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During my time in-between jobs, we were trying to figure out where to take a mini-vacation. I was originally thinking of renting an RV and going to Florida or the GA coast. But, Hurricane Ophelia changed our plans. So, we decided to make a trip to Gatlinburg, TN and see the Great Smoky Mountains.

We've never done a long car trip ever since baby Zach was born. So, we decided to leave at night when the baby (and the kids) were asleep. And that worked out well. We left Atlanta at 9 PM and got to Knoxville at midnight and checked into a hotel. The next morning, we drove through Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. I've never been to those towns and it's amazing see the contrast in such a short drive. Pigeon Forge is a huge commercialized tourist trap with almost every family-oriented entertainment imaginable. Gatlinburg has a bunch of small shops that is more laid back. Then just a short drive is pure nature in the Smoky Mountains park.

We first stopped at the Sugarlands Visitor Center to see what we'd first do in the park. After talking with the guides, we took a look at the small museum in the visitor center and and bought a couple of souvenirs. Then we went back to Gatlinburg and ate at KFC (one of the few places where you don't have to pay for parking). Afterwards, we made the drive to Cades Cove. It took about an hour just to drive there. They said it was the best place to see animals, so we were hoping to see a bear. But, we never did see one during the entire trip. At Cades Cove, we stopped at the first house that was erected there. It was built by John Oliver, the first settler in the area. It took him 10 years to build it and was completed in 1928. It's definitely worth a visit since it's the only house we saw that there were guides at.

Then as we were driving out of Cades Cove, we got a great view of a deer. It was eating right next to the road and I was able to get a good shot of it. After we left the park, we ate at Cracker Barrel in Pigeon Forge for dinner. It felt a little odd there since we were the only non-white people in the entire restaurant. Even in Atlanta, at least there would be a bunch of other black people in there. Also, I don't know what was going on in the town, but people had all these classic cars there. Portable chairs were lined up along the main road and people were just sitting there looking at the cars drive by. I don't know if this is what they do all the time or just some special event.

That night, we stayed at the Comfort Inn in Gatlinburg. Next time, we're not going to get a hotel that is right next to the main road. It was way too noisy, even though I thought there wouldn't be much traffic in Gatlinburg.

The next day, it started raining because of Ophelia. So, we just drove the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. It was the only road that we drove on that was not accessible by an RV. Though it was paved, it was pretty narrow and steep at times. We did get to see two turkeys during the drive, but couldn't get any good pictures of them.

Because of the rain, we decided to just drive back that afternoon. But, we saw that there was a Mayfield Dairy visitor center in Athens, TN. So, we stopped by there and went on one of their tours. One interesting fact is that they don't currently own any cows. They buy all their milk from local farmers. Afterwards, we bought a large scoop of ice cream for a buck apiece.

Photo Album of Great Smoky Mountains trip

Posted: 2005-09-18 00:18:22

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