Next stop for our visitors was Dollywood in Pigeon Forge. It’s about an hour plus drive from our home and they were early at the park and headed straight for the roller coasters toward the back of the park. Smart Sue! Brian and Sue enjoyed the rides with little to no wait while Randy found interesting people to talk to while he watched and waited for them. Not a heights guy or big spin fan.
They saw a great music review, snacked on park food and took some fun photos. Brian gave the park good reviews but said it’s not quite as good as Great America.
Another day we headed to lunch downtown Knoxville, after driving by the University of Tennessee campus and football stadium. I’ve heard when UT plays in town, everyone is in orange and everyone is either at the game or watching it. Having a college football team to follow should be fun. I’m all “Go Volunteers” now. We had lunch at Market Square, a nice full block closed off to traffic with stores and restaurants. I snapped a photo of this interesting statue depicting woman’s suffrage and the historic passage of the 19th Amendment and women’s right to vote in 1920. Thank you ladies! I’m not very political, but I’d like to think I would have helped these gals if I was around 92 years ago. The thought that women could not vote boggles my mind. We’ve come a long way baby! (name that brand slogan?)
The guys golfed twilight one day after school while Sue and I menu planned while floating in the pool, preparing for our weekend in the Smoky Mountains. After golf, Randy insisted on “good job milkshakes” at Sonic, and now the boys routinely request “good job milkshakes” (emptied the dishwasher, that calls for good job milkshakes!)
We headed to a rental cabin in Pigeon Forge/Sevierville Friday afternoon, about an hour and fifteen minutes from our home. Pigeon Forge is a busy touristy strip, many say it’s like the Wisconsin Dells. But there are pretty mountain areas with tons or rental cabins. The drive up to the unit was very steep with hairpin turns.
But what a view!
We knew we wanted a getaway weekend in the Smokies before Brian headed back to school and were glad Sue and Randy could join us. Three floors, two large wraparound decks, large hot tub, mini golf holes, pool table, and a great space to spend time together. The interior reminded us a lot of Mark and Sandy’s place in Brainerd, MN, right down to the evergreen dish set.
We played Skipbo and enjoyed the views. We studied the national park map and a few books I picked up at the library trying to strategize our Saturday. There is a lot of ground you can cover and narrowing down how you want to spend a half day isn’t easy. We analyzed hike length, difficulty (easy, moderate, strenuous), features (streamside, waterfall, spectacular view) and area of the park. Saturday, we packed a picnic lunch, woke the boys by 9:30 and drove fifteen minutes to the park. Did you know its one of the few national parks with no entry fees (or long lines to enter)? We were on the north end of the park, and there is a Townsend entrance on the west end, and a Sugarland entrance on the east end…and a small entrance between the two of them that we used (forgot the name.) Nice scenery just entering the park and many lovely views throughout the day.
We drove toward Elkmont camp area for a hike along Jake Creek. We agreed to hike in about 1 or 1-1/2 hours then hike back. This area was an old vacation destination and the hike began along a gravel road/path where old homes still stand.
We took a peek inside a few and imagined what it was like 100 years ago, listening to the creek and relaxing on the back porch in the Smokies. I heard there are plans to rebuild the area for park lodging. I know there is one area for park lodging called LeConte where you need to backpack into the cabin area…someday I would like to try that.
Lovely hike continued with a sign along the way and at just about the 1-1/2 hour point we were treated with some small waterfalls and a cool bridge across the rocky creek. We paused for some rest and pictures then headed back down the shaded path.
Sue checked the water temperature and confirmed, very cold. Though we saw people swimming in creeks here and there along our drive. Our hike was very peaceful and we saw just two small groups along the way. Felt like we had the place to ourselves.
There were unusual tall vines growing alongside many trees. The boys found several dangling over the path that were perfect for George of the Jungle swinging.
Next was a pretty ten minute drive to the Sugarland Visitor Center where we had our lunch (pbj, chips, grapes), watched a 20-minute video on the park history, and learned more about the area.
I asked a park ranger about those vines, and he said they were either poison ivy or grape vines. I thought he was pulling my leg on the poison ivy, but he claimed he wasn’t (I’m still suspicious). We had our money on grape vines. Great source of information and very well presented. There was a small museum with displays of birds, plants and animals native to the area. This picture is for my friends in the old neighborhood, sorry guys but when you come to visit, we’ve got these furry friends in TN, too.
We headed back to the cabin for hot tubbing, games on the deck, a little mini golf (the outdoor holes looked cool but were on a hill and unplayable, so we set up a mini-course in the basement) and more chilling. Poor photo quality below but you get the picture. I used my iphone for all of these photos (except stole Dollywood pic from Sue’s facebook), butI need some different settings or a new camera, because none of these photos do the area justice!!
It was a nice weekend and we said farewell to our family, as they hit the road bright and early 6am Sunday morning for a full day ride back to Rhinelander, WI (arrived home around 9pm I recall, about 15 hour drive). Come back soon!
Anxiously awaiting another set of visitors in mid-October, when 8 college girlfriends head to Knoxville for a weekend of fun and friendship. Flights are booked and the plans are taking shape for the three night stay. Tom and Kevin will have their own adventure away that weekend so we can enjoy a girls weekend at our home which will include a day trip to the Smoky Mountains. I love to plan a good party and these girls definitely know how to have a good time.
We send Brian off to college in three days (deep sigh), and I am excited for the place he will go and the people he will meet. I pray he is blessed with friendships anywhere close to the ones Tom and I made at NIU. Have a happy weekend!