Heavy Heart Lightly Dusted With Snow

Sunrise from Gatlinburg Bypass Overlook
Sunrise from Gatlinburg Bypass Overlook

Snow was in the forecast for the overnight hours and it didn’t disappoint! Darren woke me up early. I really have no idea what time since my watch said one time, my computer another and my phone yet another. We lost an hour yesterday with the time zone difference and then skipped ahead another with Daylight Savings. I am still not clear exactly what time it is. It’s dark and night…lol. I believe it is 9:33pm Tennessee time.

It’s been another great day. Good to be in the Smoky Mountains. They are so beautiful even in winter and even with all the devastation. We saw some of that today and it was sad. In the picture above, that fence used to stretch the length of the overlook and there was a sign with information about what you were overlooking. All gone except for that little stretch of fence.

I think God dusted everything in snow to soften the blow for my tender heart. The snow and views were beautiful. My heart grew heavier with every burned cabin we passed. It also makes me angry. Angry at the teenagers that we heard started the fires and angry at the national news stations for not doing a better job covering this story. The Great Smoky Mountain fires were the deadliest wildfires in the eastern U.S. since 1947. Over 2000 structures were lost and over 14 people died (at last report I saw) with another 134 injured.

GSMNP signAfter we stopped at the overlook, we stopped by the main park sign over by the Sugarland Visitor’s Center.  So many wonderful memories at this sign alone! It was lovely along the Gatlinburg Trail as well. Some ducks came right up to Darren down by the water. They must be used to people feeding them. We didn’t. We didn’t even feed ourselves before we left. We wanted to capture as much of the snow as possible before it melted.

It did melt but not before we visited Bud Ogle’s place over by Roaring Fork. This is another place full of memories. Darren can remember visiting as a child. We brought our kids on their first trip in 2007. It was so good to see it still standing. On the way to it there were burned cabins and charred trees on both sides of the road. We hiked the short loop so we could see if the old mill house made it. It was still standing but the trough was partially collapsed. It didn’t look like it was related to the fire but maybe had rotted. We had fun playing with the snow in the trees and following animal tracks in the snow.

Bud Ogle Place-Historic Cabin
Bud Ogle Place-Historic Cabin

We finally headed to breakfast around lunch time. I knew it was close to lunch because the Log Cabin Pancake House we ate at has a lunch buffet and they were serving it. We opted for breakfast. Darren had his usual Pecan Pancakes and I had an omelet and some cakes that came with it. The place was packed and lined out the door but this place moves quickly.

After brunch, we both agreed a nap was in order. Between the hiking over the last few days, the traveling and the time changes we were ready for our Sunday nap! We curled up by the fire place and were out. By them time we got up, the snow was long gone. We decided to drive up Wiley Oakley Drive before heading to Pigeon Forge to visit The Island and Darren wanted to try a new place for dinner.

Wiley Oakley Drive and that entire part of the mountain were some of the worse hit in the fire. We had stayed there November 2015 so we wanted to check things out. It was heartbreaking. I went live on Facebook but not sure how much of the video you can actually see. I am still learning Facebook Live. Not that anyone wants to see all that sadness. I posted some pictures to Facebook as well of where are cabin had been.  You could tell where most cabins once stood by the remaining chimneys. Our cabin’s chimney had crumbled as well. All that was left of the entire cabin was a pile of cinder blocks and the bear proof trashcan holder with melted trashcans inside. The view is still gorgeous. I can’t wait to see how they rebuild.

Enough with the sadness! After our drive, we went to The Island to walk around. I bought some tea at my favorite new store, Blossom. They had a couple of hot teas out to try and I loved the turmeric one. With my achy hiking joints, I bought some to drink this week!

Darren’s pick for dinner started out great. It was just a short drive from The Island. They had fried deviled eggs. They didn’t sound good to me, still don’t sound good but they were excellent! After, the appetizer, the service went downhill and the food was okay. I think the waitress forgot to put in our order. We split a burger and it took over forty minutes to get our food. When the table of eight got their food before us, I let the manager know something was up. The burger was okay but we’ve had better in the area with better service.  My recommendation for a great burger in Pigeon Forge goes to Blue Moose! We ate there last summer and love it. The service was great and you could build your own burger.

