Vacation: Day 10 Heaven in the Hill

That day came.  Time to leave our cabin hanging on the mountain.  We had a great week in the Smoky Mountains, but we have to return home to make money to pay for it all.  Why does everything cost money?

We wake up early and start moving around the place.  We packed the night before, so it’s a matter of getting things into the car.  Then we clean up after ourselves.  One last time, we look out at the mountains from our porch.  I know I’ll miss this.

We lock up the cabin and drive down the mountain.  We head toward Pigeon Forge for breakfast.  The Log Cabin Pancake House is highly recommended for its country ham and gravy breakfast.  Rich gets that and I just get the standard bacon and eggs.  Oh yeah, I get the grits too.  I am in the south, you know.

With both our tanks and the car’s tank full, it is time to make our way out of town and up the road to Louisville.  We get to Dollywood Blvd and turn right.  We get out to Veteran’s Blvd.  This is a new road that gets you out of town without having to go down the main drag.  Now why didn’t we hear about this last Saturday when we came into town!  At least it didn’t take us an hour to get out this time.

We drive to I-75 and head north.  The drive is pretty and the traffic isn’t too bad.  We get to Rt 150 in Livingston, KY and head over to Bardstown.  Oh yeah, it’s time to do another distillery on the Bourbon Trail.  The drive is beautiful through a very rural part of Kentucky.  We go through Perryville and so want to stop and see the Civil War battlefield.  But time is short.  We move on to our destination.

Just outside of Bardstown, we go to the Heaven Hill Distillery.  We arrive just in time for one of the Deluxe Tour.  This is a walking tour.  That’s great.  After hours in the car, walking is a nice change of pace.  We walk out of the Bourbon Heritage Center and across the road to the Y barrel house.  We hear the spiel about barrels, bourbon, and bottling.  The barrel house smells so good.  All the wood, time, and bourbon just create the right aroma.

We wonder through the ricks of barrels.  We get to smell the bourbon still in an actual barrel while it sits in the rick.  The line of the tour snakes past and everyone walks away with a smile on their faces.  At the end of the tour in the barrel house, we see a line of trophy barrel that represent high points in production.  The latest addition is the one millionth barrel.  It joins others in the front rick and will continue to be joined by others while production continues.

Outside the barrel, Alan (our tour guide) points out the collection of large and small barrels that make up a comical figure.  He calls the figure Bucky the bucking barrel bull.  The sign beside him says, “No bull, just bourbon.”  Bucky doesn’t look like a character, but he is supposed to be one.

We head back to the Heritage Center and conclude the tour.  No, wait, we have to do the tasting!  We go into Parker Beam Tasting Barrel.  Parker is the current distiller and his son, Craig, is the assistant distiller.  That is Beam you see on the end of their name.  Beam as in Jim Beam.  When you are one of five sons, you sometimes have to go out and find a real job somewhere else.  Fortunately, it was just right down the road from home.

The bar in the Tasting Barrel is a full circle and we sit in pub chairs at the bar.  Each place is set with two snifters.  Yeah, they only let us taste two of the several brands they produce.  However, they are the top end of the products.  Evan Williams Single Barrel is in one snifter while the other holds Elijah Craig 12 Year.

Alan takes us through a short class on drinking and enjoying bourbon.  I take a small sip on the Evan Williams Single Barrel.  It’s not bad.  I’m the DD so I don’t really drink anything.  I pass my snifters over to Rich to finish up.  The guy sitting next to me leans out to see me push the snifters to Rich.  I think he was a little bit jealous that Rich was getting extra.

We complete our tour and purchases at the store.  We drive through Bardstown to get back to I-65.  I look around to see where we should stay when we come back to complete Rich’s Bourbon Trail passport.  He has three more distilleries to visit to say he did them all.  We already did Jim Beam some years back, but that was before Rich had his passport.

We stop for gas before getting on the highway.  Rich comes out from getting coffee shaking his head.  The clerk tried to rip him off for $2.  That is crazy.  We head down the road and back to the Marriot in downtown Louisville.  I pull into the garage and we get out to gather our stuff.  Rich almost screams that he lost his phone.  I think maybe he just drops it and it fell into the back.  We tear the car apart with no luck.

We check in and go up to our room.  I get the number for the gas station and call to see if he left it there.  No phone was turned in.  Stealing a phone doesn’t work these days.  There are locked up and the cards are impossible to get service on for a programmed phone.  Rich worries about it and goes down to check the car again.  No luck though.

I take a shower and hear Rich says he’s going down to check the car one more time.  Poor guy.  I hear him return in triumph.  He had forgotten to look under the car next to ours.  There it was.  Now he could relax.  Time for dinner.

We walk down to Main Street to check out the restaurants in the buildings that held the bars where I used to hang out.  Patrick O’Shea’s is an Irish bar right next to where my favorite bar was.  We sit near the door and have beers and food.  It’s pretty good.  I get to have a Bourbon Barrel Stout from Bluegrass Brewing Company.  It is wonderful and very easy to drink.

After dinner, I was to look around the building.  We talk to the hostess who explains about the renovations.  It took about 4 years and a lot of money.  This building used to house one of the first bars I snuck into at an early age.  I didn’t sneak in to drink, but to dance.  That’s all we really wanted to do.  I have some good memories along Main Street.  The building is beautiful.  Lots of open space, wood, and brick.  These buildings were built in the 1800s and have seen their share of hard times.

It’s time to wander down to Fourth Street.  The street is picked up for the season.  The stage is gone and the outdoor bars are gone.  The restaurants still have their sidewalk tables and their doors open.  It’s nice out here.

Rich wants to go down to the Seelbach Hotel and check out the bar again.  This is one of the locations we hit back on our Urban Bourbon Trail days.  The bar is nice, but not what Rich expected.  He wants to check it out and see if it really wasn’t that fancy.  It’s not.  There are a few people there sitting along the wide bar.

Back out on the street, we turn toward the hotel.  We walk by the Visitor’s Bureau with their sign showing the 5 acceptable pronunciations for Louisville.  Rich takes my picture with it.  Now it’s time to hit Blu.  Blu is the bar at the Marriott.  This is one of the big reasons to stay here again.  We take a seat at the bar.  Looking at the menu, I quickly spot a possible drink for me, Kentucky Peach Tea.  It is sweet tea, peach schnaps, and bourbon.  Rich orders a bourbon neat with a side of ice.

We sit back and watch the football game that is on the TV overhead.  It’s quiet and we sip our drinks in pure contentment.  If you have to end vacation, this is one way to do it.  We talk to the bartender about the toppers on the Blanton’s bottle.  Apparently, there are 7 different toppers showing a jockey in different poses in the act of winning a race.  Each one represents a different letter that spells out Blanton.  The last N is the victory sign overhead.  Cool, but to collect them all requires a lot of money.

We continue our wandering and go upstairs.  It’s time for bed and I’m sure I’ll sleep well tonight.

The next morning, we check out and head to breakfast.  We drive up the highway to my hometown and find a booth at the Waffle House.  It’s busy.  The staff at the grill are talking loud, laughing and shouting orders.  It’s fun to listen and watch everyone.  I know I look around at the faces and wonder if I know anyone.  It’s been so long since I’ve seen anyone here.

On the road again, we hit rain when we get close to Chicago.  It’s on to home and into the arms (or paws) of the one’s we love.  Rich goes in the door and Sascha comes into the kitchen.  She looks at Rich and then does a double take.  She can’t believe it’s her daddy.  She dances and is very excited.  It’s good to be home again.

Last shot of the mountains in the morning.  Sorry to leave it.
Last shot of the mountains in the morning. Sorry to leave it.
Trophy barrels in the rick.
Trophy barrels in the rick.

 

Rich out front of Y Barrel House with Bucky.
Rich out front of Y Barrel House with Bucky.

Vacation Day 9 What falls?

Can it really be our last day in the Smokies?  Like all good things, it can’t go on forever.  We sat around planning our hikes and activities for the last day.  Rich decided he wanted to see one more corner of the park.  We use the last of our goodies to fix breakfast and then pack up to go to Cosby.

First, we have to have gas.  I pull in the Shell station to find that everyone else in Gatlinburg needs gas.  I pull around to an empty pump at the same time that a motorcycle comes into the station.  I want that pump!  I pull forward, which blocks him from getting to the pump easily.  I stare him down and he moves on.  I pull up and jump out.  Darn, I forgot my credit card.  Guess Rich will have to pay.  We top off the tank, clean the windows, and head out for the day.

We take the Rt 321 out of Gatlinburg and head north.  As we approach our first stop, we see a full-sized bear run across the road behind another car.  That’s the third bear we saw this trip.

The road takes us around the rim of the park on the northeast side.  We turn into the entrance to Ramsey Cascades.  The road winds around beside the Little Pigeon River and through a forest.  We arrive at the area where the creek comes down from Ramsey Cascades.  The water pours down over the rocks and gushes out into the river.  It is a beautiful white water effect.  We take a few pictures here.

