And now for the final installment of blogging recaps for my summer trip. This might be a record as far as how much time passed (it’s only been a little over two weeks) since I got home and finished blogging about the trip. You’re welcome.
For the last stop on our road trip, I decided to book a campsite at Cades Cove Campground. I had the idea that we would repeat the hike we did a few years ago, and it would be glorious.
But first: we left Asheville and followed the Blue Ridge Parkway and some other roads into the Smoky Mountains again.
We stopped at the Oconulufte visitors center and farm museum right after entering the park. It was really informative and interesting. I think I’ve mentioned this in an earlier post, but I found it so fascinating how many people lived in this area before the park was founded.
We wandered around the Farm Museum, which was a real farm that had been relocated to be more accessible to visitors. It was very interesting. Plus, chickens!
And pigs. They smelled. Quite a lot.
It was a beautiful day.
We had a little lunch out of the car, then got on our way again. We stopped at Mingo Mill shortly after that. It was an old mill, and quite interesting. There was a volunteer there who started talking to me about various musical instruments and played the ten whistle for me.
One of the things we definitely wanted to do was see Clingman’s Dome. The parking lot was SLAMMED though, and we had to wait a bit to get a spot. We did the hike up to the lookout tower and it was harder than we anticipated. The views were unfortunately pretty bad due to fog and cloud cover, but it was still beautiful.
If I’d been more myself, we might have done a little hike from the parking lot. There were some really neat ones in my books, but we weren’t up for it, and I was still, at this point, trying to figure out what was going on with my uncle’s services. Luckily, shortly after leaving Clingman’s I was able to talk to my mom and sister and figured out the plans. So instead of three nights camping at Cades Cove, it would be two nights, and then we’d head home. No big deal, and it meant we’d just have to make the most of it.
We got to the campground in the late afternoon, and got QUITE a lecture on bear safety by the check-in ranger. Luckily we know what we are doing Bear safety is my jam.
This campground wasn’t as beautiful, and the sites were super packed together. We did luck out and nobody was camping next to us, so we had more privacy, but if they had been, it would have been close quarters. I guess we were towards the end of the season and the campground wasn’t full! We were a little farther from the bathrooms than we like, but it was fine. The most important thing was that it was DRY.
We set up camp, made a fire, and just relaxed. We had a long hike ahead of us!
The next morning we got up and started getting ready to hike. We planned to hike up Anthony Creek Trail to Bode Mountain Trail, and then the Appalachian Trail to Rocky Top, then back across to the AT to the Russell Field Trail, then home. This would be over 15 miles, and I wasn’t sure about it, but was hopeful.
As we were getting packed up, I noticed some people down the road in the campsite pointing into the woods. I looked over, and low and behold it was a small animal, sort of trotting along. We thought a fox, at first, but then realized it seemed to be a bobcat! It had something in it’s mouth that might have been a bra, which seemed SUPER weird, but who knows!
That’s the zoom in. You can perhaps see it has something in it’s mouth. Or not.
Anyway, that was pretty nifty to see. And then we headed out.
I made a few mistakes off the bat. We’d taken our boots apart, well, taken the insoles out, the other day to dry them and I’d forgotten, so I didn’t properly tighten my shoes but instead left them how I’d thought I’d wanted them. By the time I remembered they were actually too loose, my feet were already killing me. So that didn’t help, and it seemed like just a stupid thing to have done. I wasn’t feeling great generally, and felt like I was really letting Louie down by not keeping up as well.
We got to the top and then turned onto the Appalachian Trail. The previous time I remembered this was quite magical (it was after a rain.) This hike, it was still very nice but lacked the same quality. We went further than before, though, because we really wanted to get to Rocky Top.
Somebody had a little too much fun with the cairns. Probably several somebodies.
We ate our lunch up there, but I was quite frustrated because there were hundreds of bees crawling on the ground. Why???
We should have stayed longer, but I was cranky because of the bees. We didn’t get a selfie, unfortunately, and we just started heading back. I didn’t feel that great, my feet hurt, and I was disappointed in myself across the board. We decided to cut the hike “short” and just head back the way we came. It was still nearly 13-14 RT miles, including the hike from the campground to the trailhead, but I just felt like we had failed. The hike down was a little sad and I just felt bad about everything. It was a hard day.
We decided to cut across the stream near our campground—to get to the trailhead we had walked around this creek on a bridge, but it added probably 1/4 to 1/2 mile. We managed to ford the creek on the return, making it across at a place that seemed easy enough and we didn’t get too wet. We showered, made dinner, and relaxed. It was a nice night, and we made a fire, finished some leftover s’mores, and tried to make the best of our last night. Overall it was a nice day, and I know we made the right decision on the hike, but I can’t help but wish I had been able to do better! I am such a slow hiker and I often feel clumsy and out of shape. I know I’m being hard on myself, but…that’s one of my skills
So there you have it. A wonderful trip somewhat spoiled by my worries and anxiety Nah, it wasn’t. Just that one part of the hike. I had a wonderful time overall, and I think Louie did too. While the Smokies aren’t as “exotic” as Utah, they are beautiful, and we had a great time getting out and seeing the world. We didn’t have any major disasters this trip, other than our tent being so wet and getting a lot of moisture through the bottom…not a disaster, just an inconvenience. And our trip home was uneventful—we got started fairly early, stopped for a delicious Thai lunch in Nashville, and made it home around 6 pm. The house looked great, we got mexican food at Amigo Joe’s, and enjoyed sleeping in a bed. I did some laundry and packed for my short trip to Ohio, including my violin and getting music for Leslie and I to play at my uncle’s memorial. It wasn’t the way I’d hoped to finish vacation, but it was how things were.
Asheville is great! Go, visit! Great food, very walkable downtown, lots to do.
Cataloochee campground was just awesome! And Elkmont quite good too. Our campsites were especially good.
Cades Cove is a lovely area. We’d already spent some time there. The campground isn’t quite as nice, too crowded. Or my site choice wasn’t as good, hard to say, I guess, since we didn’t explore as much.
Next time we’ll do more hikes in the Clingman’s Dome area, something up higher where there are more views. That’s what you miss in the Smokies, so many trees, less views. Still beautiful though, and better than what we get at home for sure!
I’m glad we did this trip. It was a really nice time, and a relaxing enough cap on a stressful summer (especially for Louie) before a stressful fall (for both of us.) Every time I plan a trip I learn new things, and this was no exception. But overall, good itinerary, good times, great memories. Thanks for reading!