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The Great Smoky Mountains May 28, 2008

Posted by vettithoughts in Travel.
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This memorial day weekend K, A, M and I decided to visit the Tennessee side of The Great Smoky Mountains. We flew into Nashville, TN on Saturday and drove to Pigeon Forge, where we had reserved our accommodations. It took us around three hours to drive from Nashville to Pigeon Forge. As we got near Pigeon Forge the traffic started to move at a snails pace. We stayed at Vacation Lodge and it was close enough to Gatlinburg and The Smokies. Saturday evening, we drove to Gatlinburg. This town is like the gateway to the Smoky mountains. As you drive from Pigeon Forge to Gatlinburg the scenery changes from a flat land to a mountain road before you blink. Pigeon Forge looks like a flat land with nothing more than hotels, putt golf courses and various amusement rides. The restaurants there are not so good. We found one Johnny Carino’s and probably only a couple of well known eateries. The drive to Gatlinburg was beautiful. The downtown is pretty and we walked the entire stretch. There are so many fudge shops and candy shops where you could get warm, fudges and candies made in front of your eyes. We walked to Ober Gatlinburg which is a ski resort in addition to being an entertainment park. We went in an aerial tramway that took us up the mountain to where the ski slopes are (In winter I suppose the slopes are covered by snow). Ober Gatlinburg also has a Black bear habitat, which did not really interest M or K. A and I wanted to see if though. We did learn new stuff about black bears. So it wasn’t a waste of time ( Not that there was anything better to do). There is an ice skating rink and we didn’t really give it a shot. We did go on the Alpine slide or I should say come down on the Alpine slide after a ski lift took us midway up the mountain. The sled I got went so slow that I reached the end of the slide 5-10 minutes after every one else. But it was fun.. full of wandering and and hair pin bend descent. By the time we took the return tram, it was dark and the town/city looked really beautiful with lights from the tram. There are so many things to do here and we didn’t do much other than this. We drove back to Pigeon Forge after getting stuck in the traffic.

The next morning we started for Cade’s Cove. Apparently this is one of the most popular places to visit in the Smokies. We initially wanted to bike the 11 mile ( Its not really we- more like K and M wanted to bike and they were sure that A and I wouldn’t be able to and we would whine the entire way). Anyway whatever the reasons were by the end of the day both of them realized that they wouldn’t have been able to do it either. So, it was good that we instead traveled the 11 miles in the car. We had one major hike scheduled for the day- The Abrams falls trail. This trail was a total 5 mile hike. 2.5 miles to the falls and then back. Through the entire trail there are beautiful scenic spots which was a heaven for me and my camera. Finally we did reach the falls. For that hike we were a little disappointed. The falls was just 20 feet high and by the time we reached there we were so hungry and just then realized that there were no shops or eateries inside the park. (Didn’t know that before we went to Smokies and sigh…..suffered). After the mandatory photo shoots, we started to retrace our way back which turned out to be a little difficult on empty stomachs. Still we valiantly forged ahead. K and M were so hungry, that they just wanted to drive out to find some place to eat. But the cars were moving at a snails pace. We came to know that there was a black bear ahead, and people were stopping to take pictures, thus holding up traffic. Hey! the bear did wait for us until we reached that spot. Oh! and there were so many beautiful log cabins, Didn’t stop to take pictures though. Finally we did get out of the park and went to subway for lunch. M and K just wanted to go back to the lodge. All K wanted to do was sleep and then get up to watch NBA game.

Cade’s Cove meadows with mountains at the backgound

I took a short nap after which A and I walked nearly 2 miles on the parkway street/road to do some window shopping. We found a shop that sold Levis and Dockers T-Shirts and Jeans. They were so cheap, especially the T-shirts at $4.99. Bought some for myself and P. The day finally dawned to a close.

The next day we were better prepared with breakfast bars and snacks. We drove to Cligman’s dome first, which at 6,643 feet is the highest point of Smokies. We initially drove to Sugarlands visitor center before confirming the directions to Clingman’s dome. There are numerous scenic pullouts for photo opportunity. Then it was a 0.5 mile hike to the dome. It is steep paved trail. We were huffing and puffing by the time we reached the top. Apparently the Appalachian trail cuts here and is either one of the or the highest point in that trail K and I had a discussion on that and were wondering how long it would take to complete the Appalachian trail. It would require a lot of mental strength in addition to physical stamina to undertake and finish the trail. I got a couple of good shots from Clingman’s dome. Tried for a panoramic stitch shot. Did not have a tripod for it and ended up messing it. I am not too happy with the majority of the photos. One frustrating aspect was the fog/haze that is ever present. Either my photographic skills are poor or my camera is not capable of those shots. It was disappointing that I did not get many good quality pictures. The trees (Fraser Firs) there looked so bare when compared to those slightly at a lower level of the mountain. Apparently they have been falling victim to the havoc caused by Balsam woolly adelgid. Anyways after that nice visit we drove back to the Sugarlands visitor center. Our next target was Laurel Falls. It is a 80 feet high falls and the trail is a 2.6 miles round trip. This was actually a easier hike mostly due to the paved trail. That was fun and the falls was worth the hike.

The mountains from Clingman’s Dome

Another view of the mountains from Clingman’s

Finally, we drove on the Roaring Fork trail. This is a winding trail with old log cabins, historic buildings, creeks and water falls. It led to many short hiking trails to different falls. We didn’t go on any of them. Instead we had a beautiful scenic drive filled with sounds of moving water, scents of all the greenery and a sense of peace.

The next day we drove to Nashville to take the flight back to Texas.

Give me mountains and creeks anyday. It is so peaceful there.

Photos copyright Sowmya 2008

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