Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 2013

During the last few months I’ve had some wonderful visits with family in Michigan, Ohio and of course Kentucky!  Visits like these reinforce, to me, the importance of family!  Please don’t forget your family!
I don’t like to overstay my welcome anywhere, and since I suffer from wander-lust…. well… you know… It’s time to do some wandering…….

Earlier this week, the mercury dipped to 15 degrees in Central Kentucky.  Anyone who knows the region, knows that we never seem to get much snow in Central Kentucky… but we do get plenty of ice!  Two days ago when I began this journey it was 34 degrees and raining with a steady breeze.
Almost freezing temperatures combined with wind and rain can only mean one thing…. time to head to Florida!

In January of 2012, I visited Florida for a few weeks and had a really great time, so I decided to go back and see some new sights and some old friends!  During this trip I am going to stop along the way. The usual 15 hours drive from Central Kentucky to Sarasota, Florida may take me 3 or 4 days.

First Stop,
The Great Smoky Mountain National Park, located just a few miles from Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  This time of year seems to be a great time to visit, the Summer vacation crowds are gone and the Winter-break crowds have yet to arrive.  The Cade’s Cove area of the Park was my ultimate destination, about 30 miles from Downtown Gatlinburg and about 25 miles from the Park’s main Visitor’s Center.  I stopped at the Visitor’s Center upon entering the Park and highly recommend it!  It’s perhaps one of the finest I have visited in any of our National Parks!  A short 20 min video explains the history of the region and of course previews all the wildlife you are likely to encounter during a visit.  The 25 mile drive from the Visitor’s Center to Cade’s Cove follows the trace of numerous creeks and rivers as you snake your way up the mountain.  With few visitors at the Park during this trip, finding a pull-off was easy!  I stopped at the Laurel Falls trail and hiked to the falls, the leaves were off the trees, making for some great views of the surrounding mountains!
After a day of driving and hiking… I decided to spend the night at the Cade’s Cove campgrounds.  It’s open year-round and the fee is $17.00 dollars a night.  The Campground is huge, but as I mentioned before, there were few visitors during this trip.  I probably saw no more than 7 other tent campers, and no large RVs!  I’m traveling this trip with my Tacoma and a “tent.”  I love the creature-comforts that “Bertha the Bigfoot Truck Camper” affords me, but I want to be able to go to more remote locations so I opted for the Tacoma and a tent for this trip.  Bertha is enjoying her Winter-break on jack-stands in a storage unit in Kentucky!  With the Tacoma, I can explore a little more off the beaten path but that means I will sleep in the bed of the the truck or in a tent most of this trip!
I am pretty easy to please when it comes to food!  I even enjoy the occasional MRE from time to time, so feeding myself is pretty simple.  I opted for perhaps the simplest of all meals, a package of “Mountain House” dehydrated beef stew.  It doesn’t get much easier than boiling 2 cups of water, pouring it into the bag, zipping it shut and waiting 8 mins…. presto…. a meal.  My only complaint with “Mountain House” is that they are pretty boring…. they need to spice things up a bit!  Don’t worry, I travel with my garlic pepper sauce!  But come-on “Mountain House,” why not put a little packet of spices in your meals like the ramen noodle companies do!?  
When I went to bed at about 10 PM, it was 54 degrees at Cade’s Cove, when I woke up it was 23 degrees!  I am happy to report I was as snug as a bug in a rug!  There was no snow but a slight wind at my campsite and the “Tent Cot” worked very well!  I set it up in about 5 mins,  it kept me off the ground and was quite comfortable!  My first impressions of the “Tent Cot” are great!  I packed up camp and decided to drive the 11 mile Cade’s Cove scenic loop!  Along the way I stopped at a few primitive churches and old homesteader cabins.  The “Loop” is beautiful and a must visit for first timers to the Park!  At about noon I headed back through Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge on my way to Hwy 75, along the way I stopped at the “Smoky Mountain Knife Works.”  It’s probably the largest knife store in the country, if it has a blade, they probably carry it…. another must visit place if you are in the area!  I enjoyed a great, quick, 2 day visit to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, now it’s time to continue my journey south to Florida!  

Mountain view from the road going to Cade’s Cove.
Cade’s Cove area, Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
Recent rains mean full rivers!
Laurel Falls
Cade’s Cove Campgrounds.
Cade’s Cove Baptist Church.
Homesteader Cabin, Cade’s Cove.

        

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I am an adventure-loving American man, with a severe case of wander-lust and a desire to experience as much of this wonderful world as humanly possible. Every place I have visited or lived has taught me something about life and helped me grow. For me, traveling opens my eyes to how similar the human race is, yet at the same time, how unique we all are. I hope this blog will motivate you to put down the TV remote, dust off your backpack and decide to take a chance on an adventure. It can be a walk in a new neighborhood 2 miles from home or a trip to a far off distant land. I have lived in or visited over 50 countries during my life and hope to see many more. I want to share my experiences. I hope you enjoy the blog. -WAND3R3R, Somewhere on the Globe, 2014.