Tomorrow, we will hike to another waterfall. Can’t ever get enough of those! I’ll probably go live again. I am trying to get the hang of it! Again, let us know if there is anything you want to know about the area, we’d love to help you have an adventure in the Smoky Mountains!

 

 

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Best Smelling Restroom, Evah!

If you’re new to following us, I’ll tell you that we love Tennessee! We come as often as we can and have bobbed and weaved chasing waterfalls along the way. This trip we spent two nights getting to Gatlinburg so we could see some beauties in the Monteagle area and the Fall Creek Falls State Park.
As I am writing this, we are back on I-40 heading to lunch at Full Service Barbecue in Maryville, TN.  We woke up to snow in Fall Creek Falls and hiked to the main fall which was stunning! The hike was a little steeper than I recall but short and easy. It’s rocky with plenty to see.
Trail to Fall Creek Falls
Trail to Fall Creek Falls
Fall Creek Falls
Fall Creek Falls
 The water was flowing with all the rain they’ve had and the snow was starting to accumulate. We opted to drive to Cane’s Creek Falls (<-video of falls) and park at the Nature Center so we could just hop in the car after and head out. We probably would have hiked it if we were staying another night and had more time. Either way you come out at the gorgeous Falls that cascade two levels. From the main overlook there was another fall back to the right that was tall! The lady at the Nature Center told me it was called Rockhouse Falls.
Rockhouse Creek Falls
Rockhouse Creek Falls
Suspension Bridge over Cane's Creek
Suspension Bridge over Cane’s Creek
View from the Suspension Bridge
View from the Suspension Bridge
Darren picked up a new book at the Nature Center as well. Waterfall Walks and Drives of Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee will be the source for many new hikes, I am sure!
They park staff was great sweeping the snow from the suspension bridge and the stairs. It was all so nice! It was 27 degrees out but didn’t feel cold at all. Not until we got in the truck sweaty and then got out for gas a ways down the road…33 then felt like 12!  Heated seats never felt so good!
The snow stopped as we got onto I-40, when I was writing earlier. We had a clear drive into Maryville for lunch. It was about 35 degrees out so we grabbed our ribs and ate in the truck. Full Service is an old gas station and only has outdoor seating at this location. They have the best smelling bathrooms evah! I know, that’s weird. The bathrooms backup to the smokehouse so it smells like smoked ribs!!! It is rather strange walking into a restroom and enjoying the smell! Leave it to us to find such a gem…
Full Service BBQ
Full Service BBQ
The ribs are so good they fall off the bone. Darren said the flavor was so good they must have been smoking these since we were here in August. I have to agree! I didn’t even like ribs before I tried these. (I know I shouldn’t admit that since I am from Texas…I don’t like chicken fried steak either now that I am confessing.) This is a must stop for all carnivores. Dry ribs rock!
As we continued on, we went through Townsend, Wears Valley, Piegon Forge and then onto the Parkway to our resort. If you have followed us on Facebook, you know that our resort caught fire in December. Thankfully, some of the cabins were spared and here we are!  We could see some of the destruction driving in but when we turned onto our property, tears filled my eyes. It was overwhelming to look up the side of the mountain and not see it how we left it last summer. I couldn’t even look at the parking attendant. I was afraid I’d look like a crazy woman.
We will post some pictures tomorrow for those curious. After hiking today, the only thing I wanted to do when we got here was unpack and shower. Darren took a few pictures and we will take plenty more I am sure. Be sure to follow us on Facebook if you don’t already! I posted some live videos today and will do the same as the week continues!
We’d also love to hear from you in the comments. Let us know if there is anything here you’d like to know about or see? If you have any questions about any of the hikes, we’d love to help!

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How To See Six Waterfalls In One Day!

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference." ~Robert Frost
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.” ~Robert Frost

Yesterday, we headed out for our first parents only trip in six years. It was hard to leave our sixteen year-old, but she will have a blast with her 29 year-old sister; especially, riding around in sister’s new Jeep with the top off! They’ve got manicures and pedicures on the schedule, as well. Sounds like great sister bonding time!