We drive up the road as far as it takes us.  The parking lot there has a few cars in it.  We park, suit up with our packs, and head down the service road that is the first part of the trail.  We take the branch to the left and it quickly becomes a dirt path with roots.  This is the Porter Trail that runs up to the backcountry campground.  About 1.8 miles into the trail is the Fern Falls.  We aren’t going the full path up to the campground.  Or that was the original plan

The trail starts out pretty good.  It has some up and downs with some rocks and roots.  Then we come to the bridge.  This is the longest log bridge in the entire park.  Rich thinks it is about 30 feet long.  It’s also about 15 feet over the raging Little Pigeon River.  I’m afraid of heights and it is enough to scare me.  Rich goes over the bridge without looking back.  Now he waits expecting me to waltz over the logs.  I start over, but I go slowly, one step at a time and stop along the way.  I make it over in about 10 minutes.

The trail leaves the river and starts climbing up the mountain.  It is full of rocks and very narrow.  I start whining about now.  I’m not sure I can really make it up the hill.  My legs are tired.  But hey, I ‘m not huffing and puffing yet.  OK, I might make it.

We continue to climb and climb.  We cross a small creek.  We march on.  Around the corner of the mountain, we run into three young guys coming down from the campground. Each of them carries a large amount of equipment for a couple of days up there.  Rich asks if they saw Fern Falls up ahead.  They say they didn’t run into anything.

Rich and one of the guys look over the map to try and pinpoint where it might be.  I ask one of the guys about their trip to the campground.  He tells me about the storm from last night.  I forgot about that.  They apparently had a tarp over their tents and just hunker down for the night.  They seem fairly dry now.  He tells me they are moving locations and heading down to another backcountry campground.  Brave is all I can think.

We determine that the falls were actually back at the stream that we crossed back down the path.  I knew I was going too far!  We go back the .1 miles to the creek.  As we approached the creek, we could hear the falls.  I didn’t hear them from the other side of the creek.

Fern Falls are a beautiful bridal falls that comes down from the mountain and fills the creek.  We take quite a few pictures.  I rest on the quiet side of the creek.  How can you not hear it from this side?  It still amazes me that it’s quiet.

Now it’s time to head back down the mountain.  We run into a group of four people on their way to the falls.  We stop them and explain to look left when you get to the creek or you’ll miss it.  They laugh.  I explain that the falls are quiet from this side.

We continue down the trail and meet people all along the way.  It was so quiet with no one on the way up.  Then we arrive at the log bridge again.  Oh my gosh, I must go back across it.  I give Rich my hiking stick and then I have both hands free to walk back.  It’s easier this time and I can look up and not concentrate on my feet.

We meet a couple of ladies at the bridge.  They ask us to warn the older lady that we will meet later about the bridge and that they advise her to wait at the bridge and not to cross it.  We convey this information when we meet up with the lady and the gentleman helping up the trail.  We talk for a few minutes and then get back underway.

Along the way, I see a snake on the trail all stretched out in the sun.  Rich walks right by it.  It does look like a stick.  The head appears strange and I’m thinking someone put a hiking stick on its head.  I poke it with my stick and the snake coils up, ready to strike.  It’s so small, so I don’t think he can really do any harm.

We go down the trail to the car.  From here, we head to the picnic area and have our lunch.  After lunch, we drive back down to the main road and drive out to Cosby.  This entrance to the park is small.  There is a picnic area, campground, and a nature trail.  The trail is .7 miles that winds around three or four creeks that converge in the area.  It’s like a rain forest that had been a settlement of two or three cabins.  We read the pamphlet about the area and continued to walk the trail.  It is nice and cool in the forest.  We cross a log bridge and I see a guy down the stream fly fishing.  How cool.

By this time, I’m tired.  Time to go to the car and drive back to the cabin.  Rich lets me stop at a woodcarving shop to look at bear statues.  I really want one, but not for the price.  Oh well, I did get to look.

We go back to the cabin and shower.  Dinner tonight is at the Smoky Mountain Trout House again.  It was really good and I know what I’m getting.  We arrive and find we are the second couple there.  Remember, there are only 10 or 12 tables.  If you don’t arrive early, you have to wait.

Mary, our waitress from the other night, looks surprised to see us back.  I don’t why.  The food is good.  Rich orders the Dilly Trout and I order the Eisenhower Trout.  Both are great.  We enjoyed our dinner.  I highly recommend this place if you are in Gatlinburg

It’s time to go back to the cabin and pack.  We get everything together and have it all ready to move to the car in the morning.  We happen to step out on the porch just as the sunset is shining over the mountain and lighting up the clouds with a rosy glow.  It’s beautiful, but only lasts a few minutes.  We’ve probably missed this over the week that we’ve been here.  Darn!

We decide to look up the snake that we saw.  It comes out pretty quickly that we saw a Dekay’s Brown snake.  The marking on the head is one of its trademarks.  It’s not poisonous either.  Then, it’s time for bed.

So during our week in the park, we have the following animal count:

3 bears

1 coyote

1 doe and her fawn

4 wild turkeys

1 yellow frog

1 Dekay’s Brown Snake

Handful of squirrels

More birds than we can count

My last morning shot of Mt Leconte from the porch.
My last morning shot of Mt Leconte from the porch.
This is the longest log bridge in the Smoky Mt Park.  Scary!
This is the longest log bridge in the Smoky Mt Park. Scary!
Nice shot of the Little Pigeon River along the road.
Nice shot of the Little Pigeon River along the road.
The main branch from Ramsey Cascades coming down to Little Pigeon River.
The main branch from Ramsey Cascades coming down to Little Pigeon River.
The second branch from Ramsey Cascades spills down the creek into the Little Pigeon River.
The second branch from Ramsey Cascades spills down the creek into the Little Pigeon River.
Rich getting a picture of the water from Ramsey Cascades into the Little Pigeon River.
Rich getting a picture of the water from Ramsey Cascades into the Little Pigeon River.
Long shot of Fern Falls on the mountain.
Long shot of Fern Falls on the mountain.
Close up of Fern Falls.
Close up of Fern Falls.

Snake on the way down from Fern Falls

A shot of Cosby Creek on the nature trail.
A shot of Cosby Creek on the nature trail.
Water, water, water everywhere on Cosby Nature Trail.
Water, water, water everywhere on Cosby Nature Trail.
More of the waterway in Cosby.
More of the waterway in Cosby.
Water rolling away on the Camelhump Creek.
Water rolling away on the Camelhump Creek.
Interesting tree formation along Cosby Creek,
Interesting tree formation along Cosby Creek,
Clouds coming in over Mt Leconte in the evening.
Clouds coming in over Mt Leconte in the evening.
Sunset on the clouds over Mt. Leconte.
Sunset on the clouds over Mt. Leconte.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vacation Day 8: Over the river and through the gap to Abrams Falls

Somehow our clocks are out of sync.  Either I sleep in or Rich does.  Today was Rich’s turn to sleep in.  We got breakfast and got on the road to Cades Cove again today.  We are going to walk the Abrams Falls trail.  Since the entire trail there and back is 5 miles, this is our only hike of the day.Our first wildlife sighting for the day was a pair of wild turkeys by the side of the road on our way to Cades Cove.  I almost missed them.  You wouldn’t think that black, white and red blends with the grass and trees.  But it does!

This trail starts about midway of the loop, so we have to get through the single lane road with all of the slow drivers.  When we reach the Townsend turnoff, it begins to rain.  It’s coming down pretty good, too.  That’s fine.  We have raincoats in our packs.  Rain is just one of those things you put up with when you hike.

The rain and difference between the warm and cold causes the smoke on the mountains to be more intense.  As we round the corner to John Oliver’s homestead, we can see the mountains to the south of the park with a wreath of smoke on them.  People are pulling off the road in this area.  We decide to pull off and get some pictures as well.  To the right of us, we can see the smoke rising from the ridge behind the homestead.  That ridge is fairly close to us.  We take pictures of the farther mountains also.  This is the best example of the smoke rising that we’ve seen so far.

We start back down the loop.  Just after we get past the churches and Elijah Oliver’s homestead, we run into a long line of traffic.  It’s hard to see what the holdup is.  Then it becomes apparent.  There is a truck pulling a trailer filled with people.  It’s a hay ride in the rain!

We inch along until we finally get to the Abrams Falls turn off.  We pull into the parking lot and Rich asks me if that’s a dog.  I don’t see anything so I can say.  On the far side of the lot, there is a coyote walking the edge of the grass toward the path.  He is pretty big, but definitely a coyote.  Rich snaps a couple of good pictures before the coyote heads into the woods and down the trail.

We pull on our raincoats and put on our camelbaks.  With hiking sticks in hand, we head down the trail.  We cross a small creek and the trail heads southwest.  Even though it’s raining, we get pretty warm quickly.  Soon the rain stops, we stop to take off our coats and store them in our packs.

The trail ranges up and down with some pretty good hills.  It’s not the worst trail we’ve been on in the park so far.  We are heading to a gap in the ridge that runs parallel with the Abrams Creek.  At the gap, the river sounds like it right next to you.  Once you cross the gap, the river sounds like it is behind you all of sudden.

After the gap, we start heading down the mountain for the valley.  We are walking down the opposite side of the mountain.  We cross over some feeder creeks and streams running to Abrams Creek.  It is getting wider and moving fast.  As we get to the last downward slope, the trail becomes a huge piece of upended rock that is jagged and uneven.  The climbing here is a lot more difficult.

We round the corner where the creek runs and there is the falls.  There are lots of large boulders here that you scramble over to get to the water’s edge.  There are two couples already here.  One of the pair had passed us on the way down.

Abrams Falls has the largest pool at the bottom of all the falls in the park.  It is a favorite swimming hole for a lot of people.  A set of young men come down the trail and immediately prepare to go swimming. The dangers in this pool are great.  There are large, unseen boulders that could get in your way of swimming underwater.  The force of the falls could suck you under the water and keep you down.

