Tennessee Vacation – Great Smokey Mountains Grotto Falls, Laurel Falls, Chimney Tops

I forgot to mention that Sweet Sweet and I also went hiked to a place called Grotto Falls in the last post, which ended up being a complete beating with way too many people. It was a two mile hike and the worst part about it was that two miles is short enough that just about any person can hike without problem, which means that all of the smokers and overweight folks seem to relish in the accomplishment by taking a ton of pictures and generally lounging around feeling very proud of themselves. I know, I shouldn’t make fun of overweight folks (and 90% of the people who we saw were probably overweight), but I am.

This is the only clear picture I could take . . .

While this is what we really looked at.

We left after about 5 minutes.

The next day, Sweet Sweet and I wanted to start things right and we went to another falls called Laurel Falls. This was a paved path and during the day this place was packed with cars, but we were the second group up and it was all ours for the 10 minutes that we were there.

Our final hike was on a trail called Chimney Tops. This was, by far, the toughest trail we hiked the whole trip, so it was fitting that it was our final trail. Nearly all uphill the entire way.

Here’s Sweet Sweet.

A river runs through it.

So we get to the top, or what we think is the top, and we realize that there is some really steep and slick rock that needs to be climbed in order to get to the top-top. I decide to traverse as far as I can.

You can see Sweet Sweet at the very bottom.

The views from where I sat.

This guy was at the top.

And he took my picture too.

My last pictures of the trip.

Sweet Sweet and I lounged by the pool that afternoon as we decided to stay one more night in Gatlinburg. We drove 17 hours the next day all the way home.

A huge shout-out and thank you to my brother, Ryan, who watched Blue and Zoey while we were away. Much love.

Tennessee Vacation – Great Smokey Mountains, Clingman’s Dome and Andrew’s Bald

So Sweet Sweet and I are up early the next morning to tackle The Great Smokey Mountains and our first stop is Clingman’s Dome, which is the highest point in the Great Smokey Mountains. It’s quite a drive up to the top, but well worth it.

At some point, there’s this nice parking lot and incredible views so we think to ourselves that we should get out an take a few pictures. This is the view getting out of our car.

Sweet Sweet and I (BTW, it was close to 50 degrees this morning).

The vistas.

Then we realize that we’re actually there at Clingman’s Dome, the path was just around the bend a bit. Back into the car.

The walk to the top of this observation deck is only 0.5 miles, but this was the freaking toughest 0.5 miles I’ve ever walked. The walk was at a very steep grade and I was actually winded when we got to the top.

Here’s Clingman’s Dome.

Sweet Sweet and I at the top of Clingman’s Dome.

Some of the views from the structure.

We walk down (it was much easier getting down that going up) and there’s a 2 or 3 mile hike to a place called Andrew’s Bald. Since were were already here and there weren’t too many tourists around, we decided to start hiking and see what happens.

The path itself was very pretty.


Sweet Sweet.

Turns out a “bald” is a grassy area on the top of a mountain. It was actually incredibly beautiful because there were all of these azaleas on the top of the mountain (pink, orange, red, etc.).

Sweet Sweet and I at the top.

Views from the top.

Tennessee Vacation – Great Smokey Mountains, Cades Cove

So Sweet Sweet and I left Coldiz Cove and were on our way to our final destination, the Great Smokey Mountains. Although there were plenty of interesting things to comment about along the way, perhaps the most interesting thing was a town called Pigeon Forge, which is just 5 miles or so out of Gatlinburg, which is were we were staying (Gatlinburg is right next to the park). Without sounding like an ass, Pigeon Forge has more crap per square inch than any place I’ve ever seen. It is a bastion of restaurants and shows and putt-putt and go-kart rides and stuff. It was amazing and Sweet Sweet and I promised that we would take pictures of all of the crap on our way back through town. Unfortunately, that didn’t happy because we got up so early when we eventually left, but trust me, it’s awful.

So we made our way to Gatinburg and due to traffic just getting from Pigeon Forge, it added another hour to our trip. We kept hoping that once we got to the Great Smokey Mountains (GSM) there’d be fewer people.

