Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Great Smoky Mountain National Park is wonderful. We are having a great time. We have been staying in the park on the North Carolina side.

Blogging without the internet is hard. Thank you for noticing last week when the travel stuff didn’t post on Sunday like it usually does. I’m still writing the blog, but publishing just became very difficult. We don’t have internet except when we drive over the pass or through a town. Don’t feel sorry for me, we are in the middle of a 12 day stay in Great Smoky Mountain National Park. This place is so wonderful for many reasons, but internet coverage is not one of them.

View at Great Smoky Mountain National Park
View at Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Further East

We are no longer in Knoxville, or rather near Knoxville, we moved 50 miles further east to another stay right on the water at Douglas Dam Recreation area.  This time our objective wasn’t the water. Douglas Dam Recreation Area is a little east of Sevierville and down a fairly narrow road but nothing crazy like Loyston Point. Here is a link to my rant about not liking the camping in Knoxville.

Our campsite at Douglas Dam
Our campsite at Douglas Dam

Sevierville

You remember Sevierville?  Sevierville is the place that Dolly Parton used to name as her home. Really she grew up in a much smaller town, near Sevierville, but no one would have ever heard of the place other than Sevierville locals.  In the south “ville” is pronounced “vul”. This is probably lesson one on southern drawl.  Loua-vul, Fayett-vul, Browns-vul and so on.

Dolly Focus

Anyway Dolly knew exactly what she wanted to do for her entire life, and she did it her way.  When she was very young age she would stand on the porch, as if it was a stage and sing using a stick that she would force between the boards pretending it was a microphone. Right after High School she moved to Nashville and Porter Wagner put her on the show for seven years, making her a star. We found out the whole story while staying at Douglas Dam because we visited Pigeon Forge and Dollywood. 

Watertower at Dollywood
Water tower at Dollywood

Dollywood

We didn’t have any expectations about Dollywood other than it was an amusement park.  We knew that it had a few roller coasters and would have a country theme. What we didn’t know was that we would enjoy it as much as we did. I like Dollywood more than Disney. The reason I like Dollywood was that throughout the day there are bluegrass shows from the time the park opens until you get your fill.

Family Sowell Bluegrass Band at Dollywood
Family Sowell Bluegrass Band at Dollywood

It was also very enjoyable that we were there on a Monday in early May and the park was busy but I don’t think we stood in any lines for any of the rides.  In fact the longest line we were in was for a private tour (just the two of us) of Dolly’s Prevost Tour bus. I’m sure glad that our bus is a little shorter and has four slides. Dolly didn’t have any slides on her tour bus. The tour guide thought we were not impressed until we explained that we have a newer bus (with the same cherry cabinets) but we have lots of extra room due to the slides. 

Dolly Parton's tour bus.
Dolly Parton’s tour bus.

The bus also had a pink theme going that I wasn’t too thrilled about.

Dolly Parton's tour bus.
Dolly Parton’s tour bus.

Gatlinburg

So far the only thing we have done in Gatlinburg is drive-through. We may have stopped if there was room for us to park our car.  The kayaks that live on top of the car eliminate all parking garages. The city is hard to describe for me because I try to avoid such places (cities, crowded cities, in your face cities).

Gatlinburg is like a tightly packed Las Vegas – replace casinos with amusement parlors and arcades, add an odd collection of carnival side shows and then multiply the effect with a throng of people who haven’t heard of the pandemic.  We were in Las Vegas during the start of the Covid virus breakout and shutdown.  Vegas was closed. Gatlinburg didn’t shut down – we have been told that Gatlinburg didn’t even slow down.

Waterwheel driven mill at Dollywood
Waterwheel driven mill at Dollywood

Cades Cove

Cades Cove is one of the major attractions in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. We made our second visit in two weeks to this section of the park, both on a Wednesday.  Cades Cove is an eleven mile, one way, paved loop road that surrounds a huge meadow.

Cades Cove Great Smoky Mountain National Park
Cades Cove Great Smoky Mountain National Park

What we didn’t know until our arrival on our first visit is that Cades Cove is closed to motor vehicles on Wednesdays. On our first visit, it was also raining. It was only light rain, but plentiful enough to not want to ride bikes (not that we knew enough to bring our bikes).  It was also rainy enough that we didn’t want to walk the loop or at least much of the loop, so while on that visit we had a nice drive in the rain.

We were prepared for our next visit and the bikes were ready. This time we were there late enough for an easy place to park. Our timing was for an early afternoon bike ride. Our expectations for this ride was that we might see a bear (we saw five). We also expected to see deer (one). What we didn’t expect to see were turkeys (turkeys were the most sited of all).  We also saw a couple of churches and a couple of farms.