Rich walks around taking pictures while I rest.  He notices that the falls is receding along the wall and moving west.  It’s almost like Niagara Fall and how it is receding and moving along the rock wall behind the falls.  Rich takes a picture of me with the falls in the background.  This is proof that I made the hike.

We gather up our packs and start the journey up.  We’ve given ourselves plenty of time to take the trail.  So far, we’ve done pretty good on time.  The walk down takes us about an hour and fifteen minutes.  We are hoping to match that going back up.

We get over the rough rocks and up the first hills.  Then we start hearing thunder off behind us.  I didn’t think that the weather usually came from that direction.  As we continue up the mountain, the sound of thunder gets closer and louder.  By the time we reach the gap, the sounds are very close.  We hear lighting, but we don’t see it strike.  We have passed several people just starting down the trail to the falls.  It’s unwise to be on the mountain in a storm.

We hear more lighting and thunder as we go down the mountain.  People just ahead of us are turning around rather than risk being exposed on the mountain.  It begins to pour at one point and we are getting wet.  Rich stops to put his camera in his pack to protect it. The rain is cool and feels good after the long hike.

We just make it over the bridge and head to the parking lot when it absolutely pours down on us.  Luckily, we are in a stand of thick trees and it prevents us from being pelted by the rain.  I look out past the parking lot and see a doe and her fawn coming through the meadow beside the road.  Rich gets his camera out and tries to catch them before they disappear from our view.

Since the rain is still coming down, we grab our sandwich stuff and eat in the car.  It’s just enough to keep us from starving until dinner.  It’s about 3:30 now and we have dinner plans at 5:00!  We get moving because we still have to complete the 11 mile loop to back to the cabin.  Everyone is only driving 10 miles an hour.

We got as fast as possible with the traffic, rain, and park conditions.  We make it out of the park and back onto the by-pass around town in good time.  I see some wild turkey and try to stop so Rich can take pictures.  Unfortunately, the turkeys aren’t cooperating and walk out of his range.  He tries anyway.

As we go up the road to our cabin, Rich takes pictures.  I plan to use an animation program and stitch them together so that we can simulate what the drive up to the cabin looks like.  Since I used one to show Rich walking the width of the Appalachian Trail, it’s worth a shot to see if it would turn out.

We arrive at the cabin at 4:15.  We have to meet Pete and Karen at 5:00 in Pigeon Forge.  It’s going to be close.  We rush through showers and get dressed.  It’s quarter to when we leave the cabin.  Luckily, Pigeon Forge is only 10 minutes away.

We arrived right at 5:00.  The hot rod run looked like it was kicking into full swing, but the parking lot was not that full yet.  We parked and went in to get a buzzer.  Rich called Pete to see where they were.  Unfortunately, they got caught coming into town and were going to be a few minutes.  It didn’t take them too long before they pulled into the parking lot.  As they got out and walked up, the buzzer went off.  Good timing.  We got our seats, drinks, and the talk began.

After dinner, we walked around the cars outside the restaurant a little bit.  There was a lot of traffic and people.  Time to move the jig saw from our car to Pete’s van.  Back when Pete and Karen were moving to Tennessee, Rich bought the saw.  In the time since he’s had it, it sat in the garage.  It seemed like a good opportunity to return an antique to its owner.

We continue to stand in the parking lot talking and talking.  We just couldn’t seem to stop.  The weather is turning bad around us, so it is time to call it quits.  We say our final good-byes and leave the restaurant parking lot.  It is easy for us to get out.  We get into the middle lane and buzz right out of town.  We follow the road to Cove Mountain Road and right onto the concrete platform in front of Grandma’s Gift.

When we get in the door, the storm outside breaks loose.  There is a clap of thunder and a pounding on the roof.  We settle into our routine in the living room with our computers.  I’m writing the last blog to try and get caught up.  Rich is sorting pictures from the day’s hike.  We hear the sound of a large truck come up Cove Mountain Road and pass the cabin.  Then there is the sound of backup beepers going off.

I open the front door of the cabin and there is an ambulance backing right up to the front door.  I stand there and watch them back right up to within inches of the wall.  They stop, pull forward, and continue up the hill.  I look out and there is a full truck and ladder backing up on the road just above us.  There are 5 or 6 guys with flashlights waving him around so that he doesn’t run off the road.

The fire truck comes around and down the road.  They continue down the hill and I hear them get to the bottom.  The ambulance comes down the road following the fire truck.  I shut the door and come inside. The sound of the truck and ambulance echo from the road down below the cabin.  I guess they are still looking for something or someone.

We share some time alone on our couches enjoying just being in the same room.  Then it’s off to bed.  Tomorrow is our last full day in Gatlinburg.  We intend to hike and see another part of the park.  We need our beauty rest for that.

My morning picture of Mt. Leconte from our porch.
My morning picture of Mt. Leconte from our porch.

 

Smoky Mountains looking north from John Oliver's homestead.
Smoky Mountains looking north from John Oliver’s homestead.
Smoky Mountains looking south from John Oliver's homestead.
Smoky Mountains looking south from John Oliver’s homestead.
More smoking mountains early on Thursday.
More smoking mountains early on Thursday.
Coyote stopping by Abrams Falls to visit us before hitting the trail.
Coyote stopping by Abrams Falls to visit us before hitting the trail.
Even the creek is smoky here.
Even the creek is smoky here.
Rapids on Abrams Creek.
Rapids on Abrams Creek.
Rich at the Gap on Abrams Falls trail.
Rich at the Gap on Abrams Falls trail.
Joy at the Gap on Abrams Falls trail.
Joy at the Gap on Abrams Falls trail.
A yellow frog crossed our path.
A yellow frog crossed our path.
Another shot of Abrams Falls.
Another shot of Abrams Falls.
Abrams Falls
Abrams Falls
Another shot of Abrams Falls.
Another shot of Abrams Falls.
Up close at Abrams Falls.
Up close at Abrams Falls.
Joy at Abrams Falls
Joy at Abrams Falls
Rich on the roughest part of the trail back from Abrams Falls.
Rich on the roughest part of the trail back from Abrams Falls.
Doe and her fawn moving through the meadow.
Doe and her fawn moving through the meadow.
Two turkeys in the bushes.
Two turkeys in the bushes.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vacation Extra: Drive to Our Cabin and Then from Cabin to Parkway

I’ve been playing around with the GIF animator now that I did the animation of Rich.  I had Rich snap pictures as I drove up the Parkway and took the Cove Mountain Road exit to our cabin.  Not exactly what I had hoped for, but it is a little bit cool.  Here is our drive up to the cabin every day.

Our drive up to the cabin.
Our drive up to the cabin.

Click on the graphic to start the animation.

 

Then, of course, there is the drive from the cabin to the parkway.

Animation driving from cabin to Park

Click on the photo to start the animation.

Vacation Day 7 Three for the Price of One

We are maintaining our schedule pretty well.  We got up a little earlier, but took our time about breakfast.  After straightening up, we head out to the park yet again.  Today, we go across the park to Cherokee, NC.As a kid, we used to come to the Smokies and camp.  We always went over to Cherokee to check out the Indian reservation.  There were several shops and places where the Cherokee would do different dances.  We would walk around, watch the shows, and just hang out.  I couldn’t pass up going over to see how much it had changed.

But first, we have a couple of side trips to make.  Our first stop is at the Sugarland Visitor’s Center.  There is a trail to the Cataract Falls.  This is labeled as an easy one and short.  We park at the center and follow the directions to go to the bathrooms.  Sounds strange, but just beyond the bathrooms is the trail to Fighting Creek and Cataract Falls.

As we are walking down to the start of the trail, a man stops me to ask about the trail.  I explain what I’ve learned about the nature trails.  He asks questions about what to expect.  We say good-bye and head down the trail.  It’s pretty easy with few ups and downs.  You walk over several bridges and under the main bridge for the road.  We go up a set of set steps and through the forest.  A beautiful waterfall is at the end of the trail.  We take a couple of pictures and enjoy the view.

We head back to the car.  On the way, we run into a couple with a baby stroller.  We explain the trail and that they will have to lift the stroller in a couple of places.  We leave them and continue on to the car.  We then drive over to Sugarland Valley Nature Trail.  What luck!  This is an easy trail also.  It is all concrete walkway through the forest.  The trail is on a homestead site where cabins had stood and open corn fields.  The stream here is very nice with lots of rapids and rocks.  Rich is looking for trout without any luck.

We get to the construction, which is where the Chimneys overlook is at.  We want to stop and get pictures.  This means we have to pull up to the next pullout and walk back to the overlook.  The sun is shining in the wrong direction for good pictures.  We figure we’ll try to stop again on the way back.

In the car, Rich figures out that we see the Chimneys rock formations for another overlook further up the road.  We drive up and find the Morton Overlook, which did indeed have a much better view and vantage without the sun.  We get the pictures and read the sign for the overlook named for Ben Morton who pushed for the roads through the park.

Back on the road again, we head to Oconauluftee Visitor’s Center and Farm Museum.  This the southeast entrance to the park from the North Carolina side.  Here, they have a museum set up with buildings, gardens, and other things to depict farm life in the early 1800s.  I find it cool.  It reminds of my grandparents’ farms in a lot of ways.  There is a house, smokehouse, barns, applehouse, honey hives, pig pen and chicken house.  There is one lonely little piglet and a couple of chickens.

