The trip got off to a rocky start. I didn't request the correct day's off at work so I had to take a half day last Thursday. That was OK...until I got stuck fixing an issue with our time punch software. So after delaying for over an hour we finally started our vacation to the Smokies. And it wasn't just Samantha and myself. Lucy was coming on her first vacation as well. My punishment for not being ready was to drive the whole way through to Tennessee.
After a long but smooth trip we made it to Elkmont campground (where Samantha spent many of her childhood camping adventures) only to find that they were at full capacity. The recomended that we try another campsite but to simply find a vacant site and set up camp as the office would be closed when we got there. So we wound our way to Cades Cove where we found a campsite and pitched a tent. After getting settled in we spent our first night sweating. It was hot. My little tent was not up for three bodies and we felt it that first night.When we woke up we found we could only get another night at the campground that we were at and we would have to pack up and move to another campground for any more nights (which the other campground had plenty of sites for the rest of the weekend). We paid our way for another night and set out to explore the park.The first stop was just outside the campground in Cades Cove. There is an eleven mile one way road that takes you through a large natural preserve that you are almost guaranteed to find some form of wildlife on. It was early enough that we saw a deer about a third of the way through but, unlike last time we went, there was not a whole lot to see. So we decided to take a "Unimproved Road" that would eventually take us into the nearest town outside the park. We slowly wound our way through the switchbacks and it is here I spotted the butterflies in the video below:
The quality is horrible (the best a K1M cellphone can do!) but there were a whole bunch of them just swarming around a little creek. There are pictures below, but again poor quality.We made it in to Townsend after getting out of the park and through what might have been a town if there wasn't such a Deliverance feel to it and found some grocery and last minute supplies. We then went and found a nice secluded spot to have lunch and enjoy the absolutely frigid river that ran along the main East-West road in the park. Samantha got right in and I never got in past my kneecaps. It was COLD! Amazingly Lucy jumped right in! She swam around for a little while and then jumped right out and we had drag her back in from that point on. It was hot enough outside that she needed a quick cool off but that was all she wanted. She hates the water (she wont even submit to a bath at home) and it was enough for us that she got wet on her own. We ended up back and the campsite where Samantha grilled steaks for dinner and afterwards I went and enjoyed a performance from a former park volunteer who demonstrated local Appalachian music and dance. It was a lot of fun!The next day was a late start. We didn't wake up until around ten in the morning! Samantha cooked breakfast (eggs, bacon, and love) and we explored some more. We didn't realize it until we got there but only two of the trails would allow dogs on them so we were stuck driving around looking at the sights and not able explore them much past the side of the road. But the Smokies has a lot of great views and we took them in. We found a spot at the Smokemont campground for the rest of the trip. We got a site right next to the river. It was very nice. We relaxed most of the time and read our books after lunch and another dip in the river. Very relaxing.We spent the night freezing cold this time and Samantha had an upset stomach that night. By morning we had warmed up and gastronomically settled down and set out for Cherokee, NC, an Native American reservation (and major tourist trap). Mostly we drove around as we had done most of the touristy stuff last time we had come to the Smokies. But we did explore more and saw much more of the reservation than our previous trip. We decided that we were not going to stay another night and packed our gear for the trip home. We made it back after taking the scenic route through the Cleveland Nation Forrest in North Carolina. All in all it was a fun trip. The few pictures I have up for now are posted below. There will be more to come after I get them off of Samantha's phone.