The Great Smoky Mountains: The mountains are calling, and I must go.
As Thanksgiving holidays were approaching, we started looking for the destination for our next escape. We just returned from our trip to India (read here) with the festive spirits still alive and were yet to plan our holidays. Thanks to our enthusiastic and adventurous friends group, we are never short of fun activities to do during these times. After a lot of digging, we all decided for The Great Smoky Mountains. We were told that this may not be the best time to visit because the fall season was over and all we would see would be leafless trees and dry mountains. But again, we had already read so many good things about the Smokies (that’s what it is called sometimes) that we decided to go there anyway.
The Great Smoky Mountains
Although the best time to visit the Smokies is during spring or fall season, we were visiting just after the fall season. The best place to stay in the Smokies are the cabins. But we planned in such a short time, no cabins were available at the time. Fortunately, we were able to reserve rooms in Westgate Resort in Gatlinburg.
The Great Smoky Mountains are a mountain range along the border of Tennessee and North Carolina. The name “Smoky” comes from the natural fog that often hangs over the mountains and look like large smoke plumes from a distance. As one of the oldest mountains in the world, the mountains are a preserve of wildflowers, old-growth forests and rushing mountain streams.
We were a total of four families with eight adults and four children. Since we had decided to go in a single van instead of multiple cars, we hired a Ford Transit and it comfortably accommodated all of us. We started our journey from Houston at four in the morning. Although it was a long road trip of around 15 hours, the drive was totally fun. The planned route was to take I-10 to New Orleans and then take I-59 from there onward. The rest areas along the way are really good and well maintained. There was this one incident which happened in the morning which I could not help but share. We arrived at one of the rest areas in the morning, had our breakfast and resumed our trip after a while. All of a sudden, one of our friends who was driving noticed that the van was almost out of gas! The dashboard was showing that we had only 9 miles of gas left, and a quick map search revealed that the nearest gas station was 12 miles! Fortunately, we arrived at the gas station with just enough gas - thanks to the inaccurate calculation shown in the dashboard. The rest of the journey was rather uneventful, but fun nonetheless. As we arrived Gatlinburg, it was already well past sunset we could see that the town was already decorated for the Christmas. The whole town looked beautiful with huge Christmas trees around every corner. We arrived at the resort at around 9 PM and went to bed soon after checking in.
Day 1 - New Found Gap
Our plan for the day was to go as deep into the Smoky Mountains as we can. We left pretty soon after breakfast. There wasn’t much to see as we started - all around us were the bare trees after the fall season. But as we went up, we could spot patches of snow along the road. We were already told that there has been heavy snowfall a day ago and the roads may be closed at certain places.
After a while, we came across a bend which was almost hidden from the sun and there was snow all around. We stopped there and played around in the snow for a while before continuing our journey. From this place onward, the roads were snowy and we could see a couple of frozen creeks along the way. After driving for about an hour, we reached New Found Gap. We were disappointed to see that the road ahead was closed because of snow. But our disappointment gave way to happiness when we noticed how beautiful New Found Gap was!
The parking area is big enough so we did not have any problem to find a parking spot. The first thing we did was to play in the snow - again! There is a Rockefeller Memorial next to it which is amazing. We climbed up the memorial for fun but came down pretty quick as it was too cold up there. After a while, we also realized that we were at the border of Tennessee and North Carolina at an elevation of 5046 ft!
We spent quite some time over there, and by the time we decided to go back, it was already 4:00 PM. We decided to call it a day and headed back to our resort.
Day 2 - Smoky Mountain Opry
As we were planning for things to do the next morning, we came to know that one of the members of our group was not feeling fell. We chose to wait for the person to feel better and spent most of the day in the resort. Fortunately, by afternoon, the person was well, and as were thinking about what to do so late in the day, we came across something we will never regret - The Smoky Mountain Opry. As soon as we learned about what it was, we booked tickets over the phone and headed for it right away.
The Smoky Mountain Opry is a musical variety show located in Pigeon Forge, TN. It is one of the largest and most watched shows in the Smokies. The show starts at 8:00 PM, so we decided to have dinner before the show and then headed towards the theater. Along the way, we saw a lot of beautiful and amazing buildings in Pigeon Forge with very creative architecture. The most noticeable being the Titanic Museum. We arrived at the theater well before time and saw that they were already prepared for the upcoming Christmas. As we took our seat, we were already in awe of the grand theater and the show was equally grand as well. There was a song sequence of “Let it Go” from the movie Frozen and that was Pakhi’s favorite part.
Day 3 - Cades Cove and Comedy Barn
When we were booking tickets for the Smoky Mountain Opry, we were offered discounted tickets for another show - Comedy Barn at Pigeon Forge. Although we were unsure about this one, we decided to give it a go anyway - another decision we won’t regret. The next morning we planned to drive through a scenic route before heading towards the Pigeon Forge. We were told that the Cades Cove Loop Road is one of the most scenic routes around and we decided to go for it.
I must say - the route actually lives up to the hype. As we drove through the route, we came across beautiful vistas of valleys and mountains. We also came across a couple of churches and cabins along the way. We could not help ourselves from getting down and spend some time around the cabins. The cabins were really old and bore a haunting look. To think that people actually used to live in these cabins in the woods during the eighteenth century - that’s really amazing!
We took a break when we arrived at the Cades Cove campground. The campground is really calm and serene with Abrams Creek flowing right next to the picnic area. The afternoon sunlight made the whole place look all the more dreamy.
We wanted to stay a little more, but we were already getting late - we had to attend the Comedy Barn show and we did not want to miss that. So, we headed straight towards Pigeon Forge from there.
We were already running late as we headed towards Pigeon Forge. Fortunately, the show includes dinner, so we were not worried about where to dine. We made it to the show just in time and they had already started to serve dinner. As the dinner was over, the show started and it was absolute fun! There were barn animals doing all sorts of tricks and the jokes they were cracking were hilarious!
That show was the best conclusion to our trip to the Smokies and we deserved such a happy ending to the fabulous trip!
The visit to the Smokies has been one of the most memorable trips of my life. The place was so good that we stayed a day more than we had initially planned for. This is one of those places that I would like to come again and again. I still think that I would like to spend more time here. If this is how it feels in the off-season, I wonder how it would feel during spring season or fall season. My next visit would definitely be during one of these seasons.