Inside the Visitor’s Center, Rich checks out the swinging bridge trail we tried to take.  Yes, that was definitely a huge drop on the trail.  Good thing we didn’t try that one.  We check out the falls where we are going today.  Time to hit the road again.

We drive through Cherokee.  It definitely looks a lot different than I remember it.  There is only one place with Cherokee dancers.  There are lots of stores and more modern buildings.  I see a couple of older places that resemble the buildings I remember.  We continue through and head out toward Bryson City.  The entrance for this part of the park is out in the middle of nowhere, but we are confident we can find it.  Rich is reading the map and tells me to turn on Tom Branch Rd.  I never see a road named this or has the State Road number he tells me.  I continue on past the one that Rich it should be.

Now we are going into Bryson City.  It’s a small town with a touristy downtown.  It’s cute.  We wind out way out of town on a small country road.  After a couple of turns, we get to the park entrance.  Right outside of the entrance, we drive through the middle of someone’s tube rental business.  It looks funny because there are stacks of yellow tubes on either side of us.  Then we see the park entrance.  I guess they really want you to rent a tube for the river.

First stop is lunch though.  We drive into the picnic ground and find a table right next to a stream.  We have our ham and cheese sandwiches.  I have a peach and Rich opts for a banana.  That should hold us until dinner.  As we eat, a group of people come by with their dogs.  It’s like a furry friends group outing and they brought their master along.

Rich stops a lady who is walking by about the waterfall.  She tells about the June Whankey falls and then continues her walk.  We load up and move on to the parking lot for the trail.  So the trail starts at the Deep Creek trail and takes you up .1 miles to another trail going around the mountain side for .2 miles to the miles.  The return trip is .1 miles down to the Deep Creek trail again.

This first section is like straight up!  I’m huffing and puffing again and begging to stop every couple of feet.  We get to the next section, which is a horse trail to where the waterfall trail starts.  It’s very convoluted.  But the falls are worth the trip.  There is a bench to sit on and look up at the falls.

Some lady is standing at the side shouting instructions to some guy as he is scrambling all over the water below the falls.  There are signs everywhere telling you to stay out of the water and off the falls.  I’m surprised he didn’t slip and fall.  It might be fun, but it is very dangerous.  The bill to rescue you won’t be cheap either.

We head up the other side and down a steep ravine to get back to the Deep Creek trail on the other side.  As we are going down, the lady who answered Rich’s questions was coming up.  I stop to ask her about her running shoes.  I’ve been looking for a new pair and these look like what I want.  She tells me they are old and handed down from her daughter.  That figures.  I like the old style and not the new ones.

We get down to the Deep Creek trail and decide to follow it for a while.  Up ahead, we see another waterfall.  This is the Tom Branch waterfall.  It is high with several individual drops that create a nice cascade.  There are benches so you can sit and admire the water.  I sit while Rich is taking pictures.  It’s hard to get good clean pictures since there is some guy crawling around through the water with a tripod trying to take exposure pictures of the falls.

After a rest, we decide to continue up the Deep Creek trail to see what else is there.  We know this trail makes a loop, but it pretty long and we don’t have time to walk the entire thing.  We get to the top of a rise and see a sign for another waterfall.  This is the Indian Creek waterfall.  We walked down a very steep path to reach the falls.  It was spectacular.  Rich went further down to get better pictures.  I hear a small yelp and he is balancing on a couple of logs.  I yell down that I’m not coming to the rescue if he falls.

We start back up the trail and return to the car.  We saw a group of guys coming down the river in rafts when we were walking up.  As we walk back down to the car, we pass two different groups of ladies on their way up to raft the river.  I can image how cold that water is coming down from the mountain.

We get back to the car and unload our stuff.  The first group of guys have strung all of their rafts together on top of a van.  Only one doesn’t fit and someone is holding it out of a window.  That doesn’t look safe.  They pull out ahead of me from the parking lot and stop in the exit.  I have to drive around them to get out.

Rich has decided that we are going to follow the same road back.  He is pretty sure that the road right across the creek from the parking lot is the road he was looking for.  I’m up for anything, right after a bathroom break.  I come out from the bathroom to find one of the dogs yelling at Rich.  He’s telling Rich to stay away from his people.  Dachshunds are protective.

We turn back to this road that Rich wants to travel.  As soon as we get over the bridge, it becomes gravel and single lane.  There is no turning back now.  We are committed.  The roads winds up and up and over a couple of pretty good sized hills.  At the top, we hit pavement again.  I don’t recognize the name of the road.  But the GPS seems to know where we are.  We wind through the countryside and make a couple of turns.  Then we are back on the main road.  It is the turn that Rich indicated on the way in.

We get back into Cherokee.  I just have to stop at one of the trading posts.  I promise this is the only one.  We walk around the store, which is full of the same tchotky stuff that you would expect.  There is a mountain lion on display with a squirrel in his mouth.  I tell Rich I’ve seen that before with Sascha at the last squirrel she got.  I see only a silver watch in the case that I would like.  But my money is running low and I can’t take advantage of it.

We’re back on the road again and going through the park.  Everywhere, the drivers of motorcycles and cars alike are going 10 miles under the speed limit.  I’m feeling like I can’t get anywhere.  There are some great hills here that are fun to drive at the full speed.  We drive straight through without any more stops.

It is time to clean up for dinner.  We shower and dress in our best causal.  Tonight, we go to Mama’s Farmhouse for dinner.  It is dinner served family style.  Surprisingly, we don’t really have to wait in line anywhere for dinner.  We are seated in a small room toward the kitchen.  Billy, our server, comes by for drink orders and explains what we’ll be getting for dinner.

There is fried chicken, country fried steak, and country ham tonight.  The sides are corn pie, mac and cheese, broccoli casserole, sweet potato casserole, and mashed potatoes and gravy.  We eat up.  Billy is giving us a hard time about cleaning our plates and all of the sides before we can get dessert.  There is only banana pudding since the peach cobbler is all gone.  We are stuffed.

We roll out the door where one of the doormen stops us to try and sell tickets to events on the main strip.  No, we are tired and not interested.  He comments on Rich’s Ren Faire sandals.  Everyone is making comments about them.  Do they really like them or trying not to make fun of them?  I love mine.  Those are my hiking shoes for this week.

We get back to the cabin and settle into our routine for the evening.  We write blogs and deal with pictures.  Then we get our IPAs, of which these are the last two, and we sit out on the porch looking at the stars.  It was a great day and a great way to spend our anniversary.  It’s been 20 years since our wedding and the reception in the backyard.  Hardly seems like it has been that long.  I wouldn’t trade him for anyone else, on his good days.

 

Checking the cloud situation on Mt. Leconte in the morning.
Checking the cloud situation on Mt. Leconte in the morning.
We passed this tree on our way to Cataract Falls.
We passed this tree on our way to Cataract Falls.
Cataract Falls was our first hike of the day.  It was an easy one to reach.
Cataract Falls was our first hike of the day. It was an easy one to reach.
We put down our hiking sticks to take pictures at Cataract Falls.  Time to pick them up again.
We put down our hiking sticks to take pictures at Cataract Falls. Time to pick them up again.

 

The trail to Cataract Falls run right under the roadway.
The trail to Cataract Falls run right under the roadway.
Fighting Creek at Sugarland Valley Nature Trail
Fighting Creek at Sugarland Valley Nature Trail
Rich trying to capture the moment at the Nature Trail.  Either that or another trout picture.
Rich trying to capture the moment at the Nature Trail. Either that or another trout picture.
One of the chimneys still standing from the homesteads.
One of the chimneys still standing from the homesteads.
Chickens at the Farm Museum.
Chickens at the Farm Museum.
Piglet playing in mud.
Piglet playing in mud.
Smokehouse will hams at the museum.
Smokehouse will hams at the museum.
What's a home without an outhouse.
What’s a home without an outhouse.
June Whankey Falls over by Bryson City.
June Whankey Falls over by Bryson City.
Tom Branch Falls was one of surprise falls.
Tom Branch Falls was one of surprise falls.
Rich trying to get a good picture of Tom Branch Falls without this guy in them.
Rich trying to get a good picture of Tom Branch Falls without this guy in them.

 

Rafters we saw on our walk back on Deep Creek trail.
Rafters we saw on our walk back on Deep Creek trail.
Indian Creek Falls was at the back of Deep Creek.  Very nice surprise.
Indian Creek Falls was at the back of Deep Creek. Very nice surprise.
Bob signs everywhere in the park.  This Bob is a pain.
Bob signs everywhere in the park. This Bob is a pain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vacation Day 6 Walking the Width of the Appalachian Trail

I actually slept in today!  Rich got up first and I didn’t even hear him.  It must be that mountain air.  I even missed Rich screaming like a little girl when he discovered our unexpected guest.Rich was drying his hands on the towel that was lying by the sink.  A very large spider dropped out onto the sink.  I don’t blame him for screaming.  It was like a small tarantula.  Then I woke up and found it in the sink.  Before I scream, Rich yells up from downstairs to look out for the spider.

Poor guy was stuck in the sink.  I laid out some toilet paper so he had something to grab onto and he scrambled right out of my way.  He went over the side and took up residence in the corner behind the door.  At least he was out of the way and I knew where he was.

