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Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Smokies to The Joyce Kilmer National Forest -Day 3

Again, we wouldn't recommend this place to stay, but there are PLENTY of other options when lodging in the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area. Everything from motels, log cabins, and ritzy lodges. But, moving on...

Dry ice is what we originally packed our cooler with -our first experience with it. Our Walmart in Georgetown had it readily available, but try finding it elsewhere else this time of year. Finally we did grab some more at the Kroger in Sevierville. Iced up, we headed for our first hike -the Gatlinburg Trail in the Smokies, one of only TWO trails that allow dogs on them in the entire National Park. Ridiculous.
This upside down mansion called "Wonder Works" was across from our hotel. What's inside? I have no idea. Seriously, who'd have thought to build the ouside of a structure upside down -including palm trees?! See, this IS Crazytown.
Brian begged for a shot of this cheesed-up castle, a wizards dream.
This Mother Goose putt-putt golf village was the only thing I really wanted to go to with Wilder. They had a mini carousel and some fun little rides, but he'd appreciate it more in a few years.
Here we go!

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is beautiful, particularly this enterance to it.
At one of the visitor's centers (I think it was called Sweetwater) where the 2 mile trail begins and travels into through the woods into Gatlinburg.
Strapped up and ready to go.

The Sweetwater ranger office. Too cute for words.

A small cemetary outside the historic office building.

Breathetaking dwarf iris.

By Chimney! Part of the remains of an old Smoky Mountain structure along the trail.
Us in 40 years.
End of the trail -Gatlinburg. Time to turn around.

Wilder with staticy hair -he thought this walk was electrifying.
Tailgating at the visitors center. How do you like your PBJs?
The drive through the park begins.

Lookout Larry atop a rock wall at one of many awesome view points.
*cough, cough* The Smoky Mountains.

Exiting the park on the North Carolina side, entering the town of Cherokee, aptly named since it's on the Cherokee Reservation. As you can see, they cater to the gobs of tourists looking for Native American trappings.
Downtown Cherokee.
All of this land was once inhabited by the Cherokee nation. I have to admire their choice -this place is BEAUTIFUL!! Most of them were driven off their land and made the trek west on the Trail of Tears, but some held up in the treacherous mountains until, finally, the U.S. let them "have" some of their beloved land back, which is now the Cherokee Reservation.
We didn't really have much of a plan, but to find a campsite while there was still plenty of light to unload and set up camp. Looking through the guidebook I found the Joyce Kilmer National Forest (JKNF) which said it had a camp ground. I planned for us to head southwest once we were in North Carolina and hit up a portion of the Appalachian trail before making our way around the state, eventually to the coast. We found our way to the Horse Cove campsite in the JKNF and were overjoyed. A set of semi-primitive campsites near two "toilets" along the Little Santeetlah River and a handful of primitive campsites just beyond. We checked out the primitive campsites (no toilets, no hook ups, no nothin' -just cleared ground with a firepit) and found our little paradise. A nearly 0.2 mile hike down a hillside to a spacious clearing a few yards from the river. The perfect place for solitude, privacy and Wilder to run and play without falling in the water.

Camp, sweet camp. Simply wonderful.

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