The drive south from Claytor Lake was short and uneventful, which is always nice. We arrived in Sevierville in early afternoon and spent the rest of the day reviewing tourist attraction flyers and local area magazines as we considered our options for the next few days. For a family, there are many ways to keep the kids excited in an area like this. Between Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, and Knoxville, attractions abound. Tram/chair lifts, several amusement parks, tacky evening musicals involving dancing and singing pirates or singing hillbillies, water parks, go carts, trampoline parks, lumberjack feuds, and even indoor snow tubing are available. There are even some animatronic singing chickens if that floats your boat. But, we are two old farts so here’s what we ended up doing.
Tuesday was a very soggy day, with heavy downpours until late afternoon, so we looked for some indoor options. We headed into Gatlinburg to see the Great Smoky Easter Arts & Crafts Show, which we had seen advertised when we arrived, only to find that it didn’t start until the next day. Doh!
So we started wandering the streets of Gatlinburg in the rain and mist and eventually found a wine tasting shop and a cider tasting shop to keep us entertained. We ended up buying a couple bottles of the wine, but none of the cider.
I would have bought the t-shirt shown below, but the store was closed.
Wednesday we headed west into Knoxville to spend time in the Art Museum and the Botanical Gardens, and that evening we enjoyed some live music from a trio of guitar players at the Listening Room Café in Pigeon Forge. Overall it was a nice day.
On Thursday we headed into the Smoky Mountains in light rain, trusting that the weather-guessers would be correct today and that the rain would end by noon. Fortunately for us, they were right.
We have been to the east-side of the Smokies before, but we have not been to the southern parts of this National Park. After an 80 minute drive, we arrived at the border of the park and commenced the Cades Cove Loop. This consisted of a narrow, slow, one-way drive through a valley that used to house several homesteads until the park was created in 1934 and the families were evicted. Several of the old houses and out-buildings are still standing. The scenery was great, and we did see many turkeys, a couple deer (AKA long legged rodents), and a mama bear with two cubs. The bears were too far away to be much more than a trio of black bumps in a field so we did not bother with pictures, though there were many other people lining the roads to watch. We stopped for lunch at the half-way point at the Visitor Center as the sky started to open up and the sun appeared. Here’s a video that another person created of the loop (1+ hour long, but no talking).
After completing the loop, we headed north to Clingman’s Dome, which is the highest point in the park and also for the state of Tennessee. The road leading there was narrow and wound through many switchbacks with an occasional pull-out area. I really missed my old Daytona Turbo as I went through the curves. Once we arrived at the parking area, it was another 1/2 mile hike up a steep trail to reach the summit. The view from the top was very much worth the trip and the short hike. Though chilly (45 deg) and windy, the view was spectacular and the pictures below can only provide a brief sense of the panorama (Note: to view a larger sized image, right click on the picture and choose “Open image in new tab”). We passed a few Appalachian Trail backpackers and I tried to keep my jealousy from showing.
Friday was a quiet day at the campground, getting ready for the next stage of the journey. On to Nashville!