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Old 07-11-2008, 12:59 AM
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luvhockey luvhockey is offline
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Default Smoky Mountain Trip Report 5/30 - 6/7

I forgot to post this here. I wrote this and posted it on Trip Advisor Pigeon Forge forum so keep that in mind when reading. Those that have been there will recognize many of the places. It's very long and I hope you enjoy it.

Our cast of characters includes:
Me-Angela-the mom-very out of shape but eager to see this part of the country with easy hikes
Husband-Chris-the dad-in much better shape, easy going just tell me what time to get up and where to drive kinda guy.
Son-Bryce-9yr old with an IQ way, way above most. He is a fact collector.
Son-Blane-6yr old loves to climb and jump.
As a family we love to go geocaching.

I wanted to stay at Twin Mtn Inn phase 1, it has a 2 bedroom suite but Phase 2 with regular rooms was on special and quite a bit less so I booked that. The morning that we were leaving I tortured myself and looked at the Twin Mtn website and saw that phase 1 was now on the same special. I called and they changed my resv to phase 1. YES!!! What a great way to start a trip. I now have it all.

We arrived on Friday evening about 10pm. Threw the boys in bed and sat on the balcony in the dark listening to the Little Pigeon river. Heaven.

Saturday 5/31: morning, the boys wanted to go down to the river and explore. Of course the last words out of my mouth were "Don't fall in, we're going to eat soon" Yeah, right. Bryce comes back to the room with a dry spot of about 4 inches on one shoulder and squishy shoes.
The first set of clothes lasted about 15 minutes.

We went to breakfast at the Smokey Mtn Pancake house that is across the parkway. You get coupons for free pancakes when staying at Twin Mtn hotel. The pancakes were good and our bill after drinks and tips was about $15. This saved us about $30 a day. We ate there every other day.

After breakfast we headed to Sugarlands Visitor Center in the national park.
We stopped at the Gatlinburg visitors center? on the way. We got the pack for $5 that includes the pamphlets for Newfound Gap Rd, Cades Cove, Roaring Fork, Auto touring and Day hikes. It had a trail map also I think.
The boys got the books for becoming Jr park rangers. I bought the book 'Scavenger Hikes'. I highly recommend it if you do this trip. It gave us lots of history and info about the 4 trails we went on. The boys loved looking for all the things they were supposed to find. It forced us to take our time and SEE.

At Sugarlands, we watched a movie which kept even Blane's attention for the 20 minutes. Water bottles in hand we set out on the Sugarlands Nature Trail. An easy paved trail that wet our appetite to see more but didn't get our feet wet, or wetter in Bryce's case.

Then we took Fighting Creek trail. A trail that ended in a waterfall. We put our water shoes on and climbed on some of the rocks in the nearby stream. Bryce was walking on a log and fell in (again). He managed to keep about 50% dry. I always wanted to name one of my kids Grace. He isn't liking the nickname much. We saw a small snake of some sort in the water which
quickly vacated the area due to the rampaging of the boys. They found a few crawfish but were disappointed they didn't see any salamanders. We spent a good hour playing on the rocks and enjoying nature.

We headed back to get cleaned up before supper at Dixie Stampede.
This was our first time. I was leary of spending the almost $150 but justified it in my mind because we were saving money on breakfasts.
DH & I enjoyed the food and the show. The boys loved the show, the food--well they picked at it but alot went to waste. They would've been happier with hotdogs & chicken nuggets with the bread, corn and dessert.
Will we go again? It was definitely worth the money but I don't know if I'd do it again.

Are ya bored yet?? Give me time.

Sunday 6/1: this was kind of an open day so husband was hoping to golf. He had called Gatlinburg municipal course previously and they said come over whenever and we'll fit you in. We awoke to rain with a forcast of more rain. Headed to breakfast at the Old Mill, which I thought would be packed on a Sunday morning but we walked right in. Food was yummy, they have real
grits not the boxed kind. Now, I don't like these either but we all tried them because I felt it our duty.
The Old Mill in Pigeon Forge


After breakfast it had lightened up some, so husband called the golf course to check the radar and go the thumbs up.
Found a cache at the mill then dropped hubby off at his heaven. Happy Hubby.
So with GPS in hand the boys and I headed off to do more geocaching. Got one right next to the golf course, how convenient.

