Smoking away to glory!

Oct 20th, 2009, 10:37 AM
  #1  
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Smoking away to glory!

Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is full of amusements and is surrounded by the nation's most popular national park. It is teaming with tourists from all over the country with traffic that is irritating and time consuming to say the least. Don't be surprised if you spend an hour or two to navigate 4 miles once you reach this mountain resort town. The US 441 cuts right thru the town and the road 'parkway' is the main street here. Once here you have reached everything- all the museums, tourist attractions, stores, restaurants etc are on this road, so park your car in one of the public parking spaces and start walking is my advice to you. This is one of the most touristy places I have been to in my life. But I must say it is an awesome place to bring your kids to, there is so much to see and do that they will have a field day!
We were a group of ten people who had actually chanced upon a long weekend, we didn't know about the existence of a columbus day holiday till the beginning of last week. But once we did we all had one thing in common that we wanted to do and that was go to the Great Smokey Mountains. So in no time at all we rented a log hut in Pigeonforge, rented two cars from Enterprise cars and one of our friends had a very young traveller- 7 month old Mahek, so he took his own car. And we were all set to go. A 400 mile drive later we were at Gatlinburg, with 7 miles to go to the Gatlinburg Cabins office from where we had to collect the keys to our log hut. That 7 miles took us two hours to navigate one-way!!! So once we reached their office we just parked our cars there itself and headed off to check out this quaint crowded town.
Our first stop was at the Space Needle- we wanted views of the mountains around us and we got it Then we had lunch at the nearest Subway (most of us were vegetarians), then we made a small trip to the Ripley's Aquarium- a must do for animal lovers, you get to see so many exotic sea animals there! Then a trip on the tram to Ober Gatlinburg, however most of the sports were closed in this season! Finally we took the bypass and headed to Pigeonforge to our loghut. Such a beautiful cabin it was really with all amenities, we immediately felt at home The men sat in the hot tub while the 4 of us women started cooking dinner, Chainika had brought some pulao (Indian Basmati Rice, cooked with spices and veggies) so we just made some gravy to go with it) Finally we got our turn at the hot tub and feeling refreshed we all sat for dinner. Once done with it we headed to the pool table for a nice game of billiards before heading to bed. Well, we loved the cabin so much we were in real danger of not stepping out once we had gotten in!!
However Mukesh n Surabhi managed to wake us up early the next day and enticed us into a long drive around Cades Cove in the hope of sighting some bears. After the horrid experience in the area with bumper to bumper traffic the previous day we were really skeptical about how far we'd get in our cars today. But heading out in the morning turned out to be a savior. The roads winded around many streams that made for some picturesque group photos and we finally reached Cades Cove. But once we did it was a one way loop with plenty of cars and as you probably guessed we sighted no bears, only a deer or two and some fine birds. Never the less being in a group meant lots of fun as we stopped in plenty of the historic places to get some pics. the scenery around us with the mountains that truly looked like they were smoking was good enough to keep us happy.
So up until now th trip had been it's sanest and now started the real fun.
abi_maha is offline  
Oct 20th, 2009, 02:02 PM
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Thanks for the trip report. I live in Knoxville so often go to Gatlinburg. As you say, kids love it but the traffic is too much! We haven't been this year. Did you hit peak? With all the rain this year, I've been thinking that the foliage must be especially colorful.
claire_bluesky is offline  
Oct 20th, 2009, 02:22 PM
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Hi,
the colors were really nice! For us it was our first sight of the fall colors and we sure were fascinated. I shall complete my trip report tomorrow. Thanks for reading!
-Abi
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Oct 21st, 2009, 05:24 AM
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After the cades Cove Loop, me and AJ decided to head away separately to Chimney Tops for a small Hike. The hike to the summit of the Chimney Tops is accomplished in just a few miles, 2.0 miles one way, but it still presents quite a challenge. The first mile up is relatively easy, but the last mile, is pretty steep, and on a wet day like this was even quite slippery. We did slowly but surely make the climb even as we asked every person coming on the opposite direction how much longer we had to go. For the next half an hour no matter how much progress we thought we had made the person on the other side always thought we had "mmmmm maybe another half an hour to go" !! Finally however we reached the base of the rocky formations on top. We climbed it easily enuf, it was the getting down part that was quite daunting.
We were enveloped by clouds, so we didn't get any views from the climb. However after a long time we got the satisfaction of walking a trail that was not man made and full of signs directing us always on the path ahead. We have nothing against that except in India most of the trails are pretty 'wild' with no markings or directions, so the chances of getting lost are high. Now we have been used to that for the last ten years and it is that feeling of insecurity that we love about hiking/trekking. SO we really have missed it here in the US and this trail is the first one which presented some challenge of sorts since we have been here! So once we got to the top it just got mistier and suddenly we could hardly see each other though we were standing but 2 ft apart!! That made us think that we should start our climb down before it became impossible. Even as we struggled to keep our balance we saw two kids probably in their teens just confidently stomp up and stomp down the precipice!! They were only wearing flip flops and with all the mist around they looked quite eerie I must say!! both AJ and I were shocked at their sense of balance and the speed with which they just climbed up and down! We took some courage from that and somehow after a lot of struggle we were down the rocky part in twenty minutes. The rest of the walk down took us another hour, we stopped at the brides that crossed the stream for some pretty pics. The Fall foliage around the stream looked quite spectacular I must say!
Ok some quick pointers before I forget, if you are looking to do this trail yourselves then head on New Found Gap Road from Gatlinburg and after you cross the Sugarlands Visitor Center (to your right) keep going on the road, do not mistake it for the Chimney Tops Picnic area, so keep going straight after you cross that, once you go thru the first tunnel you will see the Chimney Tops parking lot to your right. Park here and get started on your hike We had some difficulty finding this so thought we should share it with others who want to go.
So once done with the trek, we started our car- a Kia that we had renteed from Enterprise, and it was already quite dark. Mobile had no connectivity so we couldn't inform the rest of the gang that we were done and on our way back to the cabin. Even as we started driving we could hear some howling... "whoooo..." and in the pitch dark of the National Park it just seemed more pronounced. Soon AJ could feel the car veer to the left, we thought maybe we had a flat tyre however as our luck had there was not another car or soul in sight!! So we just decided to brave it and stop only when we reached the town center. The scary ride lasted for 11 miles, one that we are not likely to forget to soon! When we reached the town center and pulled up at a garage we were told that this car had only 1 good tire and the other 3 were quite bald!! Shocked and indignant we called Enterprise and we were honestly appalled at their carelessness in giving us a car of this nature! They did quickly give us a replacement and finally a long day came to an end. However our adventures were quite not over yet...
abi_maha is offline  
Oct 21st, 2009, 11:01 AM
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That is quite shocking (Enterprise)! Very scary.

