Mill Area walking tour. There was a working water wheel, blacksmith shop, barn, and a multitude of other historic buildings. The water wheel was actually being used to grind corn into corn meal. The kids were mesmerized watching it. We then decided to cut over and look at Fontana Dam, but after traversing 10 miles down a gravel road we found out it was a dead end and the road we needed to take was closed. So we turned back around and made the long trek back out the way we came. There aren’t a lot of roads in this huge park, so there’s a lot of backtracking.

Making our way to the Foothills Parkway, we decided to take the less traveled, long way around to the Dam. This is a great road for getting up high and getting panoramic views of the mountains. However, about a quarter of the way into the journey we realized we were still quite a ways out from the dam. It was about 4pm, had started to rain and the kids were getting restless from sitting in the car practically all day, so we decided to turn around and hit the Dixie Stampede dinner show. Of course, when I called for tickets it was sold out already. Instead we went to Calhoun’s for a barbeque dinner. Eh, it was so-so. By the time we were done it was pouring out, so we headed back to the cabin and called it a night.

We spent about 7 hours in the park, only saw a small portion of it, and didn’t get out much to do any actual hiking. So now we have to better plan how to see the most of the park, while still getting out more and doing some hiking. There are several waterfalls in the park, and the hikes to get to them can range anywhere from 2 to 8 miles roundtrip. The many hiking trails are any mileage you could want, but since we have the kids with us, we probably won’t hit any that are longer than 3 miles roundtrip.
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grandma on

Have a great time. Wish I was there with you. Love you.

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