Thursday, January 9, 2014

DIY: Hiking and Exploring the Smoky Mountains

Hello there, friends! My fingers have finally thawed out just enough for me to type up a photo-heavy blog post of our post-holidays vacay to the Great Smoky Mountains. Hubs and I left on New Years 
day and drove the fourish hours from Nashville to Gatlinburg. I spent my road trip working on a new embroidery (that you won't see for a while because it's gonna take foreverness) and devouring road-trippy snacks (which included licorice, dark chocolate and some half-eaten mystery cookie I found in my purse). Our first order of business in G'burg was a trip to Smoky Mountain Knife Works because my husband's Top Three Favorite Things in the Whole Wide World are: flashlights, knives and our cat. Sadly, I come in a distant fourth. Whatcha gonna do.
We spent that evening walking the strip in Gatlinburg (which, if you've never been, is nothing like the strip in, say, Vegas. Naw. In G'burg, the strip includes copious amounts of the following: air brush t-shirt joints, old time photo places [where they insist on calling "olde tyme fotos"], homemade fudge -n- taffy joints and moonshine shops. Who needs Cirque du Soleil when you can catch a Lumberjack Feud Dinner Show? [yes, that's a real thing]). 

The following day, hub decided we should walk part of the Appalachian Trail which is where these photos were taken. So we left Gatlinburg behind and drove into the Smoky Mountain National Park.
Now just as we were getting suited up in our layers of clothing and strapping on our ultra chic fanny packs loaded with snacks, water and my hub's idea of "emergency stuff" (which means a fire starter, matches, a compass and a map. My "emergency stuff" includes a chocolate bar, a People magazine, my electric blanket and an ultra long extension cord. Hubs deemed my stuff non-essentials and made me leave it behind. Party pooper), we ran into some park rangers who mentioned that we might wanna take an abbreviated hike as there was some bad weather expected to blow in. In true horror-movie/fore-shadowing fashion, we totally ignored their warning and set upon our adventure.
And about 3 miles of vertical hiking in, that aforementioned winter weather decided to blow in. Which began innocently enough, covering the ground with pure white snowy stuff.
Then suddenly, the snow started blowing completely horizontal taking on an almost blizzard quality (says the person who's lived in practically-snowless Tennessee for far too long. If you live in places where actual blizzards occur, please feel free to scoff at these photos and leave tales of real blizzard woe in the comments).
Evidence of sideways snow and freezing cold as shown in Exhibit A: The Snow-Covered Ginger Beard.
I promise you, I am smiling. It's just that my face was frozen and this was the best I could do. 

When we finally made it back to our car several slippery miles later, the park ranger was waiting in the parking lot next to our lone car. He told us that they were shutting down all the roads in the park due to the weather. Crazily enough, there were dudes strapping on backpacks and getting ready to hike into the park for a snowy overnight. Which makes this camp out of ours seem like a walk in the park (which it was but you know what I mean).
The next day, the temperatures barely made it above 10 degrees. Sadly, this meant that the roads into the national park were still closed. So hubs took me to a Salt and Pepper Museum which was like the most awesome thing ever if you happen to adore all things kitschy and weird. And I do.
For just $3 (which you can later use toward a purchase of your own set of shakers), you can peruse the collection of over 22,000 salt and pepper shakers. There are seriously room after room of every kind of set imaginable. I was totally in love with 'em all and took a humiliating about of photos. Here are just a few of my faves.
Love these wooden ones. One of my favorite things about this place are the memories it brought back. I saw salt shakers that reminded me of sets owned by my mom, grandma and childhood babysitter.
These classy cats were so rad and retro.

Finally, the afternoon brought warmer temps and we were able to drive into the park and hike to Laurel Falls. One of the best parts of this hike were the views of the Smoky Mountains.

Being a Florida boy, my hubs loves the snow since he didn't grow up with it. To me, this snow looked so light and airy, almost like bubbles of dish washing soap.
Laurel Falls proved to be pretty dangerous. The water spray and frozen all over the bridge that is used to cross over the falls. It was a frightening and slippery little bridge to cross.
But worth it as we had the endless trail of snow to ourselves.
The following day, we headed home...but not without first driving in to Pigeon Forge so we could say hello to Dolly Parton who just so happened to be chillin' barefoot on a rock in the middle of winter. She so crazy. And there you have it, adventuring in the Smokies! We were sad we didn't get the chance to try out the new Alpine Slide in Pigeon Forge or hike more trails in the mountains. What are your fave things to do in the Smoky Mountains? 


  1. We love the Pancake Pantry restaurant and the Candy Kitchen. And the smell of steaks being cooked as you walk along "the strip". We always stay at the River's Edge Motor Lodge because they make homemade donuts and deliver them to your room for breakfast, with coffee and orange juice. It might be Riverside..instead of River's Edge. Losing my memory.

  2. Great pics - brings back memories! I see Gatlinburg hasn't changed much since I went there as a teen on a "Christmas Vacation"- style family reunion in a mountain chalet, where our filled-to-the-brim rented van (80's style) got stuck on one of those scary winding mountain roads. Similar blizzard conditions as you described. We bought a tree there, strung popcorn, and had a giant sleepover - lots of fun. We even tried a little skiing! Great biscuits at a little breakfast cabin just outside Gatlinburg headed toward Chattanooga. Hoping to take my own kids there one day!

  3. Thanks for this great, great post! I'm from the Netherlands, but visited the Smokeys twice and I still think very often about that trips. First time we sleeped over in a minivan at a parking lot along the road. Second time we hired a room in a lodgy sort of motel, because we brought our then nine months old baby with us. What a beautiful country you live in! And the best part of your post is the picture of Dolly! Love Dolly, too! I actually named my cat after her. Thanks for bringing back great memories!

  4. Great post and pictures Cassie. I hope to get out to the Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum soon and to see the other sites. Maybe the spring or fall will make for better hiking weather! Thanks for sharing.

  5. I love this blog!! The flash up the top is awesome!!
    mens fanny pack


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