Turkey at Great Smoky Mountain National Park
Turkey at Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Bicycle Bears

Our first bear was sighted while driving into the cove before we parked the car.  What we found out later is that she (the bear) is well known in that location and that she had three cubs with her. This bear even has a nickname, the hosts call her showgirl. We didn’t see the cubs – just mom.  We also stopped when we saw a few people with large cameras in the middle of a field focused on a tree line.

Unlike bear, elk and bison slowdowns in Yellowstone, bear slowdowns on bicycles are much easier to navigate. In this case these bears (three cubs and mom) were sleeping in a tree. Mom sends the cubs up the tree and then picks a lower branch for her snooze. The cubs can’t get down without waking mom.

Sleeping Black Bear Great Smoky Mountain National Park
Sleeping Black Bear Great Smoky Mountain National Park

I was aware that bears climb trees; it was kind of a surprise that bears climb trees with the express purpose of sleeping in them. I thought that bears slept anywhere they want to sleep. I guess they do – and in this case they prefer sleeping in the trees.

Unlike some people, I didn’t walk across the field to get the picture. The cubs were nearly invisible and mom looks like a black blob with her legs hanging down. 

Going back

In addition to the animals, Cades Cove has lots of very old homesteads, but we only stopped at a couple because we were tired.  It wasn’t the distance, but it was the hills. I am starting to think that I am not going to be biking much in the Smokies — all because of the hills. Cades Cove was way better than we expected so we will be going back to Cades Cove again while we are staying in the park. Next time we plan to go on driving day so that we aren’t so tired by the end of the ride. I really do want to see the homesteads that we just pedaled by without stopping.

Smokehouse in Great Smoky Mountain National Park
Smokehouse in Great Smoky Mountain National Park

North Carolina

Our route from Tennessee took us east along I-40 north of the park and into a small town on the east side of the park in North Carolina. From there we are going to go back to the west to our campsite in the park.  The purpose of the east side stop is twofold. The first reason to stop is that since we are going to be staying in the park for twelve days on the east side, we need to be ready for a twelve day stay.

So our stop was to get ready, prior to our entering the park. This includes laundry, flushing and emptying the tanks and filling the freshwater to the maximum. We chose to stop on the east side (second reason) because we didn’t want to drive across the park on Highway 441 even though it crosses the park. Highway 441 is great for a car, but Interstate 40 is much better for an RV. I am going to be including Highway 441 on my list of bad roads for RVs. 

North Carolina
North Carolina

So last Thursday we added North Carolina to our map of states visited in our journey.  North Carolina is state number twenty. We are not even at the halfway point (not that we are focused on that as a goal).

Hello, this is Charlotte Russe at like, June in Alaska

That is what the voice mail said. I had been trying to get a reservation for a long time in North Carolina but the translation of the southern accent played havoc with my voice mail system. My voice mail turns a voice mail into a text message so that I can read it rather than listen to it. In this case the text message was nonsense. I was certain that I had no reservation requests in Alaska.

After a little decrypting, I called Charlotte back and told her about the voicemail translation. She had a major laugh. We were staying at Lake Junaluska Campground to get ready for our twelve-day journey into the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

We needed to be prepared

You don’t camp for twelve days on less than one hundred gallons of freshwater without first doing laundry, and emptying all the tanks. That was the purpose of our stop in Lake Junaluska and given our past bad road adventures, one of the things we did was drive up to the park to see what we were in for. Highway 19 between Waynesville and Cherokee will go into the bad roads for RVs section pretty soon. Instead of Highway 19 when going to the park from Waynesville take Highway 74, it is a much better road for RVs.  

Tunnel on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Tunnel on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Arrival

The campsite was great and so was the other road leading to Cherokee. So we are now here. Twelve days of camping in the one site that has solar exposure in the entire National Park. The only issue is that the southeast is under what the weather people are calling a heat dome. The temperatures are ten degrees above normal. This has been a bit of a challenge but I will describe how that effected us next week.

Campsite at Great Smoky Mountain National Park
Campsite at Great Smoky Mountain National Park

I will continue the blog next week with some more Great Smoky Mountain visit stories.

Links to places mentioned in this article.

3 thoughts on “Great Smoky Mountain National Park”

  1. Dollywood sounds like a lot of fun. I just might have to add that to the bucket list! Thanks for sharing your adventures 😊

  2. Great blog on the Great Smokies and Dollywood. Reading gave me a great break from grading finals. 🙂 Bob has permanently retired now and the boys and girls are still learning how fly at the Island. Best. Chip

  3. I really wish we’d gone to Dollywood now. She’s awesome and it sounds like a fun place. Definitely glad we missed the rest of the crazy towns though! SMNP is beautiful. I never get tired of seeing all the lush greenery and the endless mountains. Just awesome. Speaking of which, love the turkey picture!

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