We headed out on I-40 E past Knoxville. And then we hit something we could hardly believe: Pigeon Forge. Oh my goodness, no one warned us about Pigeon Forge. I'm not sure how to describe it, but it did remind us a bit of Branson. And any negative feelings you get about Branson, it was worse here. Think airbrush T-shirt stands and carnival rides and wax museums and Titanic replicas and an "Everything Under 9.99" store, immediately followed by a "Everything Under 9.98" store (for real). It's home to Dollywood and RV campgrounds and outlet malls. We got stuck in traffic and I told Nate, "Get us out of here!"
After Pigeon Forge, we checked into Eight Gables Inn, our bed and breakfast on the west side of Gatlinburg. It was tucked away on the side of a mountain. Our room was on the second floor of a separate cottage, and we had a private screened porch hanging over the front of the cottage. It was very nice.
After we checked in Friday evening, we headed into Gatlinburg to see what it was like. Interesting little town. Hard to describe too, kind of not what I expected. It's clean and has a main street with lots of little shops and restaurants and lots of people walking around. Lots of people. We lucked out and found a free place to park. As we walked, we stumbled across a band called Monroeville playing bluegrass outdoors. They were great. We drove into the national park to find the scenic bypass back to our B&B so we wouldn't have to fight Gatlinburg traffic/pedestrians again.
On Saturday morning, Nate and I drove into the Smokies to find a waterfall. The drive toward Cades Cove/Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont is beautiful and runs along a river. There are pull-offs everywhere. As Nate passed this pull-off, I looked and saw this view (above). We turned around to get a better look. I'm sure it's spectacular to anyone, but for two Kansans: Wow.
I had vague directions from the Internet for a waterfall The trail started near the Smoky Mountains Institute. Once we got there, though, we didn't have cell service, so my phone wouldn't show the instructions. We stopped in a welcome center and got instructions from a guide behind the counter. He was very helpful.
Nate and I found the trailhead and hiked a one-mile trail up to Spruce Flats Falls. This was a legit mountain trail: steep and narrow and curvy and over boulder and streams ... it sure made the trails around Nashville look like cake. I picked out Spruce Flats Falls because there are a lot of waterfalls in the park, but this one was cited as a "best kept secret," and most of the other falls were either popular, kid-friendly spots or required five- to ten-mile hikes. I like the idea of hiking, but let's be honest; I'm out of shape. So one mile there and one mile back was a good length.
It was beautiful! Nate took this photo with his Lumix GH3. There were was only one other group there (three guys), so it was very quiet. We stayed at the falls for an hour, and Nate shot some time lapse footage. It actually felt chilly with a breeze coming up over the falls, like the air conditioning was on outside.
We put the camera on the tripod and snapped a silly photo, haha. I'll upload more photos and maybe a link to a video once we get them all put together. As always, you can check out some of the photos on Flickr.
Like I said, I'm out of shape, so I was glad to be back at the car after two miles. ;-) Also I had worn some Chacos that I hadn't worn in a few years and they were giving me blisters. We took it easy the rest of the night, got some dinner and froyo, watched a movie, and called it a night.
We're back in Nashville now. It was a fun weekend getaway. I'd go again for the Smoky Mountains. There are plenty of scenic routes to drive, or if you're more athletically inclined, hit the trails. It was a fun way to spend Honeymoon 2013.