Great Smoky Mountains National Park – 4/18/14 – 4/21/14

Great Smoky Moutnains National Park, Clingmans

Great Smoky Moutnains National Park, Clingmans Dome (highest point in TN)

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.

Univ. of Tennessee

Neyland Stadium, Univ. of Tennessee

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!

Our hike

Our hike followed a beautiful river – notice the Rhodies

Going through caves

Part of the hike involved going through this cave

The Appalachian Trail winds through the park

The Appalachian Trail winds through the park – only 1,972 miles to Maine

The parks spans into both TN and NC

The Park spans into both TN and NC

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!

4 thoughts on “Great Smoky Mountains National Park – 4/18/14 – 4/21/14

  1. dee dee parker

    HI,, theSmoky Mtns . can be difficult to enjoy in the fall as there as so many people there. Our experience was a bad one as towing through tere meant no place to stop, the visitor Centoers were filled with people using the RV only places for cars, and also in the viewing places. I asked the Rangers about this and they said there was nothing they could do. My thought was “Well, you DO have guns!” Also if they wuld fine the illegally parked ones like they do if you use a handicapped zone it would help.
    We couldn’t do anything abut it as we were on our way from the Outer Banks to Denver. We would not have done it otherwise. I got out and strolled through one viewpoint while Bill drove SLOOOWLY and blocked traffic…just too bad for them!
    We also went through Gatlinburg…a horrible mass of tourists and attractions, almost unbelieveable in scope.
    I envy you tihis trip while you can do all the hiking, etc. and also would love to go to the Derby.
    Continue to enjoy this all!

    1. Mike Post author

      Thanks DeeDee! We did drive through Gatlinburg, a serious tourist destination for sure. Looking forward to the Derby next weekend.

  2. Lonna P Cameron

    Your trip sounds good, somewhat different from ours. We loved Gatlinburg, Knoxville, and Sevierville, course a lot different from over 20 years ago! There was a restaurant in Sevierville called the Applewood Farmhouse and the best chicken dinner, Corn fritters, and applecake pie, Delicious!! Not sure if it is still there or not but was sure good.. Enjoy the town of Nashville and keep on enjoying!!

    1. Mike Post author

      Yes Lonna, it is a bit different today, that area is now very commercial, tons of restaurants, shops, malls, and traffic. It was a holiday weekend so it was busy, but I can’t imagine how crazy that area is during the summer, glad we were there in a somewhat off period.


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