the summer road trip continued. the drive from charlottesville, va to gatlinburg, tn was six hours.
we made it to gatlinburg without getting lost : ) we stayed at Smoky Bear Campground in the teddy bear cabin. it was thankfully not in the hubub of gatlinburg. it was tucked away off route 321. there were a few other cabins on the campground alongside rv’s and thee pool. our cabin had a loft, futon in the living room (for gr3 to sleep on), a kitchen, full bath, and bedroom. the bonus was the faux fireplace that gr3 fell in love with. he sat by it and watched the glow. he turned it on every chance he had.
the first full day we did the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. you could hear the “roar” of the water. we stopped at jim ogle’s log cabin, an old appalachian home where fellow travelers told us about a black bear. we watched from a distance while the bear ate a deer. it was unreal to be that close to nature–no cage or bars to separate us. we were in awe.
next we drove up the trail and stopped to take in the beautiful views.
then we stopped to do the grotto falls hike. the sign said 1.2 miles, but it felt like way more. we took our walking sticks and hiked the knotty, bumpy trail. the kids kept asking: are we there yet? how much further?
thank goodness we were rewarded at the grotto–kids dipped their feet in the cool water and we took pictures. we saw salamanders and bugs. it was totally worth the hike. thankfully the kids thought so too.
after lunch at hungry bear bbq, we went into the park’s Greenbrier entrance. there were butterflies gathered on the ground and flying around us. my husband took out the fishing gear. unfortunately, the kids kept getting the hooks stuck in the low trees. we dipped our feet in the cool, refreshing water and saw a group of people kayaking. it was absolutely stunning. the water was clear and the sky was blue. we loved it.
the next day we went white water river rafting on the pigeon river. we had no idea what to expect. we drove out to Smoky Mountiain Outdoors and parked the car. we put on our bathing suits and met our guide. did you know there’s nothing really to keep you in the raft? we tucked our feet under the raft seats and held onto our paddles. really? that was it? the water moved us along and we hit pockets of white water. at the end we nearly missed our landing when my husband, gr2 and gr3 took a dip and were holding onto the raft. this turned us more than we wanted. the guide, gr1 and i paddled hard to direct us to the shore. crisis averted. good thing we didn’t float away. the rafts were strapped to the top of the bus and the fellow rafters and guides rode back to the starting point. it was a good first rafting trip for the family. we topped off the day with smores in the fire pit and swimming.
on our way to downtown gatlinburg we stopped to buy a black bear carved out of wood. we saw them making them. after lunch we headed to Sugarlands Visitors Center and then drove to Cades Cove for one more hike.
we actually remembered to bring our national park passport so we could stamp our visit with the help of the park ranger. they had a neat exhibit of the wildlife and a short movie about how the park came to be. we bought some gifts at the store. their granola bars were so good. they were the perfect pre-hike snack.
we drove up to clingmans dome. what’s one mile for a hike? except it was one steep mile. luckily there were places to sit and rest along the way. at the top we were surrounded with breathtaking views. we were in the clouds. one second it was cloudy and next the sun broke through. we even touched the appalachain trail (though muddy). it was a great second hike in the smoky mountains.
sadly, the next day we loaded up the car. we stopped to have breakfast at Carver’s in nearby cosby, tn. we had apple donuts with our breakfast–yum!
next stop, cincinnati, oh.