Today, we were heading straight to Clingman’s Dome.  This is an observation tower that is on a ridge in the middle of the mountains.  It sits at about 6,600 feet.  So the altitude change was going to be different for us.  You don’t think about that until start trying to breathe heavily.  It’s much harder than it looks.  Also, we had to go early because the clouds start coming in and you can’t see anything.  By early evening, the tower itself becomes engulfed in clouds.  That might be cool, but not at the moment.

Luckily, there aren’t too many tourists in the park.  It’s fairly easy to drive.  The only problem is the construction going on.  They are working on retaining walls, shoulders, and even building a new parking lot.  Many of the pullouts or parking lots are filled with construction equipment or trucks from the workers.

We get to Clingman’s Dome around 10:00.  That’s a little later than planned, but I did sleep in.  We are just barely beating the clouds.  We can see them over on the next hills and they are starting to roll this way.  We start up the ramp, which is a pretty steep and very consistent.  You don’t really get a break.  Rich is doing pretty well, but I have to stop often to catch my breath and not be sick.  Rich gets to the top before I do, but that’s okay.  I arrive intact and only breathing heavily.

We get the 360 degree view of the surrounding ridges.  We can’t really see too far into North Carolina because of the incoming clouds.  We can see east down the ridge of mountains that the Dome sits on, north out toward Gatlinburg, and west over the other side of the ridge.  We can see Cove Mountain, where our cabin is located, at the end of a ridge of mountains perpendicular to the Dome.  We must be on the back side of the mountain though.  We definitely don’t see the Dome from our porch.

So it’s time to go back down the ramp.  This means that my legs will be burning from the exertion.  We walk slowly and take our time.  We first stop at the intersection of the Appalachian Trail so I can get Rich’s picture.  I’m going to make a gif of him walking the width of the trail.  This will match his new t-shirt.

Going down, we take our time and stop to take photos.  There are flowers blooming everywhere.  I can’t believe all the color here in September.  That and the sound of all the bees that are busy doing their jobs.  You can hear those bees over everyone talking around you.  I’m not sure why the bees aren’t mad at us all there.

It looks like blackberry season is just finishing up here in the park.  Everywhere I look, I see bushes, but the berries are gone or dried up.  Along the ramp, there are places where the bears have pushed into the patches so that they reach more berries.  It’s hard to see these indentations from the photos.  Some are only a foot or so in and some are pushed at least 4 or 5 feet in.

We get down to the bottom and the legs keep burning.  We walk out to the end of the parking lot to try and get photos of the clouds lowering onto the overlook.  I see a small dog with a couple on his and her motorcycles.  Then I see a soft crate strapped to his motorcycle.  I realize that poor dog is a passenger on this ride.  I sure hope he doesn’t mind.

We get in the car and head out down the road.  We stop at the Spruce-Fir Nature Walk.  This is a trail through a spruce and fir forest.  It was very beautiful, green, and quiet.  The trail explained the live and decay process in this force.  With this, we saw interesting examples of fungi, including something called Witch’s Butter.  Rich got some good pictures of this.  I’ll be to be sure and post them.

From here, we go to the Newfound Gap Overlook.  This overlook straddles the Tennessee and North Carolina state lines.  There was a sign where the line is between the two states.  I was able to get a picture with it.  The original overlook was built in 1933 as part of the CCC program.  The parking lot and extension you see today was built a little later.  From this overlook, you can stand in one spot and look down into two states.

Rich saw a description for one of the quiet walkways that included a swinging bridge.  He wanted to go and check it.  So we drove down the back side of the ridge to the pullout.  We didn’t see it at first.  We double back and find it tucked in the corner of the lot.  We started up the hill and got pretty well into the trail before it stopped and dropped down the hill at a 50 degree angle.  There was no way I could that.  We give up and head back to the car.

On the road again, we head back toward Gatlinburg.  Along the way, we stop in at the Chimneys picnic area.  We grab a late lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  After eating, we grab our camelbaks and head off to the Cove Hardwood Forest nature trail.  We meet a couple coming down from the trail.  They tell us how beautiful the trail is, but they forget to mention how steep the trail is. We head up the trail anyway.

These nature trails explain parts of the mountain area along with the wildlife and environment around it.  They are very educational besides providing you with a walk trail to hike.  This area describes the hardwood forest of the area with its diverse tree and plant population.  There are examples of what logging does to the older forest and how it changes the environment.

The trail keeps going higher and higher up the mountain.  When I think we might be getting lost, it starts to turn and go back down again.  You see the forest from one angle on the lower trail and then get a bird’s eye of the entire forest from the old growth above down through the logged areas.  The trail is rock and packed earth.  The angle makes it a little difficult, but it was very nice.  After this, we are just hot, sweaty, and tired.

We head back down the mountain to our cabin.  To get to our cabin from the park, we have to down one side of the parkway, through a tunnel, make a U turn, cross over a bridge, and get back on the other side of the parkway.  Our road is a very quick right turn up a hill.  The hill twists very quickly and is at about a 45 degree angle.  The road twists and turns in switchbacks.  The cabin sits right on one of these corners.  I have to shoot across the road very quickly and onto the concrete pad to park.  I keep thinking someone will come around that corner and mow us down before we get to the concrete.  So far so good.

We clean up and head into Pigeon Forge for dinner.  I picked out the Old Mill Restaurant for dinner.  Mostly, this is for the pottery store that is next door.  Turns out, they had really awesome food.  Rich got a steak that was cooked perfectly.  I got the chicken livers, which were cooked nicely.  I was disappointed they didn’t come with gravy because I just wasn’t digging the come back sauce, which was more like Russian dressing.

We finish dinner and I pull Rich into the pottery store.  He could stay out in the garden and listen to the oboe player out there playing Kenny G type songs.  He looked like Fabio though.  I think he had an Italian name, but it wasn’t anything like Kenny G.  I look around the entire store.  I’m on a mission of sorts for a container.  I find what I’m looking for and a little more.  There is a butter bell.  You put a stick of butter into the bell and put water in the container.  The bell fits into the container pushing the water up to make a seal.  Then your butter stays cool and sealed against anything getting into it.  Pretty cool.

We head back to the cabin for the night.  After writing up blogs, processing pictures, and picking out hikes for tomorrow.  We get our IPAs and sit on the porch to watch the stars.  The clouds are rolling by, but it eventually clears.  No shooting stars tonight.  Then it’s off to bed.

I realize we have a schedule now.  We get up around 8:00 and have breakfast.  We are in the park by 10:00 and hike around until 3:00 or 4:00.  We then return to the cabin, clean up, and get out to dinner by 5:00.  We are back by 7:00 and work on various projects.  We check on the progress of the clouds rolling in over Mt. Leconte during the evening.  After it is dark, we sit out on the porch with a beverage of choice and watch the stars.  Around 9:00, we go to bed and read our book of choice until we are tired.  Then the process starts again.  Not a bad way to spend vacation.

Tuesday morning from our deck to check on clouds over Mt. Leconte.
Tuesday morning from our deck to check on clouds over Mt. Leconte.
Our unexpected guest in the bathroom.  We looked it up and it seems to be a Wolf spider.  He's gone now.
Our unexpected guest in the bathroom. We looked it up and it seems to be a Wolf spider. He’s gone now.
Just starting up the ramp to Clingman's Dome.
Just starting up the ramp to Clingman’s Dome.
Looking down at the ramp leading up to the tower at Clingman's Dome.
Looking down at the ramp leading up to the tower at Clingman’s Dome.
Watching the clouds coming in from North Carolina towards Clingman's Dome.
Watching the clouds coming in from North Carolina towards Clingman’s Dome.
Looking out south toward Gatlinburg.  Cove Mountain is almost in the center of the picture.  Our cabin is on the backside of this.
Looking out south toward Gatlinburg. Cove Mountain is almost in the center of the picture. Our cabin is on the backside of this.
Looking out west from the tower at the Dome.
Looking out west from the tower at the Dome.
Rich walking the width of the Appalachian Trail.
Rich walking the width of the Appalachian Trail.

View of mountains from ramp

Rich is reading the description for an exhibit on the Spruce-Fir Nature Trail.
Rich is reading the description for an exhibit on the Spruce-Fir Nature Trail.
I found Rip Van Winkle's bench on one of the nature trails.
I found Rip Van Winkle’s bench on one of the nature trails.
Tree that appeared to have started out on a nursery tree that disappeared.
Tree that appeared to have started out on a nursery tree that disappeared.
Lovely ferns along the Spruce-Fir trail.
Lovely ferns along the Spruce-Fir trail.
Standing at Appalachian Trail with sign to Maine.  We'd go, but we have to back by dinner time.
Standing at Appalachian Trail with sign to Maine. We’d go, but we have to back by dinner time.
Standing with one foot in each state.  Just a little torn.
Standing with one foot in each state. Just a little torn.
I'm standing on the old 1933 overlook at Newfound Gap looking into Tennessee.
I’m standing on the old 1933 overlook at Newfound Gap looking into Tennessee.
Looking out over North Carolina and one of the ridges running down from the Smoky Mts.
Looking out over North Carolina and one of the ridges running down from the Smoky Mts.
Most of the paths look like this with roots and rocks.
Most of the paths look like this with roots and rocks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vacation Day 5 No Bear Scat, Just Bears

This is Day 5.  We slept in again.  This is getting to be a bad habit, you know.  I’m sure Sascha won’t stand for it.  Let alone my boss.After breakfast, we packed up the car and headed out for Cades Cove.  This took us to Sugarland Visitor’s Center first.  We looked through the exhibits and checked for other hiking books.  During our break there, we ran into several German tourists.  I’m not sure if they were on a tour or driving themselves, but there were a lot of them.