Sweet Sweet and I drive through town, past our motel, and decide that we need to get out of the car and do something. Thus, we decide to take the Cade’s Cove driving loop, and although we’re still in our car we enjoyed ourselves.

Perhaps the most interesting thing was the fences and although I didn’t take pictures of it, someone had recently baled hay.

Sweet Sweet walking up to some cabin where we were told there was a black bear.

Wait, do you see it?

Is it Bigfoot?

There he is.

Pretty amazing views:

So, there’s this old mill that’s a fairly major stop along the way and wanting to walk around a bit, Sweet Sweet and I stop to look around. So there’s this old barn and Sweet Sweet thought it would be funny (and it was) to do a yearbook pose:

Part of the mill:

It was getting to be dusk and there were lots of deer out and about:

Here’s the only problem with Cades Cove loop.  You can’t pass people, so if some one wants to watch a deer, that’s right, a freaking deer for 10 minutes, there’s nothing you can do to pass them. Thus, you end up with these people, who I assume are all from the city and have never seen a deer, pointing and staring at a deer. It was frustrating to say the least.

After finishing Cades Cove we headed to the motel to shower-up, grab some dinner and a few beers. It was a good way to end the day.

Tennessee Vacation – Big South Fork

After Memphis, we hit the road and travel to Jamestown, Tennessee, where we stayed at the Wildwood Lodge, which was a bed and breakfast just right outside of the actual state park, Big South Fork. First things first, Clare and Julia were wonderful hosts. They were the kind of hosts that you dream about having. Without question, Sweet Sweet and I thought they were absolutely wonderful and made our stay memorable.

Back to the trip, we were pretty hungry and after driving for a while, we realize that we’re not going to be close to any restaurant, so we ask the ladies for a good place to eat. They recommend a restaurant called Bacara’s, and after a U-turn, we find the place, and we’re notified that it’s going to be a lot of food and the price is $9.00 per person. Sweet Sweet and I are fine with this, site unseen. Holy smokes, we had no idea what we were in for.

This was the first course, which consisted of fresh fruits, cream cheese and a cinnamon-peanut butter bread that was incredible:

Next up was Sweet Sweet looking pretty hungry:

Up next, was a garden fresh salad (I almost forgot to take a picture of the food):

Then we had an onion soup. Delicious:

Now we’re actually to the main course, which included the following: two large slices of prime rib, two chicken breasts, baked beans, scrambled eggs, a savory pancake, fish, rice and fresh vegetables:

Finally, we had desert, which was some sort of pastry with cream and a chocolate sauce:

Here’s the only bad thing about the meal, it took us 3 hours to eat, and that’s not an exaggeration. We had time to do a couple of small hikes. The first took us to a vista (the actual hike was 100 yards) overlooking the river, and yes, I forgot I was shooting in black and white:

Sweet Sweet:


Next, we took a hike to what was supposed to be a falls area along the river, but there were no such falls, but there were some nice photos:

Sweet Sweet is a little disappointed at the lack of falls (I was too), but we did get to work off some of our lunch:

Sweet Sweet and Me:

Sweet Sweet suggested that I get across the limb for a picture and this is me telling her to go fly a kite:

We then head back to our our lodging to check in and shower-up. First, we were introduced to another huge meal, which began with strawberry mint-juleps. Sweet Sweet quipped that we needed to start having cocktails before dinner. Again, a huge garden salad, all of the wine we could drink, and enough chicken carbonara you could eat. We were again absolutely stuffed and happy. The next morning, we decided that were were going to hike to two places: Twin Arches and Slave Falls.

