Day 4 – Great Smoky Mountains NP

So, my plan called for one more night at the park, but I changed it up a bit after reviewing my plan for today and Thursday.  Instead of taking a drive through the park and returning to the campground and somewhat retracing my route tomorrow, I decided to just head for Georgia today.  I took the drive along the New Found Gap road, which connects the Tennessee side of the park to the North Carolina side.  Along the way was a side road up to Clingmans Peak which is the highest peak in the Smokies and the third highest east of the Mississippi.  Unfortunately, it was a very “smoky” day in the mountains, so the visibility was quite limited.  But still worth the hike up to the top.


After heading south out of the park, the big decision was where to spend the night – I was supposed to be in the park still.  I debated between campground and hotel and had nearly made up my mind to camp when it started to rain.  OK, a hotel sounds great!  So, I’m spending the night in Gainesville, GA, a little less than an hour north of Atlanta.  This will make what was going to be a long Thursday drive into only a four hour drive, so I may spend a little more time at Stone Mountain – depending on how the weather cooperates.

Day 3 – Great Smoky Mountains NP

Today I spent touring the Cades Cove area of the park – which is where I’m camping.  A “cove” here in the Smoky Mountains is essentially just a valley between two mountain ridges.  This area was first settled around 1820 – of course the Cherokee hunted these lands long before, just didn’t live in the area.  Interestingly, Great Smoky Mountains NP, is the only park (or one of very few at least) that was created out of almost entirely privately owned lands – most other parks were originally government owned land.   There are a few historic buildings (farms and churches) along the route, but given the volume of traffic on this route and the very limited parking areas, I didn’t visit any of those.


Instead, I hiked out to the falls on Abram’s Creek.  It’s about a 5 mile hike round trip that takes you through the woods along the creek and eventually down to the falls.  I’ll post some pictures in the next few days.

That was all the excitement I could handle for the day – I got back to my camp and did a little reading.  I’m currently reading “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson – which is a story of his travels on the Appalachian Trail.  I’ve read a couple other books he’s written and, as usual, this one doesn’t disappoint.

Day 2 – Driving

Well today was a driving day just getting over to Great Smoky Mountains NP.  It was about a six hour drive which was mostly uneventful.  The only excitement came about half way when I noticed some dark clouds along with a few flashes of lightning up in front, but off to the north of my route.  I was planning on stopping for gas and lunch anyway so wasn’t too worried.  I was driving with the top down though, so I did want to get there and put the top up.

I can now honestly say that, at speed in the rain (at least a little), you will still stay dry with the top down.  That’s right – I got rained on and stayed dry without a roof!  It may have been just the leading edge of the rain and a few stray drops, but the outside of the car was completely wet and there were maybe two drops on my seat when I pulled under a gas station canopy a minute later in London, Kentucky.  This was perfect timing however, as I stepped out of the car and started to pull the top up, the sky let loose and for about 30 seconds there was a torrential downpour.

From there I drove the rest of the way with the top up.  I arrived at my campsite about 6 this evening and got my campsite setup.  I’m staying at Cades Cove campground which is at the eastern end of the park.  There’s an 11 mile scenic loop drive that I’m planning to take tomorrow along which there is a short hike to a supposedly nice waterfall.

Time to hit the tent…