We made the short drive, only about 3 hours, over the hills to Knoxville, TN. We checked into the Riverside RV Park in Sevierville, about 30 minutes east of town. We chose this park for one big reason, only about a 30-40 minute drive to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The RV park was nice and open, and not very crowded, still off-season for many areas.
Our first venture was to downtown Knoxville and to the Univ. of Tennessee. I had read/seen/heard many times that their college football stadium rivaled the UW in beauty, as it was located on a river, much like Husky stadium is located on Lake Washington. As we drove up, I did not get that feeling at all. It is right next to the river, but it is totally enclosed, and there are no river views unless you are on the top row looking out, somewhat of a disappointment. We also stumbled upon a softball game in progress (shout out to Coach Pflu!). We wandered around town for a while, and found a couple of nice little tiny micro-neighborhoods that looked inviting, but for the most part we both thought that the town just felt old. Lots of really old looking brick buildings, not a lot of energy, just a little blah. Plus it was raining, so not a great day for walking around.
On Easter Sunday, we headed out to explore the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We thought maybe it would be less crowded, but many others had the same idea. The weather had shifted and it was a gorgeous spring day. We stopped at the ranger station and got a good idea on a couple hikes. Our first stop was an observation tower at Clingman’s Dome, (highest point in the state of TN) a half-mile journey up to the deck. After a fairly steep ascent, we arrived to a 360-degree view of the Smoky’s. Again, a little underwhelming, especially since we have some massive peaks at home in the NW, and we have visited the Rockies in both the USA and Canada, but the Smoky’s are the oldest mountain range in the country and they have eroded a lot over the centuries. We were just on the cusp of spring opening up all the trees, and the views seemed a bit hazy that day, so it does not show well in pictures, but you can’t control mother nature. Actually, we learned that is why they are called the Smoky Mountains, because there always seems to be a haze or smoke surrounding them. Our next stop was a 4-5 mile hike along the Alum Cave Trail. This was very cool, as we started out winding through 12-15 foot high Rhododendrons, unfortunately not yet blooming, for the first mile or so. Eventually we got above the low canopy of Rhodies, and into a bit of elevation with peak-a-boo views through the trees at many of the neighboring mountains (hills). We returned to the car, both a lot more tired than we thought we should be, but this was the first time we have been at any elevation in almost 6 months, and it hit us pretty hard. We headed home for a nice steak dinner and some Abracadabra wine from Brian Carter and slept well!
The next day was one for shopping and projects. Traci has been on the hunt for a dress to wear to the Kentucky Derby, and she thinks she finally found one at the Outlet mall that was nearby. I spent much of the morning doing little projects, organizing, and the little maintenance stuff that is never ending. It is funny how we have accumulated so much more than we left with, and the challenge is now finding room to store things. At home, we would take a huge load to Goodwill, but here we are trying to make sure what we do buy is needed, and will be able to be stuffed somewhere into our home on wheels. We head to Nashville next, and then a quick jaunt over to St. Louis, before our trip to the Derby!