Here I am — day 2 of my North Carolina drive trip.  I am in Tennessee, heading to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, no schedule, no plan, 100 degrees outside and I’m cruising in my black Nissan Sentra!

I don’t like mountain driving so what the heck was I doing?  I live in California, have driven in California, Colorado, Nevada and Utah …. surely Tennessee can’t be that bad.   It was.  Getting to the National Park involved lots of ups and downs on steep highways.   I pulled off the road often to let cars pass.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

But again I wasn’t in a hurry and had no plan.

I spent the afternoon in the park, hiking and sightseeing in the town of Cherokee.  It’s home to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the Cherokee Museum.   The  Museum is worth a trip!

It dispassionately presents the history of the Cherokee and offers something for children and adults.

My  next surprise drive through was Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  What a gorgeous town, even as it’s overrun with tourists.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Would I go back?  Absolutely.  it’s gorgeous, rustic and surrounded by the Smoky Mountains.  Pigeon Forge is home to Dollywood (who knew?)  and I decided to go.  Except as I’m driving toward Dollywood, I hear storm warnings on the radio.  When I arrive at the park, the parking folks told me the park was closing because of the coming storms.

Disappointed?  Yup but I continued on, this time opting to drive on to Knoxville.  And the proverbial c**p hit the fan as I neared Knoxville.   The skies grew dark (really dark) and as I neared Knoxville, the wind picked up.  I had a great recommendation for a bbq place in Knoxville and was heading there.  Until I exited downtown Knoxville and tree limbs, leaves, and trash cans were blowing around.

Oh maybe I don’t need to drive around Knoxville, maybe I should I continue driving.  So I did.

The dark skies opened up and the downpour started.  It was more than a downpour, it was torrential rain along with thunder and lightning.  Lightning that hit trees on the side of the road and started a fire.  Yup, saw that.

Being headstrong, I planned to continue on but I could barely see 5 feet in front of my car.  When 5 truckers exited the highway at one time, I followed them.  If truckers weren’t willing to drive on, I certainly wasn’t.

Later I heard on the 10p news there were 2 deaths in the park due to flash flooding in the National Park and extensive damage in Knoxville from the severe storms.  The thought suddenly flashed in my mind — no one knows where I am!  It was probably time for me to head east and check in with family.

But first I enjoyed a bottle of wine.

Bodega Elena de Mendoza Malbec

Delicious!  Best $9 spent on wine.   It made sitting in my Motel 6 room pleasant.

I’d like to say I dutifully headed east to family.  Maybe next time.  While I did head east, I saw a brochure for Chimey Rock   and decided to detour.

Brochure of Chimney Rock

The 2.5 miles up the narrow winding mountain road to reach the park left me shaking in the knees.  My Sentra wasn’t meant to climb up steep hills even if I had the gas to the floor.  Fear of mountain driving exploded.

I spent the afternoon there for several reasons — the hiking and the views are magnificant!  And the elevator.  Yup, elevator!  A 26-story elevator built in the mountain!

 And, um, I wasn’t ready to drive down the mountain.  I needed to work up my courage and game plan because on the down I was on the outside.  Yeah, the side next to the cliff.

It took me 1/2-hour to get down and I drove in the middle of road most of the way down.  Yeah I need to work on this fear.  next trip

4th of July – Part 2

Fireworks, watermelon and wine …. Good 4th of July in Asheville.  While driving around Asheville, I noticed signs for the Blue Ridge Parkway.  After watching the fireworks, I logged on to learn more about the Blue Ridge Parkway while trying one of the bottles of wine.

“The Blue Ridge Parkway is more than a road – it’s a beautiful journey that entices visitors to explore a 469-mile gateway to America’s rich cultural heritage including Cherokee traditions, music, crafts, agriculture and nature. ”

Wine wasn’t worth a 2nd glass.  Down the drain it went.

But the Blue Ridge Parkway!  Suddenly my next day’s route was planned.  More watermelon and I was ready for bed.

Rise and shine and I was off ….. I did stop at the local supermarket for a ice chest, ice and water!  The front desk staff at my hotel were super — they had so many places for me to see, my head was swimming.  I opted to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway to Brevard because there’s a beautiful waterfall near Brevard.

Oh my, I was not prepared for the drive.

Blue Ridge Parkway Welcome
The Valley
Chestnut Cove sign

 

Early Morning at Chestnut Cove

Having been in Wyoming in late May where I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone, I was unprepared for the similar feeling of overwhelmed I had while driving the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The western US with its rugged, sharp peaks is masculine while the eastern US has verdant round rolling mountains, feminine in my mind.  There’s no way to compare the 2 sides just like it’s impossible to compare man to woman.

 

 

 

Cradle of Forestry Overlook

Guess I didn’t get a photo when I reached 6000 foot elevation.  Probably because at that point I realized that I was 1) climbing higher and higher on a mountain road and 2) driving along the tops of the mountains.   eek …..

About the time, my nerves started getting the best of me, I exited to head down (yup, approximately 34 miles downhill on winding roads) to Brevard, on the hunt for the water falls.

I was relieved to head down from the Parkway but at some point during the 34-miles, I realized I had no reception on either phone  and no one knew where I was.  DOH!   Maybe I didn’t need to continue at 45 mph.

Aha, the falls!

Looking Glass Waterfall

Looking Glass Waterfall

Looking Glass Waterfalls

It was a nice refreshing stop along the way to Brevard — a short hike around the falls, in the woods.  After seeing the falls, I didn’t need to go to Brevard … except I had to pee.

Peeing played a big part in my trip.  There were a lot of unplanned stops to take care of that basic need.  I wish I could say I only peed in toilets … but no.  There were several moments I had to pull off the road and head into the woods.  Oh well.

Back on the road again.  Turns out the best way to get to Great Smoky Mountains National Park was to go back on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Deep breath and my big girl pants and I was climbing up again.

 

Appalachian Trail

Loved this!  It was a very rewarding 4 mile hike just before I crossed over to Tennessee.

NC-TN State Line

Weird observation: North Carolina has barriers on the Parkway, Tennessee does not.