As usual, Darren planned a wonderful trip. We got out of town yesterday around 3:30pm. We wanted to make it to Memphis to maximize our day today. We did make it to the East side of Memphis which we’ve found is a nice area right off I-40 to stay with plenty of eating options.

We arrived late so the snacks in the car were our dinner. Which brings me to a few travel tips, pack:
•    snacks within reach in the car
•    drinks, think about what you’d want to drink with your snacks, water for taking medications and for staying hydrated, and whatever you’d drink for breakfast if you don’t drink coffee or juice. (Are we the only rare people that don’t drink either?)
•    hiking boots in a plastic tote and take a pair of flip flops/crocs/slides for swapping out after a hike. The tote will keep the dirt/mud contained and makes for easy clean up. We leave the tote with the dirty boots in the car and change into and out of our boots at the car. Keeps the hotel/cabin cleaner too!
•    a gallon size ziplock bag to collect all your hotel soaps. (We are collecting this time for my daughter’s mission trip to Brazil this summer.)
•    an old towel and some wipes to clean any mud off your legs (I usually kick myself and get mud right above my boot. Maybe I just need to learn how to walk.)

We didn’t have a room reserved for the night so I drove while Darren did his magic on TripAdvisor. We stayed at a nice Hyatt Place Hotel. It had one of the best hotel free breakfasts we’ve ever had. Well, besides the one in San Antonio that had a breakfast taco bar. All South Texans would agree, breakfast tacos rock!

After breakfast we snagged a couple apples for our hike and loaded up for our next stop…Greeter Falls in Monteagle, Tennessee. Last summer we did this hike. Little did we know there had been a drought and it was a trickle!

When we first left Memphis headed east, the speed limit was only 65mph on the interstate. It was a nice speed trap with cops everywhere. I don’t recall it being like this before but just beware if you are doing that way. Even after the speed limit changed to 70mph, the cops were still out until at least Jackson. Maybe that’s why I -40 in Tennessee is better than in Arkansas? They can afford to fix the roads! Haha!

Stopped for lunch at one of our favorites, Whitts Barbecue. Doesn’t look like much from the outside but the food is always great.

Free Maps!
Free Maps!

We always like to stop at the ranger station or park headquarters before we set out on hikes. They can tell you water levels, and if there are any hazards to look out for on the trails. They usually have great maps and even a visual small scale mountain map…I am sure that has a fancy name but it escapes me at this moment. It’s 10:35pm, I hiked to six waterfalls at this point and I am beyond pooped so help me out…

When we stopped for the info, we were reminded of all the many falls that were in this area. We intended on only hiking to two that were pretty short. We decided to take on the Grundy Forest Day Loop with the extra 1.2 miles for Sycamore Falls. The water was high and the falls were full. In fact, we entered the loop to the right and passed several mini falls and cascades along the way. The trail is nice, ups, downs and flats. Don’t be fooled by the sign like the couple was that passed us on the trail. They thought the Sycamore Falls sign said 6 miles when it said .6 miles. You cross over a nice bridge to get to that trail and it is a stunning hike. A few narrow points but other than that it was great. We finished out the loop in a hurry as we wanted to make it to Greeter Falls before dark.

Again, the ranger gave us great directions along with addresses that we could put in our GPS so getting from one fall to another was a piece of cake. Greeter is in the Savage Gulf State Natural Area. The trail was muddy so we knew it would have water in the fall. It didn’t disappoint! It was worth the trek down the spiral staircase and other stairs.

Greeter Falls
Greeter Falls

After, we climbed out with shaky legs, we decided to go ahead to Boardtree Falls. That short little hike revealed my favorite of the day. The last time we were here it was completely dry. Not even a trickle. Today was amazing! Such a beautiful cascading fall.

See Darren at the bottom of Boardtree Falls!
See Darren at the bottom of Boardtree Falls!

We ended our day arriving at Fall Creek Falls State Park. We’ve been here before too. Enjoyed a nice dinner in their lodge. I had the salmon and Darren had the buffet. We are settled in for the night and will hike the falls in this park in the morning before heading on to Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

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