After five months of sticking around the house it had finally arrived – August! Way back before COVID-19 was a part of our daily vocabulary we planned a family trip to Asheville, NC to celebrate my parents’ 50th anniversary. After lots of “will it happens?”, “can we goes?”, and “are there travel quarantines?” August was here and we all decided to go. There weren’t any travel quarantines for our states, and we would travel safely, and come prepared. My mom and I were both armed with bags of disinfectant spray, wipes, gel, and other cleaning materials.
As we planned the trip to Asheville my husband and I decided to extend the trip north with a few days in the nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I’ve been to this park a few times before as a kid, but my husband had not been there, and with our new interest in national parks we thought “let’s do it!”. To add to this trip of firsts, we also booked or first Airbnb, a cabin in Pigeon Forge.
Back to my parents’ 50th for a minute. They were supposed to go to Italy this past September as part of their celebration. Obviously, that trip was cancelled. With that cancellation my parents decided to join us in Pigeon Forge before heading to Asheville.
Before my parents arrived my husband and I visited nearby Gatlinburg. Oh my, and people say Disney is commercial! You haven’t seen commercial until you’ve visited Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge! With a little too much commerce and commercialization splashed all over for our tastes we headed to the trails of the park.
Our first hike was the Abrams Falls Trail in Cades Cove. This is a three to four hour, five mile round trip hike to Abrams Falls. We set out on this moderate-rated trail at about 10:30 on a sunny, not to warm day. As we progressed the humidity increased. Then it started to drizzle about a mile into the hike. This was refreshing. Then it started to rain in earnest. It never stopped. We hiked the next four miles in constant, sometimes heavy rain. At two miles in an a half mile to the falls my husbands knees couldn’t take it any more and needed a break.
I headed onward to the falls, it was “only” a half mile away downhill. I made it there, took some pictures, and quickly returned to my husband. For some reason the two miles back to the car seemed uphill, even though the hike out was also uphill!
Finally! Back to the car after five hours. Yep, like Gilligan, we set out on a three hour hike….and it took five! At 3:30 we reach the car. And we had not eaten lunch and both drank all our water on the hike a long time ago. We inhaled our packed lunches and headed back to the cabin to meet up with my parents.
Our next day in the park included a failed attempt to climb Clingman’s Dome due to fog and zero visibility, even in the parking lot! Instead we completed the drive tour of Cades Cove. We also found a really peaceful creekside picnic area for lunch. Boy, I wish I had packed a swimsuit on that day, the creek looked so refreshing!
On our last day in the park we set off to relive family hikes of my childhood. We headed to the Grotto Falls Trail in the Roaring Fork area of the park. This is a manageable three mile round trip hike — and it was a dry day. This proved to be an easier hike with a rewarding sight at the end. The only drawback is this is a very popular trail, and even early in the morning we had to park about a half mile away and downhill from the trail. This meant a hike to and from the trail. I’ll share more about the impact of that in a later post!
After four days in the mountains it was time to head to Asheville’s shops, breweries, Biltmore, and of course my parents’ celebration. We had a lot of fun in the Smokies, I still feel the impact of the “fun” on my knee right now (later post foreshadowing). Would we return to the Smokies, yes, but we’d go to Utah’s Arches park again before we visit the Smokies again. We’ll see where we wind up next!