We crossed another National Park off the list this week with a wonderful visit to Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMP). It’s a big place that could have kept us busy for months and months. Over 800 miles of hiking trails, including a portion of the Appalachian Trail (AT), hundreds of historic sites, and innumerable streams and rivers make this one of the most beautiful parks we’ve seen.
They say GSMP is defined by the 3 Ws: Wildlife, Wildflowers, and Waterfalls. We would add one more letter to the description: C for crowds. Even in the off season, which is what March is considered, the crowds at the popular sites were large. We can’t even imagine what it would be like in the peak seasons of summer and fall. It’s no wonder it’s the nation’s busiest national park…1/3 of the US population lives within a days drive of its borders.
On one day we explored Cades Cove, a verdant valley punctuated with historic homes and churches, abundant wildlife, and beautiful scenery. We drove the 11 mile loop road, stopping along the way to learn about the settlers who populated the valley in the early 1800s.
We also spent a day driving the Newfound Gap Road, which crosses the park from Tennessee to North Carolina. The mountain pass reaches an elevation of over 5,000 feet where the road crosses the famed Appalachian Trail. We enjoyed some short hikes along the drive but skipped on the AT (for now).
We also spent one day just hanging out at our incredible RV resort, Little Arrow Camping Resort, in Townsend, TN, right outside the entrance to the national park. We had a waterfront site that allowed us to listen to the rushing water right from the rig. Each evening we participated in activities, including Bingo, Trivia, and Smores night around the fire. Bob especially enjoyed the socializing.
From Little Arrow we were able to hop on several hiking trails. One took us to a viewpoint that overlooks the cute town of Townsend. There a local carver is installing a giant Sasquatch, and we were able to chat with him about his work and admire the grandeur of the piece.
Just down the road from Little Arrow we did a hike in the national park which we learned is one of the best trails to see the spring wildflowers.
After our four days at Little Arrow and GSMP we drove less than an hour north to Knoxville. Steve had been here back in 1982 for the World’s Fair, so we did some reminiscing. There are no RV parks near downtown Knoxville so we “camped” on top of the Civic Auditorium parking garage, which provided us with electricity and security!
The main reason for hitting Knoxville was to complete another marathon.
Steve braved the cold and wind to finish the marathon in less than four hours. This was his 25th state, so he’s half way to his goal of all 50 states!
From here we head west towards home and will not likely post anything more until we begin our next RV adventure in May when we head north to Alaska! So hang on…there’s big stuff ahead!