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Smoky Mtns/Southern Highlands in spring

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I am planning a spring vacation for a middle aged couple in the April-May timeframe for 2014. We like easy to moderate hikes, kayaking and just relaxing with the scenery. We're not picky about lodging but it needs to be clean, quiet and have comfortable beds. We'd like to stay somewhere that we can walk to the hiking trails instead of having to drive everywhere, but we'd also like somewhere that there are restaurants etc within a relatively short drive.

As much as I like the Smoky Mtns, that's just not possible there, nor do I want to have anything to do with Gatlinburg. To me it's overpriced and under-delivers with wall-to-wall tourist traps and crowds. I suspect Cherokee, NC is just Gatlinburg with Indians. Bryson City looks promising but we'd still have to get in a car and drive everywhere.

Smoky Mountains gets all the publicity but the entire Southern Highlands is lovely in spring, down into Georgia and even up into Virginia. Can anyone suggest an alternate location that would still be interesting for about 5 days that meets our preferences?

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