DAY 7 FRIDAY
This morning I woke at 6:00 am, eager to get to Cades Cove before the crowds. It was chilly out, 45 degrees, so I quickly got dressed, made a cup of coffee, hastily brushed my teeth and took a coffee cup to go as I hit the road. It was an hour drive to Cades Cove but it was a beautiful morning, quiet and green, with no rain in sight.
I pulled into the parking lot at 7:45 and was happy to see only one other car at the first stop. Cades Cove is a collection of historic houses, churches and buildings scattered in 15 groups around an 11 mile loop.
Love this headstone - read it!
It was great fun to pull up and explore the different buildings. Some were quite close to the road and others required a hike of several blocks to get to them. My favorite was the Elijah Oliver place because I had to hike 5 blocks to get to it.
I spotted 2 deer eating outside one of the barns. They peered cautiously at me for a few moments before turning and disappearing into the woods behind them.
After 2 hours of exploring it was beginning to get crowded with cars and I had to make a decision – either forgo the rest of the buildings so I could hike the Abrams Falls Trail, or skip the trail and continue exploring the houses. I finally decided to continue on with the buildings because the Cable Mill was coming up and that’s one I particularly wanted to see and it did not disappoint.
It was actually my favorite stop on the tour, with plenty of buildings to poke around in and the visitor center was there as well.
I popped inside the Visitors Center and purchased a couple more patches for my jacket and headed back to the car. When I pulled out onto the loop I was dismayed to see that traffic was now bumper to bumper and moving at a snails pace of 7 miles per hour. I turned off to check out one more house and then decided to call it quits. It was just too crowded. I snaked around the remainder of the loop and finally reached the exit and pointed my car towards Gatlinburg.
My stomach was rumbling and it was almost noon so I munched on a Cliff Bar until I found parking in Gatlinburg and headed up the strip in search of something to eat. I quickly decided on a Nathan’s hot dog with home made chips.
I didn’t really feel like doing any shopping so I decided to try a Geocaching Adventure Lab to kill some time. Adventure Labs are new and popping up all over the place. They are very similar to Geocaching except that instead of having to find a container of some sort and signing a logbook, Adventure Labs take you to different locations and you have to get information and answer a question. I pulled one up on my phone and was soon headed off in multiple directions throughout Gatlinburg, learning some history about the town and answering questions. I ended up going to five different locations and ended up in a cemetery where I correctly answered the final question and got credit for my first complete adventure lab. Here's some of the locations I had to visit..
It was quite fun and I rewarded myself with a raspberry Donut from the Donut Friar as well as a cinnamon donut to save for breakfast in the morning. By then I was hot and tired so I headed back to the campground where I spent the rest of the evening laying on the cot in my tent and reading “Gone with the Wind.” Altogether a very nice day.
Next up - my final day in the Smoky Mountains and a hike to the famous "Grotto Falls."
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