In the car again, we headed out across the park to the south.  Cades Cove is one of the areas settled first.  In the early 1800s, farmers were moving to the area and building log cabins for their families.  The Cove area is an 11 mile, one-way loop that stops at churches, homesteads, and other signs of settlement in the area.

We stopped by the Greenbrier Schoolhouse.  This side trip took down a single lane gravel road.  At the end, we found the single room schoolhouse used for a lot of years.  Inside, there were the typical benches and desks.  It still reminded me of a church.  Rich started back out for the door pretty quickly saying something about a bat.  I looked up and there was a single bat hanging from the ceiling.  All was quiet in there.  We tried to get pictures of him and then leave him to his sleep.

The Walker graveyard was also there.  I love graveyards.  The stones are curious.  There is so much history in a yard.  This one was being pushed out by trees and roots as well as eroded by water.  There were a lot of stones there.

We got to see a black bear.  The cars in front of us were stopped and we were trying to tell what was going on.  Several people were getting out of their cars and moving to the woods.  Finally, a very young bear sprinted across the road and headed for the woods.  Poor guy was probably just about 3 years old.  He was just a teenager in bear years.  The people were frightening him pretty badly.  I couldn’t believe that people weren’t afraid of him.  They were trying to get closer to him.

The cars started to move and we got back underway.  The first stop was to John Oliver’s home.  John brought his family to the valley in 1818 and built this log cabin.  It was pretty much a couple of rooms with fireplaces.  On the walk up to the cabin, a couple of ladies were standing on the trail yelling about something.  We never saw what they were looking at.  Didn’t matter, because I’m pretty sure they scared the hell out of it when they started shouting.

Back in the car, we headed up to the number of churches on the road.  The first was the Primitive Baptist Church.  I’ve never heard of this denomination, but I guess they have some differences from just the Southern Baptist.  The church is down a single lane gravel road.  With the number of cars, we had to stop for wide places in the road to get past each other.

The church is white clapboard these days, but would have been a log cabin structure in its earlier days.  There is a graveyard behind the church.  John Oliver and his wife are buried there with stones marking who they are.  One stone was for a man named Russell Gregory.  It indicated he came to the valley in the 1830s.  He was killed by rebel cowards for his support of the Union in 1864.

We got back out to the main road and to the Methodist Church.  The two buildings were similar.  You saw a lot of the same last names in the churchyard adjoining the church.  A stone for a man named George Seaton said he was about 75 when he died.  He might not have been sure either.

Next, we stopped at Elijah Oliver’s house.  This is John Oliver’s son.  He built his own home down the road from his parents and farmed for a while.  During the Civil War, he left the valley and then returned after the war.  He purchased his old farm back.

We started down the road thinking the house was close.  It wasn’t.  The first barn was .2 miles.  The rest of the homestead was another .25 miles or so back in the woods.  The house was interesting.  It had standalone kitchen from the rest of the house.  There was an addition on the side called the stranger’s room for people travelling through the area.  It was little more than a place to put a pillow on the floor.

Now we had to walk the half a mile or so back to the car.  It was very warm and humid by now.  The air conditioning the car felt great after the walk.  But we were tired, hot, and hungry.  Time to find a place for lunch.

Signs along the road tell you to be courteous and pull over when you want to stop or slow down.  Not many people observed the signs.  We had cars stopping all along the way or crawling at 5 miles per hour.  The hills would have been more fun at 25, like they were marked.

We stopped at the Cades Cove Visitor’s Center for a break and to have a sandwich.  A group of buildings were standing from an earlier time.  Rebecca Cable’s house was originally a store as well as a boarding house.  It was very spacious and a good example of a house at that time.  There was a smokehouse, corn crib, barns, grist mill and blacksmith shop there as well.

We sat up our chairs in the shade and made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  You don’t need much, but a little protein helps when you are hiking.  With food, water, and a rest, we were ready to hit the road again.  The cars in front of us were going slow again.  A couple pulled off for some of the other churches and homesteads.  We continued on.  Down the road a bit, we saw a couple of people hanging on the side of the road.  Now what?

It turned out to be another black bear.  This one was not happy.  The cars in front of us were pulling off the road so they could also jump out to take pictures.  This was not going to make the bear any happier.  We didn’t get any shots of him and decided to push on.

Around the next corner, we came upon another obstacle.  There were bicyclists in the road.  The road is a lose term though.  It is more a country lane that one car can barely fit on.  The cyclists had nowhere to go to get off the road.  I manage to find spots along the way to squeeze by them.  The girl out front was being competitive and not wanting me or her buddies to get in front of her.  Poor guy at the back was being left further and further behind with every inch.  I’m not sure they knew that.

We finished up the Cades Cove loop and headed out to Townsend.  Townsend sits just outside of the park in Wear Valley.  There’s not a lot in town and it looks like it rolls up at 5:00 on a week night.  We did see several places to go tubing on the river there.  Thought of you, Rose. Not much to see here though.

We cut across country to go back into Pigeon Forge and hit the Kroger again.  We discovered there was no toilet paper at the cabin.  So the stop was necessary.  There were a couple of items we needed also.  I stocked up on some of the good country sausage as well.

We got back to the cabin around 3:30.  After cleaning up from the day, we headed out for dinner.  I had seen the Smoky Mountain Trout House in my research of the area.  It sounded interesting.  I knew that Rich loved trout and good trout is hard to find.  We drove by it on the north end of town as we were coming and going through.  This was the dinner destination for the evening.  We parked in their lot across the street and then made the mad dash across the Parkway for our lives.  People speed and don’t stop for crosswalks!

Once safely in side, we were seated by the window.  We could watch traffic zooming by at our leisure.  The entire place is maybe 10 tables total.  It was a very small place.  The menu is also small.  As their name implies, they do locally caught Smoky Mountain trout.  The menu lists the 10 different ways they do trout and they all sounded wonderful.  There were some other items, but that was limited.  They definitely do trout though.

The waitress was an older lady with a back or neck problem.  She was kind of leaning to the right side at an angle when she came to the table.  She was funny though.  We enjoyed talking to her.

Rich ordered smoked mountain trout with green beans.  I ordered the trout cakes with baked potato.  The meal came with complimentary hushpuppies.  I love hushpuppies and these things were wonderful.  Rich got a glass of the house chardonnay.  I stuck with lemonade.  Rich says it was the best trout he had ever had.  The trout cakes were awesome.  I truly have to recommend this place if you want good food in Gatlinburg.

After dinner, I had a couple of places I wanted to go and look at.  We drove into downtown and found parking.  Parking here is definitely at a premium and can cost dearly.  We found a $5 lot close to where I wanted to be.  We headed down and Rich had to direct me.  I would have missed it altogether.  It is called The Village.  It is a small, bricked lane with shops on either side.  It resembles a European village, but maybe smaller.

I wanted to go to The Celtic Heritage shop, which was closed until 7:00.  So we moved on toward the second shop I was looking for.  However, we got caught by other shops along the way.  We went into the spice and tea shop.  The smells were wonderful.  I picked up a couple of items for someone’s Christmas.  Rich got caught by the Hofbrau Haus restaurant, which turned out to be a cheese shop and sandwich place.

We finally wondered around to The Day Hiker.  I wanted to check out some hiking supplies.  The place was stuffed with all kinds of things.  When we came in, there was a young guy talking to the owner about trails and places.  They were having an interesting conversation and it was hard not to listen.  I found the couple of items I wanted.  Rich wanted to check out the t-shirt he saw in the window.  We found it and it was in his size.  The t-shirt stated:  I hiked the entire (in small letters width) of the Appalachian Trail.

We went to pay and kind of got caught in the conversation also.  Dave, the owner, has hiked most of the area and the Appalachian Trail.  We talked about trails and a local guy who was showing the younger man around.  The stories were pretty good.  Then we left and back to the Celtic Heritage shop.  I was hoping to find some tartan pieces, but they didn’t really carry much.  We headed to the car and back to the cabin.

It was time for the evening ritual.  Tonight, we had Sweetwater Brewing Company IPAs and sat outside on the porch watching the clouds roll in over the top of the mountain.  Some bats were flying over head and doing a pretty good dance for us.

We came in for a while to read, work on blogs, and rest.  We went back out when it got dark and we watched the stars and talked.  Unfortunately, there were no shooting stars tonight.  Then it was time to go to bed, to read for a while, and then sink off into dreamland.