A not so quick story. Our next cache was Blane's turn to control the GPS. It's called BigRedBarn. So I park near there (also by the
Happy Days diner) aaaaaaaannnnnnnd He's off. Now Blane will watch only the arrow on the gps and never look up. He's had many spills and run-intos because of this. "No honey don't crash thru the poison ivy and bushes, the trail will take you around it'. So, by the time I catch up with him around the corner of the Happy Days Diner I find him in tears. Now this is maybe 10 seconds behind my little GeoBoy. There are 3 guys, employees, hanging out before the diner opened. First quick flash mother thought is what did they do to my baby. Of course nothing in that 10 seconds. I ask Blane what is wrong and he says sobbing "They saw me". He knows this is a big no-no is geocaching. One must have stealth, never let the 'others' see you. One of the guys comes over and tells him it's ok, they know the cache is there
and they watch over it. Then the others come over to congratulate him and fawn all over him for picking the best prize in the cache, a swat
tank toy vehicle. He leaves in the cache a small Ariel frisbee which they commend him on because there never seems to be girly stuff in there.
Kudos to some late teen early twenty somethings for helping a little boy feel better.

Alright, enough of that mushy stuff. We got 4 or 5 more caches when hubby calls and says he's done golfing.
WOW, it's not even noon yet. Now what? How about we tackle Clingman's Dome, the second highest point east of the Mississippi River.
So after a quick drive through at McD's we head out to explore Newfound Gap & the Dome.
The drive was gorgeous, partly cloudy which was even more impressive
as we got higher. We stopped and took the obligatory picture of the TN/NC line sign. Hiked about 1/4 mile on the Appalachian trail just
to say we did then headed to the Dome. The picture in my siggy of the boys was taken here.

Remember me, the out of shape person. Well I DID IT. One half mile of what seems like a straight up trail from the parking lot. It took a good 45 minutes, and I wanted to quit a few times but I persevered and I'm proud of myself. Of course the boys would run ahead and then back to us... I think they climbed it at least twice. The view was awesome and then clouds rolled in which was cool also. The boys thought it fun to be standing in the middle of a cloud.


A much quicker trip down. We headed back to Gatlinburg to Chris's second favorite thing, a microbrewery. The food at Smokey Mtn Brewery was good. I told him that everyone on Trip Advisor recommended pizza but we kinda wanted burgers for some reason. So we did both, we're on vacation. We split a burger and a chicken/bleu cheese pizza. Now I don't really like bleu cheese but this was a great pizza. Yes they do have good pizza. DH had to buy a 6 pack of beer and a shirt on the way out.

For an open day that had practically nothing planned it was long. We left the hotel about 7:30am and got back after 9pm. Whew, I'm tired thinking about it.


Monday 6/2: this was our Cades Cove day. A beautiful valley that has a lot of old cabins and settlements from the 1800's. So after a long day on Sunday we got a little later start than I wanted. I was shooting for 8am but we didn't make it until about 9:30. We stopped by the Parkway Market and got some tenderloin biscuits for breakfast and deli sandwiches & chips for lunch. The river road on the way is beautiful. On the way to Cades Cove we saw deer, turkey and a coyote. Blane was in heaven. There were bugs of all kinds everywhere. The 17yr cicada were so loud that you had to talk a little louder to be heard over the noise. Butterflies by the thousands.


We explored most every building. I love how all the buildings are built up on rocks. It looks so precarious but yet has been that way for a hundred plus years.
In one of the cabins we saw a snake. I think it was a corn snake all curled up in a wall crevice near a doorway.


Rich Mtn Rd. was an amazing road and we're so glad we took it. The switchbacks and steepness impressed us. We saw a huge root wall where 3 trees had all fallen over. It must've been 15 feet tall and 40 feet wide.
The view of the cove was beautiful from above.


If you aren't too bored, I post more in a few days.
Angela
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Old 07-11-2008, 01:16 AM
fourfoxesinpa fourfoxesinpa is offline
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Poor Blane! Thought he was spotted by Muggles! (We're cachers too...GeoFox17)

The pictures are beautiful - I love the mill.
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Old 07-11-2008, 06:28 AM
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disneyforever disneyforever is offline
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Great report! I love the Smokey Mountains. I haven't been there in 3 years. I really want to go back. Sounds like you had a wonderful trip. I have to say - I would have run - screaming - if I had seen that snake. YUCK!!!

