Posts Tagged ‘great smokey mountains national park’

Day Nine: Cincinnati

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

We left early in the morning from our beautiful riverside hotel room with whispered goodbyes by their door and headed into the Smokey Mountains before the sky was even fully lit. The park was beautiful, a wooded, secluded forest that had the mystique that only pristine wilderness has. A certain quiet that hangs peacefully over the entire park creating a nearly unearthly sense of calm. We drove through the winding mountain roads that were hidden under a canopy of trees. It was beautiful everywhere you looked and it was a huge breath of fresh air, both literally and figuratively, to be back in nature enjoying the simple things rather than fancy shops or restaurants.

We drove all the way into the middle of the park up to its highest point, which is right on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee called Clingman’s Dome. In the description it said it was a short mile hike that was supposedly steep that leads up to an observation tower that over looks the misty ble mountains of the area. When we got there we began our trek and for the first time the entire trip it was cold. Not just cold but FREEZING. I was so cold and didn’t even know where I had put my jacket because it had barely gone below triple digits every single day of our trip and suddenly it was so windy and cold on the top of these mountains. So naturally I thought I would run around to warm up a bit. Little did I know that the steep climb was actually a really steep climb and my little warm up left me really tired for going up that huge hill. We walked on the path that goes along on of the hills overlooking the mountain range and by the time we reached the top we were both panting and out of breath from the climb and the elevation which was over 6000 feet. The observation deck was a huge spiral walkway that stopped at a look out and the view was amazing. The mountains were cast in a soft blueish light and hidden among the fog which gives this national park its smokey quality. It was great to stand on top of the world looking around and seeing nothing but beauty in every direction.

After our hike we headed out of the park taking our time on the drive through the remainders of the mountains on the North Carolina side. We drove on the Blue Ridge PArkway which was likewise beautiful and quite fun to drive around North Carolina a bit. It was interesting because I don’t think we ever really intended to go to the east coast but we were technically in a state that is on the east coast so I guess it sort of counts. So technically we drove all the way across the country, nearly coast to coast. But then we had to veer back to our original direction and headed northward.

We made a pit stop at the Cumberland Gap National Park which stands on the corner of three states, Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky. This beautiful area surrounded by rolling mountains, rivers, lake networks, and just all things green and beautiful was a nice little pit stop along the way. It is really our last stop until Cincinnati tonight where we will be staying with a friend of my mother’s who was gracious enough to accomadate us, road mess and all.

Cincinnati was a beautiful city to behold, the river was striking and despite the traffic we got stuck in it was very enjoyable. We were even treated to a wonderful Montgomery dinner of pulled chicken BBQ along with excellent cherries, coleslaw and potatoe salad. We even sat on the balcony that was so nice and warm.

It was a great stop and I am so happy we were welcomed so warmly and I yet again wish we could stay longer but tomorrow we are making the next biggest leap: tomorrow we will be in Michigan.

Yes, we are just a few short days away from our final destination. It seems we may finish ahead of schedule and come in about a day earlier but we will see. Maybe we will make another pit stop somewhere if we wind up having copious amounts of time on our hands but right now we are very focused on the prize, our home in Bootjack (Lake Linden) Michigan.

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Day Eight: Family, Gatlinburg

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

We started our day out with a little stress over our car. Because we have driven so many miles we decided to get an oil change but when we took it in and only after the oil had been changed did the low oil light pop up. Baffled and confused we spent a good half hour or more trying to fix this odd problem, we eventually reset the light after call Subaru but the threat of something wrong with the care has been looming over our heads ever since. Quite the unnecessary stressor on our shoulders. To remedy the stress we got Starbucks… lots of coffee and visited the Nashville Parthenon.

The Nashville Parthenon houses a huge statue of Athena, the goddess of wisdom born from Zeus’ brain. The gigantic temple modeled after the Greek Parthenon houses the statue surrounded by imposing grandiose columns.

Her shield alone was 15 meters in diameter, so you can tell just how huge this statue was in person.

Also the doors are the largest set of bronze doors in the entire world.

Our next roadside stop was at Andrew Jackson’s, the former president of the United States, home. The home, titled the Hermitage, is a huge mansion tucked away in many acres of green lush fields. We didn’t have time to actually tour the place but we looked at all the pictures and admired the scenery from afar.

We drove all the way through Knoxville and into Gatlinburg where we were meeting my grandparents from North Carolina for a short but pleasant while. We expected to be staying in a quaint small little town at the foot of the Great Smokey Mountains but instead we encountered a series of three cities that where extremely odd and quirky tourist traps. These strips of odd sights including many Ripley’s Believe it or Not places, a gigantic fake Titanic, and even an upside down building next to a Hollywood wax museum.

We are going into the park tomorrow morning and its allure is great, just beyond the nearly sickening amount of tourist attractions which have gathered such ridiculous numbers of people who have swamped the streets and shops. Right outside our hotel room is a beautiful river that runs from the mountains down the beautiful sloping hills. It is a taunting foreshadow of tomorrow. We have found that this trip has been hard because we have been mostly deprived of nature. Unlike our past road trips which are mainly National Parks where we hike and adventure among wildlife and majestic landscapes, but this trip we have mostly been in cities or only brief stops in nature. So tomorrow is a well anticipated return to nature, pristine, unpopulated, and uncrowded nature. Hopefully we will encounter some wildlife there as well.

We met our relatives and after a great catching up and sharing session with them we headed out to dinner at the Cherokee Grill which was excellent. It was just so great being able to sit down with them and just catch up for a short time. We talked for hours over dinner and I really was so glad to see them again and I love that this road trip has let us see so many of our relatives we do not normally see.

I decided to try Catfish while still in the south and had Southern Fried Catfish with Baked Mac and Cheese with spinach which was excellent. The catfish was tender, moist, and the batter flavorful and crispy. The mac and cheese was excellent as well, warm and comforting, just as southern comfort food should be. Everything was very good but the waiter was an extremely fast talker and turns out very rushed in everything he did, not just his speech. Otherwise it was great and I would definitely eat there again if we weren’t┬ásimply passing through.

We walked around the crowded town and discovered a free Moonshine tasting in an eccentric little place full of the powerful alcohol that was so popular during the prohibition period. It was a cool old southern place filled with old cars, mason jars, shelf after shelf of moonshine, and a whole sea of rocking chairs.

It was just a short visit but we cherished every moment and look forward to the next. Tomorrow we head through the Great Smokey Mountains and up to Cincinnati Ohio for the night.

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