Very funny about the kids stomping around in flip-flops. We've had that happen. Of course, we dress in outdoor gear and apparel worthy of any and all weather conditions and terrain. We once spoke w/a young park employee who told us that she and her comrades make a race to what was our destination. We asked, and yes, they run.

Sorry, you had such low visibility on your hike. Hopefully, you did at some point. We are like you and enjoy hiking regardless. I'm glad the leaves were so colorful for you!

Looking forward to the rest. Share photos if you are able.
claire_bluesky is offline  
Oct 21st, 2009, 12:49 PM
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Hi claire_bluesky

Thanks for reading and I shall post some links of photos tomorrow.

We really had no views at all through out the trek but we were happy none the less! And glad to find more people who love hiking, some of our friends really think we are weird for wanting to hike But only somebody who has hiked knows what an addiction it can be!

I shall complete my trip report tomorrow hopefully, for now we are heading out to catch some fall colors in the nearby metro park

BR
Abi
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Oct 23rd, 2009, 04:35 PM
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The next day we were to head back to Columbus, but on the way out we saw some hoardings for white water rafting and that's exactly what we ended up doing!! We spent two hours rafting down the Pigeon River. We had a really nice guide with us -Randy who with his wit and humor really managed to take our minds away from the fact that none of us really knew how to swim and here we were tackling Grade 3 & 4 rapids!! Unfortunately a lady from one of the other rafts fell into the water and was headed straight to the rapids! Since we were closest to her we paddled furiously to help Randy rescue her and pull her into our raft! And by the time he had gotten her in we were dangerously close to another rapid and we needed some rescuing ourselves! That was quite adventurous and memorable!
We finally had our lunch at 5 pm at a Pizza Hut and then drove back 6 hours to reach home at 12 to have our last 'shock', we'd forgotten our house keys at Gatlinburg!! So we actually spent a night at our friend's and were let into our apartment the next day by the community guys after some mumbling about how careless we really were!! Phew! So that's our trip, in a nutshell, it seemed way longer than 3 days! But loved every bit of it and how it turned out to be all adhoc and 'surprisy!'
abi_maha is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2009, 08:10 PM
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The whitewater rafting trip sounds quite exciting especially since you don't know how to swim, and you rescued a woman! WW rafting is kind of scary even when one can swim and no one falls out. Brrr...the water must have been cold. We have done it in summer.

Then forgetting your keys? Poor dear, but it sounds like you and your family know how to travel and roll with the punches.

It sounds like a wonderful and memorable trip, Abi. Thanks so much for sharing it w/me. The trees are so beautiful in Knoxville right now, right at their peak.

BR
Claire
claire_bluesky is offline  
Oct 24th, 2009, 05:30 AM
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Hi Claire,
Thanks so much for reading! It's always a pleasure sharing travel tales!
The fall colors here are beautiful too!! I can't seem to get enough of them... So we are busy heading out to every metro park in the vicinity!
Yes, the trip was truly eventful! Actually first time rafting for my husband, so we really enjoyed the experience and the water was freezing despite the jumpsuits they provided us with
Rgds
Abi
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