Heading North

Our summer adventures have begun, and we’re looking forward to sharing them with you. After about a month at home in Prescott we are ready to roll again.

Soon we’ll be crossing the Canadian border with our dear friends Russ and Susan Shoemaker. Together we’ll set out to see Banff and Jasper National Parks in the Canadian Rockies before hitting the Alaska-Canada (ALCAN) Highway. We’ve been planning this trip for over two years. We were booked and ready to go when the pandemic hit in 2020. Now that the Canadian border is open for recreational travel, we’re finally on our way. We hope you’ll follow along!

On our way north we used our Harvest Hosts membership to spend the night at two fun locations. First we stopped at Rowley’s Red Barn in Santaquin, UT. At the base of the Wasatch, it’s a beautiful location, even in the rain. 

Next we stopped in Pocatello, ID at the Museum of Clean. It was a clean, level place to park for the night and we enjoyed the four-level museum that’s chock full of everything related to being clean.

One floor is filled with vacuum cleaners that date all the way back to the 1800s. We also enjoyed the nearby Pontneuf Brewery, which was within walking distance of the museum. 

We met up with the Shoemakers in Butte and spent two nights in the old mining town. Our big activity was a visit and tour of the World Museum of Mining.

Our underground tour of the Orphan Girl Mine helped us understand the process of mining over the years and how it impacted, and continues, to impact the Butte area. 

The city of Butte really reflects its history in the landscape. We drove around a bit and took in the sights.

Soon we’ll begin our trek across three Canadian Provinces and through some of the most remote territory we’ve ever explored. Stay tuned…it’s going to be good!

The Smokies and Knoxville

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!

Asheville and the Biltmore Estate

We’d heard Asheville was cool and the rumors were true. We made our way from Savannah, through South Carolina, and on to Asheville.  On the way we made a quick stop at Conagree National Park. Located just outside of Columbia, this relatively small park features the largest contiguous expanse of old growth hardwood forest left in the United States. A lot of cool stuff grows here!

We did a quick walk on the raised boardwalk to get a feel for the landscape but the rain cut our time a bit short. Luckily, though, the bugs weren’t as bad as they could have been. We got another stamp in the NPS Passport book!

On to Asheville we traveled with two purposes: the Asheville Marathon and the Biltmore Estate. In between we checked out the Blue Ridge Parkway, which runs right through Asheville. Considered “America’s Favorite Drive,” the road runs 469 miles through Virginia and North Carolina, linking Shenandoah National Park to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We did about 20 miles and enjoyed the views. Maybe we’ll do the entire thing on a future trip.

Saturday brought the big event: Steve’s 34th marathon in his 24th state. We enjoyed the warm Asheville hospitality and the finish line festivities at one of Asheville’s many breweries.

Steve finished the race in just over four hours and finished second in his age group. 

Sunday took us to the famed Biltmore Estate, built by George W. Vanderbilt in 1895. Over the course of the day we explored the grounds, the house, the winery, and the farm. Even the dogs enjoyed the property.

The 250-room chateau is considered America’s largest home with 16th century tapestries, 10,000 volume library, 65 fireplaces, an indoor pool, and an indoor bowling alley. 

The 8,000-acre property was home to the Biltmore Dairy and now the Biltmore Winery. We enjoyed the complimentary wine tasting and then Bob joined us for a glass at the wine bar afterwards.

We only scratched the surface of this incredible place and it was certainly a nice day exploring one of the most incredible estates in the US.

We’re now on to new adventures as we close out our six month road trip. Stay tuned for at least one more blog before we’re home!