Tuesday morning we were up, had breakfast and were on the road by 6:30am. As soon as we crossed into the next county the time zone changed, making it an hour later. Before long, we passed the exit for Oak Ridge, Tennessee. I’m sure that there are many wonderful things there, but I know that one of my son-in-law’s mother lives there and that the country music group “The Oak Ridge Boys” are from there. We stayed on interstate 40 and drove through Knoxville. From there, we cut down and drove through Sevierville, where we visited a covered bridge.
After leaving the bridge, we drove through Pigeon Forge and around Gatlinburg to the Sugarlands Visitor Center. It is one of the entrances to the Smokey Mountains National Park. While visiting there, we learned some information about what to do in the park and headed out. Since it was supposed to rain the next day, we decided to try to get some of the interesting things in the higher elevations done this day.
We drove up a mountain to Newfound Gap, where we were in both Tennessee and North Carolina at the same time.
Then we continued up the mountain trail to Clingman’s Dome. This is the highest elevation ( 6,643 feet) in Tennessee and also in The Smokey Mountain National Park. The only problem that we encountered here was that apparently, many other people had the same idea about avoiding the next day’s weather, and we ended up in a terrible traffic jam because there is not enough parking at the top of this mountain. We sat in traffic for about an hour. Then, my husband said: “Get out and take pictures in case I can’t find a parking space.” So I jumped out and took the pictures while he circled around the parking lot looking for a space. After about twenty minutes that it took him to get back to where I was, he told me to jump back in the car, and we drove down the mountain. Unfortunately, he didn’t get to see the sights from there, but he was very happy to look at my pictures and to get out of that traffic.
We decided to head to the motel to try to figure out what to do next and to see if we could check in early. This was about 2:30pm. We followed the directions on WAZE, which routed us onto River Road because the traffic on Parkway was so bad. I can’t imagine how it was any worse than on River Road. We arrived at the Greystone Lodge on the River just about check-in time. The river was just about dry because the town has been in a drought. In 2016, the Gatlinburg area had a devastating fire that destroyed much of the forest in the area and killed several people. We were told that the fire was stopped on the hill directly behind our room.
When researching our trip, I saw an article saying that Gatlinburg was trying to break the Guinness World Book record for the most scarecrows in a town. As we drove in all the traffic, we were able to see scarecrows in many locations. The official count had been made on Monday and Gatlinburg indeed broke the record.
After supper, we went back to our room where we sat on the balcony just watching the sights below. One interesting thing is that there were no mosquitoes. I attract them like crazy, and I didn’t see a single one. Another interesting thing was that as we sat on our fifth floor balcony, we could look through the leaves of a huge tree and see cars driving up mountain roads that were above our level.
After about an hour, we went into our room and went to sleep. We didn’t realize just how tired we were, and we had a very busy day scheduled the next day – rain or no rain.