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Fall Colors and Bears in TN Weekend (with stops in GA and NC)

Fall Colors and Bears in TN Weekend (with stops in GA and NC)

Old Oct 28th, 2023, 07:12 PM
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Fall Colors and Bears in TN Weekend (with stops in GA and NC)

Motivated by a really cheap fare to Nashville ($137 RT/NS), I decided to head to TN in pursuit of fall colors and bears. Having not been to Chattanooga since I was a kid and having no memory of it, I thought I'd spend two nights there and then one night in Townsend. I was solo for this trip.

I procrastinated on hotels for so long, the rates went up and I ended up booking an airbnb for my first night that was located in a beautiful old Victorian house in a lovely neighborhood with easy pedestrian access to downtown via the Walnut pedestrian bridge. Alas, it was not an ideal lodging experience, but I had a Holiday Inn Express for my second night.

Traffic from BNA to Chattanooga was heavier than expected. After checking in, I took off on foot. The weather was perfection. The Walnut bridge is great. It was late in the afternoon and I went to see if anything was still happening at the market by the aquarium. There were still a few tables set up, but nothing to intrigue me. I wandered around downtown and through the Bluff View Art District. There's a sculpture garden there that is pretty neat.

Rembrandt's is a cool little coffee shop in the district and a good place to recharge or hang out.

Dinner was at City Cafe Diner about 20 minutes away. The downtown location I had planned to patronize was closed. I was intent on a big slice of cake for dessert! The selection is amazing and my six layer slice did not disappoint.

Sunday, October 22: Eager to get out of my less than stellar airbnb, I set out early. My first destination was to be Rock City Gardens. En route, I saw The Naughty Cat Cafe, which is a fantastic place to find a furry friend. It's appointment only and was booked for the day, but I was able to peek in the windows and see a lot of adorable kitties available for adoption.

Rock City Garden, just across the state line in Georgia, is a major tourist attraction for families. There were a lot of excited children there. I had booked my ticket in advance and set out on the adventure of walking through boulders, across bridges and looking out at beautiful scenery. By the way, you can be chubby and get through the Needles and Fat Man Squeeze easily. It's not as narrow as I was expecting. The attraction, while very busy, was fun and I enjoyed my time there and the lovely drive to get there.

I had seen a sign for an estate sale while heading to Rock City and since I had plenty of time before my timed entry at Ruby Falls, I decided to go track it down. The home was in a gorgeous neighborhood on Tinkerbell Lane. How could I pass that up? It being the last day of the sale, there were tons of people there. The home was a beautiful place with tons of nice items. I saw several things I would have bought if I were local. As it was, I came home with two picture frames I don't need, lol. At least I didn't buy a lamp I liked that would have been fun to try to fly home.

Ok, onward to Ruby Falls. Just like Rock City, I had been here as a kid, but really don't remember it other than the fuzziest of feelings. They have tours like an assembly line. It took two hours due to the constant stops to let other tour groups pass through the narrow passageways. Ruby Falls involves taking an elevator deep into the mountain cavern and walking about half a mile through narrow and low ceiling passageway with interesting formations, with a fantastic waterfall at the end of the trail. I'm glad I did it, but I won't go again because all the waiting makes it a much longer experience than it really should be.

Having gone without breakfast or lunch, I stopped at Mr. T's Pizza for a late lunch. Pizza was good and service was friendly and fast. My leftovers served as my dinner.
I headed to my new lodging, the Holiday Inn Express Lookout Valley and retired for the day so I could watch the Astros-Rangers game.

Monday, October 23: I love Holiday Inn Express because of the cinnamon rolls at breakfast. That got me off to a great start and I checked out and embarked on my fall foliage drive. I drove the Cherohala Skyway, Tail of the Dragon and the Foothills Parkway en route to Townsend. The drives were absolutely beautiful!

Getting closer to Townsend, I saw a sight that had me curious and I made an unplanned turn to investigate. To my horror, what I saw was a freshly dead bear in the back of a jeep. I love bears and am rather obsessed with seeing them when in bear territory. This is not what I wanted to see. Ironically, my first stop in Townsend was to be the Appalachian Bear Rescue store and I mentioned what I saw to the lady on duty in the shop. She told me it was bear hunting season and I was shocked and so sad. I learned some new bear facts in the store as they have some educational exhibits and I made some purchases before I left. This organization rehabilitates injured or orphaned young bears and then releases them back to the wild. A noble endeavor to be sure!

My lodging for my final night was the Highland Manor Inn. It's an old school place but was perfectly adequate for my needs. I dropped off my stuff and then headed to Cades Cove. The last time I did the Cades Cove loop was in September 2020 and it was a breeze. Not so this time around! It took two hours to do the 11 mile loop. It was maddening. It was dark by the time I got out. The scenery is beautiful, but I was disappointed to not see a bear. In 2020, I had the pleasure of seeing one. The only wildlife on this particular visit were a few deer in the distance.

Townsend is a very sleepy town with few dinner options. I ended up at the Riverstone Restaurant and it was fine and fast. They took me in without the wait that other parties had. As a solo diner, they tucked me in a back section that wasn't otherwise being used. I appreciated the mercy they showed this single traveler. Everyone else was being told there was a 30 minute wait. After dinner, I retired to the inn to watch the Astros lose and fail to advance to the World Series. Boo.

October 24- time to drive to Nashville to fly home.
I decided to do a scenic drive before heading west to Nashville. I drove the Little River Road. No bears, but lots of beautiful fall colors.
My flight to Houston Hobby seemed like a great one until the pilot broke the news that there was a total stop at Hobby due to two small planes clipping wings. We were rerouted to New Orleans and deplaned. We were on the ground in NOLA for about 5 hours (Cafe du Monde beignets for unexpected dinner) before we boarded a new plane and headed home. I felt like I was getting off a flight from Europe by the time we finally landed.

To my surprise, the next evening, there was an apology email from SWA and the day after that, a $200 flight voucher! Wow! The incident was in no way SWA's fault. I was so impressed with the airline's goodwill gesture. Naturally, I'm looking to see where I might go for one last trip before 2023 closes out.

Last edited by aggiegirl; Oct 28th, 2023 at 07:26 PM. Reason: Adding photos
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Old Oct 28th, 2023, 07:34 PM
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A few photos

Rock City

Ruby Falls

Cades Cove

Cades Cove

aggiegirl is offline  
Old Oct 29th, 2023, 08:11 AM
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Gorgeous pictures! Thank you.
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Old Oct 29th, 2023, 09:32 AM
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Lovely TR and photos, aggiegirl. Getting seated is often easier for us single travelers. Sad a 'no sticker' was necessary on the dragon.
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Old Oct 31st, 2023, 11:48 AM
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Nice TR, thanks.
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Old Nov 1st, 2023, 08:12 PM
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I admire people who travel by themselves. This way you can do whatever you want when you want, and you don't have to answer to anyone. Good for you! Sounds like you had a pleasant weekend, and the fall foliage is beautiful!
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