Looking out across the valley to Gatlinburg.
Looking out across the valley to Gatlinburg.
One room schoolhouse at Greenbrier.  There was a bat hanging from the ceiling.
One room schoolhouse at Greenbrier. There was a bat hanging from the ceiling.
View when walking from John Oliver homestead.
View when walking from John Oliver homestead.
Primitive Baptist Church and its graveyard.
Primitive Baptist Church and its graveyard.
One lane bridge going out to Elijah Oliver's homestead.
One lane bridge going out to Elijah Oliver’s homestead.
Rebecca Cable's house in Cades Cove.  She and her brother lived in the house together since neither one had married.  She was 95 when she passed.
Rebecca Cable’s house in Cades Cove. She and her brother lived in the house together since neither one had married. She was 95 when she passed.
Rich doing a rose pose down by the barn.  It was a unique style of barn.
Rich doing a rose pose down by the barn. It was a unique style of barn.
Grist mill at Cades Cove.  It was actually working while we were there.
Grist mill at Cades Cove. It was actually working while we were there.
Large storage barn at Cades Cove.
Large storage barn at Cades Cove.
Smoky Mountain Trout House where we had great trout.
Smoky Mountain Trout House where we had great trout.
Rich on the porch enjoying one part of our new ritual.
Rich on the porch enjoying one part of our new ritual.
Clouds over Mt. Leconte.
Clouds over Mt. Leconte.
Mist coming in over the top of the mountain ridge.
Mist coming in over the top of the mountain ridge.
Watching the clouds roll in to create the layers of mist on the mountain.
Watching the clouds roll in to create the layers of mist on the mountain.
Trust me, there is a bat up there dancing around.
Trust me, there is a bat up there dancing around.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vacation Day 4: Bear Scat, But No Bears

Is it Day 4 already?  Well, just Day 3 for Rich.  It’s Sunday and we slept in.  I got up early, but Rich was still sawing logs so I left him.  I came down to get caught up on my blog.  But wait, I’m still behind!

Rich finally woke up and stumbled down the stairs to join me.  We made breakfast from the goodies we picked up at the store.  Rich found this hickory smoked pork sausage.  It’s in a linen bag and smells incredible.  He made eggs, sausage and hash browns.  I found some real grits at the store and that’s what I had.  What can I say?  Once a southerner, always a southerner.  Even if you don’t sound like one.

Today, I thought we would start out slow.  I knew we weren’t in shape for miles and miles of hiking.  So we started out on the Motor Nature Trail, which is just inside the park north of Gatlinburg.  This 5 mile driving trail has several spots to stop off and walk trails.  The first stop was the Ogle cabin.  It’s a pretty well preserved homestead for one of the first families to settle this area.  The nature trail around the homestead leads you through what would have been the fields, the outbuildings, and property.  The grist mill by the creek was neat.  It was small, but did what they needed.

The trail around the property was only .7 miles, but it was rocky, hilly, and full of tree roots.  You couldn’t look up because you had to look where you were walking.  I’m not sure how they farmed for all of the rock!  The temperature was pretty warm in the upper 80s with high humidity.  We were pretty well soaked by the time we got to the car.

We continued to drive the motor trail, which wound its way up the side of the mountain overlooking the town.  Luckily, it was one-way traffic so I didn’t have to contend with oncoming traffic.  There were overlooks with great mountain views.  Our next hike was Grotto Falls.

Now the day hike book says 1.3 miles.  The sign at the trailhead said 1.4 miles.  It felt like 10!  Unfortunately, it was mostly up on the way there and down on the way back.  I told someone on the trail that while going up, my lungs were burning.  On the way down, my legs were burning.  Either way, it was a lot of pain.  I feel really good about an hour after the hike is over.  Just wish I felt good when I got done.

Rich was joking that we must have crossed 10 creeks to get to the falls.  We counted coming back and it was only 4.  Two of them were very wet and one was dry.  One had a nice little waterfall, just not a big one.  We did see a lot of bear scat on the trail.  Luckily, we didn’t see any bears.

The trip was painful, but the falls were worth it.  The Roaring Fork Creek starts at the top of mountain and drops at the falls and continues down through into town.  Grotto Falls is exactly like the name implies.  You can walk behind the falls in a grotto space carved out by the water.  Rich walked back there and I got his picture.  I didn’t try it since it was all wet and slippery.

We met some interesting people on the trail.  At the falls, a man about our age had just gotten there.  He was asking if the trail on the other side of the falls went anywhere.  He was out hiking and trying to figure out how far he could go before he had to turn back.  This was about 2:30.  He still had to walk 3 miles back to town!

We got back to our car, which was parked about half a mile from the trailhead, and finally sat down.  All of my muscles were screaming at me.  Rich was having some trouble with one of his knees on the trail.  It was very happy to be in a comfortable seat.  Our total hike for Grotto Falls was 2.8 miles there and back.  The walk to and from the car was another half a mile.  The homestead walk was .7 miles.  We did 4 miles!

We continued down the rest of the motor trail and popped out just northeast of town.  We decided to go into town for dinner and then get back to soak our pains. We stopped in at Calhoun’s.  Turns out, they own the Smoky Mountain Brewery.  So their menus were very, very similar.  We had BBQ chicken and pork.  I got corn pudding as my side and Rich stuck with the cole slaw.  The food was pretty good and Rich was able to try another Smoky Mountain Brewery beer.

I’m finally getting the hang of driving in Gatlinburg.  The speed limit downtown is 10 miles an hour.  The roads are four lane, but very narrow.  On Saturday, the streets were packed with cars and people.  Today, there was less foot and car traffic.  I think you have to be psychic to drive here though.  You just have to know when people are going to step into a crosswalk before they do.  I’ve seen a lot of close calls.

After dinner, we started back to the cabin.  I saw a line of rocking chairs in front of one hotel.  A bunch of people were sitting out there rocking on the grass in front watching the people walk by and the cars drive by.  They looked very comfortable.  It’s nice to see people amusing themselves on vacation.

We got home around 6:00.  We took showers and stretched out on the couches to recuperate.  We are so out of shape.  But then, that’s why we go hiking on vacation.  Since we were hurting, it was a good time to use the hot tub on the porch.  Rich fixed two glasses of Wild Turkey’s Kentucky Spirits bourbon on ice.  We crawled into the hot tub and sat back to enjoy the bourbon.  Life was good.

After hot tubing, we sat on the porch and watched the Mt. Leconte fade into the mist and darkness.  It’s really kind of neat.  As the temperature goes down, the clouds crawl over the top of the mountain and it looks like it is gobbling up everything.  The darkness sets in and we only see the lights from a hotel that sits in front of the mountain.

Tonight, we sat out there for a quite a while talking and sipping our bourbon.  We saw two shooting stars tonight.  I can confirm the number since I saw them both as well.  Finally, we came inside to work on computers and read some before bedtime.

Special label from Wild Turkey for 12 Bar Blues Bar.
Special label from Wild Turkey for 12 Bar Blues Bar.
Looking straight down the side of our cabin.
Looking straight down the side of our cabin.
Our car sitting in front of Grandma's Gift cabin.  We are right on one of the curves.
Our car sitting in front of Grandma’s Gift cabin. We are right on one of the curves.
Woods full of magnolias by Ogle cabin.
Woods full of magnolias by Ogle cabin.
Ogle cabin sits above Gatlinburg.
Ogle cabin sits above Gatlinburg.
Rich walking around the trail by Ogle cabin.  Watch out for the tree roots.
Rich walking around the trail by Ogle cabin. Watch out for the tree roots.
Rock wall beside the trail at Ogle cabin.
Rock wall beside the trail at Ogle cabin.
Rich in the old grist mill at Ogle cabin.
Rich in the old grist mill at Ogle cabin.
Rich taking a picture on the creek by the grist mill.
Rich taking a picture on the creek by the grist mill.
One lane walking bridge at Ogle cabin.
One lane walking bridge at Ogle cabin.
View from a lookout on the Motor Nature Trail.
View from a lookout on the Motor Nature Trail.
Trail beside Roaring Fork Creek to Grotto Falls in the back.
Trail beside Roaring Fork Creek to Grotto Falls in the back.
Rich getting a picture of Roaring Fork creek.
Rich getting a picture of Roaring Fork creek.

 

Rich standing by an overhanging on Grotto Falls trail.
Rich standing by an overhanging on Grotto Falls trail.
Rich behind Grotto Falls.
Rich behind Grotto Falls.
Up close to Grotto Falls.
Up close to Grotto Falls.
Another picture of Rich at Grotto Falls.
Another picture of Rich at Grotto Falls.
Orange and black catepillar for Rose.
Orange and black catepillar for Rose.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vacation: Day 3 Give ’em the bird

Day 3 of vacation dawned sunshiny and bright with the sound of a jackhammer outside our window.  At least they waited until 8:00 AM to start drilling on the street below.  Well, we had things to do and places to be anyway today.

We got ready, packed out bags, and headed out of Louisville.  As we were heading out to catch 64, I saw that my old stomping ground had been revived.  O’Shea’s Irish Pub is in the old City Lights and Doc Crow’s BBQ is in the old Great Midwestern.  Now I have a reason to come back and check out more stuff.

For breakfast, I had found a restaurant that I thought Rich might like.  Wild Eggs sounded very similar to the Yolks restaurant we found in Chicago.  Rich did admit to me on the way out to the restaurant that he was a little bit hungover from the drinking the previous evening.  To be fair, he really doesn’t drink that much these days.  Some greasy food and coffee would help.  Then I’m making him drink bourbon this afternoon.

We arrived at Wild Eggs to find people standing outside.  That was a good sign, if you don’t mind a wait.  There was free coffee at the door that you could enjoy as you wait.  We stood outside and talked.  Everyone was churning around in small and large groups.  Everyone directly ahead of us went in.  It would be our turn soon.  I look up and Nicole, the bartender from last night, is walking in the door.  How cool.

A group of people came to sit on the bench when the previous occupants had gone inside.  An older gentleman came up and started talking to us.  I think he was looking for fresh ears to turn that morning.  The group he was with were mostly women.  Soon, our pager buzzed and it was time to say good-bye to the nice man.