Can't wait to read the rest of your trip.
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Old 07-11-2008, 09:04 AM
eaglesdare eaglesdare is offline
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great report. i also can't wait to read more.


now what is geocatching?
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all star movies for 10! jun 15-21. what a nightmare of a vacation.
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Old 07-11-2008, 09:33 AM
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Great TR! Keep it coming.
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Old 07-12-2008, 08:58 AM
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Default Glad you are enjoying it.

Geocaching is a type of treasure hunting.
Using billion dollar government satellites to find tupperware in the woods is the typical answer.
You use a gps and download coordinates of caches in an area then go look for them. It gets us out of the house and into areas we wouldn't normally see. I've found little parks and areas in my general local that I never knew existed.
Go to geocaching.com and put in your zipcode to see how many are near you. You might be amazed.

Here are a few more pictures that wouldn't fit in the post above.

Some of the thousands of butterflies we saw.


The view from our hotel balcony


A church built up on rocks.


I'll post the rest soon.
Angela
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Old 07-12-2008, 09:09 AM
3dog2kidmom 3dog2kidmom is offline
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Angela, your vacation sounds great! Looking forward to reading the rest. You'll have to tell me more about geocaching spots near home sometime.
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Old 07-12-2008, 09:58 AM
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Tuesday 6/3: Blane & I awoke early and decided to sneak out and get a cache that was in walking distance.
We got back and rousted the other 2 out of bed and went to the Smokey Mtn Pancake house for breakfast. Then Blane spilled the beans that we had found a cache so Bryce & DH had to go find it.

I sent husband to so some laundry at the twin mtn rv park which was behind the hotel. He watched the boys swim in the pool and did laundry while I sat
on the balcony back at the hotel reading in peace. It's only fair, he got to play golf by himself.

After relaxing for awhile we drove to Patriot Park to catch the trolley to Dollywood. The trolley system is a great way to get around the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area.
We arrived at 2:30pm and they let us go in using the 'arrive after 3pm the next day is free' promo. The first ride the boys wanted to go on is Raging River, yea, soaked first off.
Bryce is tall enough for all the rides but Blane the daredevil isn't. So Bryce & his dad went on Thunderhead roller coaster while I tried to console my to short by 3 inches son.
Did more normal amusement park stuff and dropped lots of money on food.


Wednesday 6/4: Dollywood again. I got to see 2 shows which were both very good. One was called the Great American Country show
and the other I don't remember the name of. More money on normal park food.
Here's a picture of Blane trying to navigate, I thought it was to cute.


Thursday 6/5: We ate at the Log Cabin Pancake House this morning. I had yummy blackberry pancakes.
I think this area is the pancake house capital of the world.

This was a Roaring Fork day. Roaring Fork is a one way loop in the nat'l park. I liked the lush mtn area & streams compared
to the valley. They were both beautiful in their own different ways.
Nope, none of them fell. I was calculating in my mind how far of a hike it was to get hubby to the car and then how far to the nearest hospital.


We went on a scavenger hike on the trail that runs behind
the Noah 'Bud' Ogle cabin. This was a fun trail with lots of great stuff to see. We met a family with 2 girls that live about
an hour from us. Small world. They took the scavenger hike with us and the kids entertained each other.

We stopped and played at one of the streams for quite awhile then decided that all this open space makes one very hungry.
Just another gorgeous mountain stream. It's amazing how green everything is.


We went to Calhouns, a great BBQ place for a late afternoon meal. Hubby
got the 1/2 slab of ribs which we both thought were very good. I had a bbq pork sandwich which was also good.
The boys had quesadilla that they demolished. Hiking makes boys hungry.
We went back to the hotel for more stream playing and rock hopping.

If you're still with me, I'll post the end later tonight. I hope I'm not boring you to much.
Angela
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Old 07-12-2008, 10:08 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 3dog2kidmom View Post
Angela, your vacation sounds great! Looking forward to reading the rest. You'll have to tell me more about geocaching spots near home sometime.
It was great. I'm not sure exactly where you live but I was thinking around M Hgts. Is this right? If so there are about 300 caches within a 10 mile radius of you. PM me if you want more details on how to get started. The kids love it.
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