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Great Smoky Mountains

Facing four days off with no obligations surely a road trip was in order!  So we packed up (only the truck this time, no motorcycles) and headed south-east to the Great Smoky Mountains.  The Friday after Thanksgiving we drove about 9.5 hours to Knoxville TN, visited Market Square which had an outdoor bluegrass band, a skating rink and lots of cute shops, had dinner and called it a night.  The next morning, after getting good advice from a nice lady at the visitor center outside of the park, we headed east through the ‘rattler’ to avoid traffic - we learned this nickname from the owner of a local gas station / cafe for hunters - 20 miles and 290 curves, no joke.  We entered the Great Smokey Mountains via Cataloochee, hearing that there was a possibility of seeing Elk during the early morning hours and just before sunset.  Sure enough, we saw a single bull elk with huge antlers, then a lone female or possibly a young male resting in the grass, then an entire heard of maybe 20-25 elk!  After that we went for a nice hike, made it over three river crossings, heeded a bear warning sign, and worked up a good sweat (temps around 40-50).  We stayed in Maggie Valley & ate in Waynesville at Ceviche’s (yum!)  


The next morning (Sunday) we traveled across The Blue Ridge Parkway to the south entrance of the park.  Again speaking to a ranger, we followed his advice and took Big Cove Road to Mingo Falls, so pretty!  Then we went into the center / highest part of the park at Clingsmans Dome and climbed to the top of the lookout tower, followed by hiking along the Appalachian Trail!  Narrow paths on the ridge of the mountains separating TN from NC...Pine trees, icy paths, streaming water, clean air, peace and nature...perfect!  We decided to start heading north to cut our drive down for Monday.  We ate in the Wisconsin Dells of the south, aka Gatlinburg, and inched our way along the never ending magic attractions, knife museums, psychic shops and moccasins stores until we finally hit the highway, yikes.  Got stopped up by a bad accident, and so back to reality.  But, can’t complain, it was a great little getaway into a new area of the country for us.  P.S. - People in North Carolina seriously had a hard time understanding us, so speak s-l-o-w-l-y.