We got seated and made our order.  A carafe of water and a carafe of coffee came to the table.  Good, we should have a supply of coffee at our fingertips without waiting for someone to come by.  I ordered chorizo sausage gravy and biscuits with a side of grits.  Rich ordered the breakfast burrito with black beans.  The food arrived and was wonderful. The gravy was tangy with a little bit of spice.  The grits were real hominy and not the instant dried stuff.  Rich’s breakfast plate was amazing.  Everything was fresh and delicious.

Then it was time to hit the road yet again.  We were heading to Lawrenceburg, KY and the Wild Turkey Distillery.  I think we’ve planned to hit just about every distillery there is on the Bourbon Trail.  Wild Turkey was Rich’s next choice.  We arrived a little after 12:00, got tickets for the tour, and had a 20 minute wait.  We walked around the shop, purchased a t-shirt for Rich, and then hung around outside.  There were kids barrel rides dressed up as turkeys.  I just couldn’t resist getting my picture taken.

Jonathan, the tour guide, came out and gathered us up for the bus ride to the distillery on the property.  We got the history lesson for the operation from their start in 1895 through today.  The bus dropped us at the door.  Before going in, Jonathan explained about three large silos just outside of the door.  One silo is for corn, the other for malted barley, and the last one is for rye.  The contents of the three silos is the week’s worth of materials for making Wild Turkey bourbon. Impressive.

During the tour, Rich explained about being a homebrewer and the similarities.  Jonathan immediately zeroed in on the fact that he had to talk to Rich when the tour was over.  We walked around the plant and viewed the displays.  Finally, it was back on the bus and to the tasting room.  Of the 6 or 7 types of bourbon produced at the distillery, you could sample two of them.  Lucky for Rich, I wasn’t sampling.  I got two of the bourbons he wanted and he used his tickets for two others.  This gave him a total of four to sample.  I did sneak a little sip of each.  I know have a new favorite bourbon, if I really drank bourbon.

On the bus, I was talking to the lady in front of me.  She was wearing the most beautiful American Indian jewelry.  I asked her about it and found out that she used to deal in this type of jewelry.  She and her husband lived in Grants, NM.  They ran a shop there and worked with several artists to provide jewelry.  Lucky her.  I told her my story about Rich thinking I knew the name of every American Indian jewelry artist in the southwest.  Too bad she isn’t still in the business.  Today, she, her husband, and her sister-in-law are travelling the country.  Last week, they were in Cape Cod.  Today, they were in Kentucky.

So the tasting ended and Jonathan got to have his conversation with Rich.  We gave him the AHA website and Charlie Papazian’s name.  He and Rich talked details and how to get started.  After stressing the process and not the actually jumping right in, I think Jonathan saw that he was going to be working at this for a while.  We might start hearing his name in the world of beer.

Time to make a decision.  Rich wanted to buy a bottle of the best bourbon he had tasted.  It actually came down to two bottles.  The Kentucky Spirit was great and not that expensive.  However, he could buy a bottle of Rare Breed and have a special label created for the bottle.  His label said:

Bottled specially for the 12 Bar Blues Bar

This is the name of Rich’s bar in the basement.  When the ladies at the desk asked about the reference and he explained the name, they thought it was really cool.  One of the ladies asked why a name like that.  Tanya said, “I’d drink at a bar named 12 Bar Blues Bar!”

It was a day of old guys.  One of the older guys from our tour came in and asked for directions to Louisville.  Only he wasn’t saying it any one of the 5 accepted ways to pronounce it.  The ladies behind the counter were laughing and kept saying Luval, but the guy wasn’t listening.  One of the tour guides stepped in to help him.  But every time the older guy said Louisville, the ladies at the counter started shouting Luval!  I couldn’t help myself and after the third time, I started helping them shout, too!  We went out for about 10 or 15 minutes, before Rich made me leave.  But I was having fun!

OK, back on the road again.  We headed toward Lexington and made our way to I-75.  This means we took a couple of circles.  In Lexington, they love their circle drives.  We found 75 and headed south.  The country here is pretty much mountains.  You are driving through the edge of Harlan County and Hazard.  This is coal country.

Both sides of my families are from Kentucky.  My mother grew up in a small town called Crail Hope.  My granddaddy’s place still evokes a lot of memories.  Smells always send me back there.  One of them is the smell of crude oil.  Why?  Because they were pumping crude oil from a couple of wells on the property while I was growing up.  That was how he supported himself when he retired from farming.  We stopped at a gas station to fill up the tank.  Right next door was a well head pumping away.  It reminded me of walking around the fields at my granddaddy’s.

We meandered our way down to Knoxville TN and toward Gatlinburg.  Our cabin is right off the parkway between Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.  I knew the weekend traffic would still be in Pigeon Forge and probably slow us down.  But what we got was absolutely ridiculous.  It was car show weekend in town.  Turns out, the entire strip in downtown is the car show.  Cars of all kinds were lining the strip on both sides.  People had their chairs out and sitting in the grass next to the highway.  Three lanes of traffic were going 10 miles an hour for about 7 or 8 miles.

We figured out to stay in the center lane to keep out of the cruising cars.  But that didn’t mean we were going much faster.  We just stopped less.  People would run across the 6-lane highway.  I think it was an old fashioned game of chicken.  Cars were moving back and forth between lanes, depending on if they needed to turn around and go back around the strip.

After an hour, we finally made it through town and out the highway to our cabin.  At this point, you are technically in the Smoky Mountain National Park.  We got to our road and turned up this big hill.  For those in Southern Indiana, this was the equivalent of driving the Knobs.  It is basically a single lane road that goes straight up the hillside.  Our cabin appeared on the left and we pulled into the concrete pad.

As I thought, the cabin is literally hanging on the side of the mountain.  The concrete pad is little bigger than our CRV would fit on.  We opened the door and started moving in.  It is a little worn, but pretty much as advertised.  The whole cabin is a large great room with a loft for a bedroom.  It was going to be cozy and welcomed.

After getting set up and making a grocery list, we headed into Gatlinburg to look around and grab some food.  We stopped in at the Smoky Mountain Brewery.  The place was packed with football fans watching one of several games.  I guess this is the place to be.  The food was pretty good and the beer wasn’t bad.  We found out that we could have parked in their lot for free after eating there.  We would know better next time.

Now we had to find a grocery store.  Turns out, the two places in Gatlinburg were closed up tight with for sale signs.  Oh My God! We had to go back to Pigeon Forge!  Maybe the traffic was clear and people were going to bed.  Oh no!  They were still going strong at 9:30 at night.  After another half an hour, we made it down to the Kroger.  In the checkout, we found out that if alcohol was not in a plastic or paper bag, it was considered an open container when they stopped you.  We got all of our stuff in plastic bags and packed up to head back on the strip for the cabin.

At 11:00 PM, the cruise was still going on and people were just starting to close up and pack it in.  We managed to get to the outside lane, which made it go a little faster.  We got back to the cabin before midnight.  We decided to sit out on the porch and watch the mountain disappear into the fog.  The stars come out.  Rich said he saw a shooting star, but I didn’t see it.  So there is confirmation.  After a while, it’s pretty dark.  Rich went up to bed.

After all the driving, I was still pretty awake.  I had blogs to write so I sat in the living room on the big couch with my feet up writing.  The sounds of the cabin are quiet and shifting.  I hear things dropping on the roof.  The windows are open to the breeze and the cool evening air.  We sitting up in the air, but I worry that animals can climb up this high.

Finally, it’s time to call it quits.  I go to bed, but I’m too hot to sleep.  I keep listening to the sounds around me.  That is, I try to listen, but the sounds of Rich sleeping are getting in the way.  I want to put my hand over his face when I need to hear something, but that would only wake him up.  I look out the window cut into the side wall of the cabin that looks out to the sky.  I can’t see any stars even though it was clear out.  Oh yeah, the window is too dirty to see.  How would you clean it up here?  I finally go to sleep only to wake in the early morning hours thinking that raccoons have gotten into the kitchen downstairs and knocking things over.  I got downstairs, but it’s only the ice maker dumping ice.  What? No imaginary raccoons?  Back to sleep…finally.

Oh yeah, and the reference to the title for this day is the slogan out at Wild Turkey Distilleries.

Rich doing the rose pose at the Wild Turkey Distillery.
Rich doing the rose pose at the Wild Turkey Distillery.
Big kids will play.  Just a little wild before the tour.
Big kids will play. Just a little wild before the tour.
Our coach awaits.
Our coach awaits.
Barrel houses and shipping department.
Barrel houses and shipping department.

 

Looking down inside one of their fermenters.  No, Rich, you can't have one.
Looking down inside one of their fermenters. No, Rich, you can’t have one.
After the fermenter, the liquid moves to the beer well.  It's a lot of liquid.
After the fermenter, the liquid moves to the beer well. It’s a lot of liquid.
Photo op in the distillery.
Photo op in the distillery.
Rich tasting not two, but four of Wild Turkey's very best.
Rich tasting not two, but four of Wild Turkey’s very best.
One of three silos that hold the products to make fine bourbon.
One of three silos that hold the products to make fine bourbon.
Looking from the back porch up to the road at the cabin.  It's a long way up.
Looking from the back porch up to the road at the cabin. It’s a long way up.
Hot tub on the porch will come in handy.
Hot tub on the porch will come in handy.