Twin Arches is one of the largest land bridges in the world and here we begin our hike at 9:00 a.m. in the morning:

It was only 0.7 miles to Twin Arches and the sign for Slave Falls said it was only 2.5 miles away. No problem we said. So we start walking along huge rock formations:

And we walk:

And we walk:

And we get to a trickle of water (I seriously could have urinated a stronger stream of liquid) called Slave Falls:

It was surrounded by a huge amphitheater, but other than that, not too exciting and it took us a really long time to get there:

So we’re pretty pissed off because there was no “payoff” for walking all that way and it’s a couple of hours to get back to our car, mostly uphill. Damn. We get back to Twin Arches and go up and cross the bridge itself:

We’re both pretty exhausted so I make the suggestion that we go down to the river, grab a six-pack and hangout. Sweet Sweet was pretty nervous about getting into the river, but I had no problems sitting back and relaxing. As an aside, you may want to turn down the brightness on your computer screen, my chest needs a little sun:

Shots of the river:

After we finish the six-pack, we head back to the B&B and shower-up again for dinner. This time it was garden fresh salad, steak-kabobs, and all the wine you could drink.

The next morning, we figured out that there was another falls area on the way to the Smoke Mountains, but was still in Big South Fork, called Colditz Cove. Not a long hike, but we thought we didn’t have much to lose.

I can see some real falls:

A very pretty walk:

This is me with my killing-stick. Which reminds me, when walking back from Slave Falls, there was a snake in the pathway that scared the crap out of both of us. The snake wasn’t moving too much, but I didn’t have a killing-stick with me at the time. Luckily, I found a stick, but we did not harm the snake. We were able to jump over the snake without issue. Again, scared the crap out of us. Back to me:

Sweet Sweet:

Actual water:

Me and Sweet Sweet:

Up next, the Great Smokey Mountains.

Tennessee Vacation – Memphis and Nashville

We started the vacation on the extremely ominous Friday, June 13th, but everything went well. I got up early, went to the store for some last minute items, mowed and cleaned up the yard before leaving. We got on the road around 11:00 a.m. and were headed for Memphis.

Here’s Sweet Sweet.

Here’s me, realizing that I look a little bald and proving to myself that it’s just the short haircut.

Sweet Sweet wanted some pictures of some pigs that were on the road and I complied.

We are actually staying in West Memphis, which was much cheaper than staying in Memphis and here we are about to cross the Mississippi River to grab some dinner.

We had dinner at Neely’s BBQ.

And this was my pulled pork plate, absolutely delicious.

And this was the sun setting outside of Neely’s when we left.

We headed to Beale Street and other than seeing Disco Felix, it wasn’t too exciting and it smelled pretty bad.

Here’s Beale Street at night:

And here’s Sweet Sweet and myself having a few drinks:

We were then on our way to Nashville the next morning. It rained almost the entire drive to Nashville and so we were getting a little depressed about the thought of it raining on our vacation, again. Our first stop was the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Here’s a car from some famous country music singer, complete with weapons:

Here’s Sweet Sweet next to Elvis’ car, complete with television:

Here’s Sweet Sweet about to rip off her pants as she stands next to George Strait’s jacket:

Although I am not a country music expert, I had to wonder why Big and Rich had an exhibit, complete with a box for the crazy top-hat.

After the CMHOF (it stopped raining), we grabbed some lunch at a bar and grill off of the Cumberland River right next door to where the Titans play.

There was also a bicycle race happening.

This is along the waterfront of the Cumberland River.

Next, we stop in at the Ryman Auditorium, which was the birthplace of the Grand Ole Opry.

Sweet Sweet and myself, rocking out.

More Ryman Auditorium.

Outside the Ryman.

We then drive to Tennessee’s Parthenon, which is a replica of the Parthenon over in Greece. Very big and very impressive.

We’re pretty exhausted, so we check into our room and the plan is to go to Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack for dinner. Typically, I would take pictures and video of the food, but this was not the type of place that you do this. For a more detailed account of Prince’s, go here. I will say that it was the best damn fried chicken I’ve ever had. Hands down. We had the mild and we were sweating. It gave my insides hell for days, but it was great fried chicken.

Our last stop for the day is the new Grand Ole Opry and we saw quite a few older acts, but the one’s that stood out was Little Jimmy Dickens.

The Carolina Chocolate Drops were incredible and Sweet Sweet liked Ashley Monroe.

Up next, Big South Fork.