Skip to main content

Weekend at Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Early in September, Maggie and I took a weekend getaway to Great Smoky Mountain National Park.   Neither of us have ever been there and we both wanted to have a getaway weekend before really getting ready for the arrival of Colton in January.

For the entire set on flickr head here.

We arrived at the park mid-to-late morning on Saturday, and our first stop was the Ocanuluftee Visitors Center on US 441 at the main North Carolina Entrance to the park.  At the visitors center, there is the Mountain Farm Museum which is pretty much a living example of how rural farm life in the Smokies was like in the late 1800 - early 1900s.

IMG_5981

From there, it was the long and winding - yet very scenic drive up Newfound Gap Road (US 441) to Clingman's Dome.

IMG_5997

IMG_6002

At Clingman's Dome, we registered our first hike in our Hiking the Smokies log book.  The log book can be purchased for only $1.00 at any of the park's Visitors Centers - and is worth it.  After 100, 250, 500 miles logged.  Take your log to a visitor center, and you receive a mileage pin.  They also have a Hiking the Smokies for Families log book that reward families at 10, 25, 40 and 50 miles.  We were both very excited that we will be able to do this with Colton in later years!  For the record our Hiking the Smokies log is at just over five miles from the time we spent at the park.  A long way to go to get to the 100 mile pin!

Clingman's Dome is the highest point in Tennessee. The funny thing is you have to park in North Carolina to reach it.  The 1/2 mile or so path - because of its popularity - is paved, but it is extremely steep!  At the top of the trail, you meet the Appalachian, and also on the North Carolina side Mountains to Sea, Trail.

Appalachian Trail Journey (Black And White)

So technically, Maggie and I added about 1/10th of a mile to our overall Appalachian Trail total of just about zero.  But this was Maggie's first time on the Appalachian Trail which she was very excited about!

You never know what the weather will be at the top of Clingman's Dome - and at this point it was extremely foggy!  The observation tower in the photo below you could make out one minute but the next moment it would be shrouded in a very thick blanket of fog.

IMG_6014

This gives you an example of how foggy it was!

IMG_6022

Newfound Gap - our next stop - it was nowhere near as foggy.  And we took in some great views as well.

IMG_6033

IMG_6042

The AT also crosses at Newfound Gap.  I don't think these folks are "Thru Hikers" but I'm sure they'd love to make it all the way to Maine.

IMG_6050

Only 1972.0 miles to go!

From there, it was a picnic lunch and then over to Cades Cove.  It was then when the rain joined us for the rest of the day.  A steady shower/drizzle was part our two - three hour time at Cades Cove but it still didn't disappoint.

IMG_6052

Standing Tall

IMG_6068

Cades Cove might be the most popular area of the park.  The expansive valley surrounded by the Smoky Mountains can be explored by an eleven mile one-way loop that open up to endless possibilites whether it is expansive views, wildlife photography or hiking.  From May through September, Cades Cove Loop is only open to bicycles and foot traffic every Wednesday and Saturday morning from sunrise to 10 am.  Bike riding the loop is on our to do list.

When you travel to and visit the Smokies, everyone seems to ask "Did you see any black bears?"  And on this rainy Saturday, we didn't expect to see much.  (We were already surprised to see the horses and buck earlier).  But just after exiting the Cades Cove Visitor Center, traffic came to a sudden halt and moved slowly.  Lo and behold, high up in the tree in the steady rain was a black bear cub.  And everyone was stopping to take a look.  Including us!

Black Bear

Unfortunately, the rain does not make for the greatest of photographs.  But we did see what the park is famous for, and we were asked if we saw any at our lodging that night and elsewhere.  This would not be the only time we were fortunate enough to see the wildlife a National Park is famous for this year.

But possibly the best part of our trip was our lodging for the evening.  Maggie and I stayed at a lovely Bed & Breakfast - The Quail Ridge Inn.  Owned and operated by George and Anita Brewer, the quaint log cabin inn is just amazing.  Located outside of the hustle and bustle of Gatlinburg, the ridge top inn offers outstanding views, yet still is close enough to head into Gatlinburg for dinner or to spend the day at the park.

