So much to do and see here…where to start! Well, of course, we started with what we always start with – breakfast (I know that’s a big surprise, right?). Less than 1/2 mile from the campground was the Riverstone Restaurant so that was our first stop on Tuesday morning. We both had their hearty egg breakfast (2 eggs with sausage, bacon or ole tyme ham, grits or shredded hash browns, toast or biscuit for $5.99). Cute place, good food and excellent service! We liked it so much that we went there a second time during our stay.
On our first day, we entered the Great Smoky Mountains National Park by driving along Little River Road (TN-73). A twisty, turny road bordered with lush greenery, colorful blooming wildflowers, the rushing Little River, and an occasional glimpse of towering mountains. What magnificent scenery! Due to the narrow road, tight blind turns and frequent rock outcroppings, it is not recommended to take a long or tall RV on this road.
It wasn’t long before we pulled into a parking lot for The Sinks, a 15 foot drop waterfall which you can view either from the parking lot or by walking along a short dirt path. Beautiful to view from a distance but according to a sign there, very dangerous if wading or swimming because of strong “down currents” which can trap someone under water and hold them there.
When we were just about ready to hop back in the car, we saw a diesel pusher motorhome at least 40′ with a tow vehicle on Little River Road heading back the way we had come – we both exclaimed at the same time “What? Is he nuts???” With the road being so narrow and twisty, on some of the hairpin/sharp turns he would have to straddle the lanes. I sure wouldn’t want to be driving along and suddenly see this monster coming at me!
Leaving there, we continued our drive, stopping at a few overlooks along the way. Eventually we stopped at the Sugarlands Visitor Center which was one of four visitor centers in the National Park. Whew, it was pretty crowded. Very nicely done with numerous informative displays and exhibits about the history of the area, the topography, animals, plants, trees, and birds. In their theater, they had a 20 minute video that talked about the park and history of the area.
Now armed with a map of the park, we continued our journey. Since the Visitor Center was only a few miles from Gatlinburg, even though we had been there before and remembered it as being somewhat congested and very touristy, we decided to take a drive through the town.
After driving through Gatlinburg, we decided to take the one way paved 11 mile Roaring Fork Nature Motor Trail. Okay here we go – what’s another adjective I can use besides pretty, awesome, gorgeous, scenic? I consulted Roget’s Thesaurus but that wasn’t much help so I guess I’ll just have to use the same ol’ adjectives. Eleven miles of winding roads with tight hairpin turns (even for our rather nimble Odyssey) and steep drop-off’s bordered by old-growth forests, rushing mountain streams and a number of well preserved log cabins, grist mills and historic buildings. At the beginning of the trail, we stopped to buy the auto tour guidebook for $1.
One such building that we stopped at was the Noah “Bud” Ogle Farm which was built in 1879. There were several other old homesteads but since we had been here before we didn’t bother stopping – you can see pictures below. But one other place we did stop was the old mill which was across the road from the Alfred Reagan Place. The Reagan’s used “all three colors that Sears and Roebuck had” to paint their “saddlebag” (two single-pen cabins joined by a common chimney) house. Alfred Reagan was an early entrepreneur, initially a farmer as well as a carpenter, then he opened a blacksmith shop. In 1900 Roaring Fork was large enough so he built a store which his son ran. Finally he capped his enterprises with a gristmill to grind corn into meal.
Eventually we came to the end of the loop, going from life in the mid-1800’s back to the “real world” and the glitz of Gatlinburg. Just before getting back to civilization, we passed “Ely’s Mill” which was built in 1925 and has an interesting history.
Since it was still early in the day we continued our drive which brought us to another popular tourist destination, Pigeon Forge, named for an iron forge built by Isaac Love around 1820 on the banks of the Little Pigeon River. Driving down the 8 lane divided “strip”, we passed by well known attractions such as Dollywood, Dollywood’s Splash Country, and music theaters along with miles and miles of outlet malls, miniature golf courses, arcades and go-karts. Ah, yes, we were definitely back in today’s world of commercialism! Puh-leeze take me back to the serenity of the woods!
Well, now that we had had our fill of commercialism it was time to head back to the hacienda. Back on the “less traveled” roads, we got to enjoy more picturesque scenery.
More exploring was on the agenda for the next day….stay tuned!