We got back from our trip this afternoon and we're exhausted but had a wonderful time!
On Thursday afternoon, my boyfriend and I drove into Townsend and checked into the Riverstone Lodge. We were looking for a cheap place to stay close to Cades Cove and found this place online. Don't get me wrong, it's not the Ritz! But it was very clean and the owners were very friendly. There was sort of a "backyard" area where some other guests were just kind of hanging out and the owner told us they have campfires out there when it isn't raining. It was charming! After checking in, we drove over the Pigeon Forge to eat at The Old Mill. It was great, like always, and we left stuffed.
We got up early (for us) Friday and went to Cades Cove. We parked at the entrance and rode our bikes around the loop. I was concerned about riding with the cars there but for the most part, everyone was very courteous and we got there before it was too crowded. It was beautiful and we saw lots of turkeys and deer. We took our time and stopped at a few of the houses and churches. After we finishing the loop, we drove back into the cove, had a quick picnic lunch, and drove to the Abrams Falls trailhead. We only went a short way down the trail and BF picked a few spots in Abrams Creek to fly fish. I parked myself nearby with a book. BF caught his first Smokies fish! After that, we drove back to Gatlinburg and checked into our cabin. It was called Kristy's Kabin and was rented through Mountain Rentals of Gatlinburg. The cabin is in an area called Timberidge where the cabins are built out of old mountain cabins and has a very old fashioned and authentic feel to it. It was a pretty treacherous drive but that awarded us an amazing view. We were also impressed that it had a hot tub on the deck and a huge jacuzzi tub inside. It was very clean and well stocked. Friday night, we drove into town and ate at Calhouns. The food was mostly very good and the service was friendly. We walked around for a while but the streets were pretty crowded for our taste so we headed back to the cabin to soak our tired biking legs in the hot tub.
Saturday we had breakfast at the Mountain Lodge. What a steal this place is! The food was awesome and at a good price. We needed a big breakfast because we then drove out to Greenbrier and hiked up to Ramsey Cascades. We thought it was a pretty strenuous hike. The first mile and a half is deceptively easy. After that it's almost all uphill and over rough terrain. About a half mile before the Cascades we got an energizing surprise though. We came across a mama bear and two babies! We took a few pictures and watched for awhile. Mama Bear didn't worry much about us at all. The babies were learning to climb trees and they were so cute. It definitely encouraged us to move on up the trail though. The Cascades were beautiful and powerful. They were also very cold! We stayed for as long as we could and enjoyed the views and then started back down. The bears were still there so we checked that out for awhile. We had spent longer than I'd expected on the
hike so we had to hurry back to the cabin to get ready for Mass at St. Mary's in Galinburg. I really like going to the little church there when we're in town. The priest always asks the parishioners to identify themselves and only about four or five families will raise their hands! They are so friendly though and make visitors feel very welcome. After Mass, we went to Smoky Mountain Brewery for a couple of beers and calzones. It was good and I really liked their spinach dip. We were too exhausted from our hike to deal with the crowds in town so we went to the cabin and crashed.
Sunday morning, we stopped at Food City to grab some Krispy Kremes for breakfast and pick up fruit and sandwich stuff for lunch, and drove out to Cataloochee. We decided to go through Cosby to get there and ended up taking a looooong drive on a gravel road. I don't know if we went the best way but we got there. We toured the buildings there and picked a spot for our picnic. BF did some fishing and I was camped out on my blanket enjoying the peace and beauty of the valley when I heard all sorts of racket in the woods uphill from me. I looked up and saw an elk running down the hill towards me. I started hollering and realized BF was way up the creek from me. I hadn't even noticed him walking away. I was trying to put on my shoes and get his attention and take a picture at the same time. I thought I was going to get elk attacked but as soon as I stood up it turned and took off the other way. That signaled the end of peace and fishing so we packed up and drove back to Gatlinburg. We played Hillbilly Golf, which was very fun, feasted on pizza and rolls on the patio at Best Italian, and did our shopping, which consisted of hiking t shirts and lots of candy.
Monday morning we had breakfast at Log Cabin Pancake House, which I love because it's good of course, but also because I remember coming here with my grandparents when I was a very little girl. After breakfast we hiked up to Chimney Tops. It was tough but doable and what a view! I was too afraid to climb all the way onto the Chimneys but we got part of the ways there. The views are incredible even from the solid dirt around the Chimneys. After the hike, we drove to Newfound Gap, then toured the farm at Oconaluftee Visitor Center, and went into Cherokee and cruised around a little. We drove back over the mountain to Greenbrier for BF to fish near the end of the day. He caught two more fish! We went to dinner at Bear Creek Grill. It was okay. Not the greatest but pretty good food and it was in a pretty spot over the creek.
Tuesday was our last day so we got up early and went to Smoky Mountain Riding Stables to go on their one hour ride. BF had never ridden a horse before and we really loved doing this. The trail was interesting, going up and down hills and through streams. The horses seemed healthy and happy and our guide was good. We rushed back to pack up and check out of the cabin by eleven. We had breakfast at te Pancake Pantry. Yum! I love their French Toast and BF's chocolate chip pancakes were excellent too. We stopped at the big outlet mall for a little shopping, went to Bass Pro shops, and waved good bye to our trip.
We had a great time but we're worn out! There are so many things to do in and around the park that it's easy to overprogram. We love all the activities and can't wait til our next trip. We intend to plan some more down time. We need a vacation to recover from this one!