The inn has only three rooms and the hospitality of George and Anita is just top notch! They really make you feel welcome and part of the family.  We wish we could have stayed longer!

The rain cleared to clear blue skies on Sunday morning.

IMG_6121

After a hearty breakfast at the inn, we headed back to the park to take a ride on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.  The drive of course offered the now-standard stunning views as we headed to the Grotto Falls Trailhead.

IMG_6129

We also learned that the earlier that you reach your desire destination the more likely you'll find a parking space and less traffic along the hiking trail.

IMG_6131

On day, we'll head to LeConte Summit.

IMG_6163

IMG_6196
Grotto Falls.

We exited the park and headed home via the Foothills Parkway.  The short stretch of the unfinished scenic highway from Cosby to Interstate 40 - only 5.6 miles in length - affords great views similar to that of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

IMG_6213

IMG_6215

IMG_6220

IMG_6224

We both really enjoyed our weekend in the Smokies, and we can't wait to go back again.  There are so many things to do and a list of outdoor pursuits long enough to cover at least five or six return trips.  Rainbow Falls, Mount LeConte, Hiking the AT, Abrams Falls and more are just part of our 'must see and do' list!



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

California State Route 88 the Carson Pass Highway

Between 2016 and 2017 I drove the majority of California State Route 88 from CA 99 in Stockton east over Carson Pass to CA 89.






CA 88 is a 122 mile state highway from CA 99 in Stockton east over the Sierra Nevada Range to the continuation route Nevada State Route 88 at the Nevada State Line.  CA 88 is known as the Carson Pass Highway.  Carson Pass at 8,574 feet above sea level along CA 88 is an all-year Mountain Pass in the Sierras and on occasion designated as Temporary US Route 50 when conditions are bad over Echo Summit. 

CA 88 was not one of the original Signed State Highways.  CA 8 was the original designation over Carson Pass which can be seen on the 1938 California State Highway Map.

1938 State Highway Map

CA 8 was substantially different than CA 88 west of Jackson as it largely follows the current route of CA 26.  From US 99E in 1934 and later US 50/99 in 1936 from Stockton CA 8 originally used the following route to reach Jackson:

-  Legislative Route 5 from US 99 in Stockton …

California State Route 49; The Golden Chain Highway (CA 41 north to CA 16)

Last year I traveled California State Route 49 from CA 16 north to CA 89 in one continuous trip.  This year and in early 2016 I traveled the rest of CA 49 south to CA 41 in Oakhurst.  This blog post consists of photos of the highway from those time periods and historical information about the southern part of CA 49.


This blog post is meant to be a continuation of the previous one I did regarding CA 49 from CA 16 north to CA 89.  A link to said blog post can be found below:

California State Route 49; The Golden Chain Highway (CA 16 north to CA 89)

As stated in the previous blog post; CA 49 is an approximately 295 mile long north/south highway which traverses the traditional Gold Rush Country of California.  While I intend to discuss county level historical alignments of CA 49 as I did in the first blog post I thought this would be a good place to discuss the backstory of highway.

CA 49 was first signed in 1934 along a series of Legislative Route Numbers ("LRN") that were large…

Caliente-Bodfish Road/Kern County Road 483

Back in 2016 I took Caliente-Bodfish Road south towards California State Route 58 while leaving the Sierra Nevada Range after looking for the town site of Old Kernville.






Caliente-Bodfish Road is also known as Kern County Road 483 which I believe is an internal designation for mountainous roadways within the Sierra Nevada Range.  Caliente-Bodfish Road begins at Kern Canyon Road (Old California State Route 178) at the southern extent of Bodfish and climbs over the southern most extent of the Sierra Nevada Range approximately 35 miles to Bena Road near Caliente.  Caliente-Bodfish Road is a full two-lane road despite traversing some narrow terrain in the Sierras.  The high point on Caliente-Bodfish Road appeared to be near 4,000 feet above sea-level and I would estimate that there grades as high as 10% in places.

South of Bodfish Caliente-Bodfish Road ascends quickly above the community on a series of switchbacks.  There is no official overlook but there is a hell of a view of Bodfish an…