US Trip 2016 – Driving through the Smokies

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After the visit to Nashville, we continued towards the Smokies. The first National Park we had planned on this trip, was the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Tracklog - Driving through the Smokies

The hotel we stayed in was supposed to have breakfast included, but they told us «Something happened. Management stopped paying the people delivering the breakfast, so they stopped delivering.» Since we got up early to eat breakfast before leaving, we got a real early start this morning. We logged the first cache at 6:43am. We just had to start early, since we didn’t get far before we «lost an hour» due to crossing over to the Eastern time zone.

We had some driving to to, before getting to the national park, so we did a few stops along the way. A webcam, some earthcaches and other caches close to our route.

Earthcache site

We did a stop in Apple Valley, where we bought a lot of stuff, mainly edible stuff, before it was time to enter the park itself.

Great Smokey Mountains NP

There’s not many caches to find in Great Smokey Mountains NP, but we had some virtuals on our list. The first stop we had planned, was in Cades Cove.

We didn’t expect to be alone in the park, and we definitely weren’t. Cars and people everywhere, and many of them didn’t respect the signs telling them to use the pullouts rather than just stopping in the middle of the road. So our drive around the Cades Cove loop didn’t go very fast…

At least the scenery was nice! Much better to be stuck in traffic here, than the place we got stuck later this day…

Nice scenery

We found all the caches we had planned in the Cades Cove area, and headed towards the exit close to Gatlinburg. We had a few more detours planned, of course, and managed to do most of them (we only skipped one).

Some virtuals brought us far away from other tourists (which was nice), and one even brought us to the middle of a wedding! Luckily, they were all inside.

We also got to see this nice old school house, in the middle of nowhere.

Old school house

We made it out of the park, and did a short detour to the top above Gatlinburg, Ober Gatlinburg. The view from up there was amazing!

View from Ober Gatlinburg

We didn’t get very far after that, before we really got stuck in the traffic. We had several caches planned in Pigeon Forge, but didn’t manage to find more than one of them (plus one extra bonus find). Traffic was horrible!

We spent so much time in traffic, that almost all the daylight was gone by the time we made it out of there.

Once we made it to Sevierville, things went a lot smoother again. We stopped at the Dolly Parton statue, and found the cache there of course.

Dolly Parton

Before heading out to the interstate, and towards the hotel, we stopped to grab the to caches close to the Sevierville Visitor Center (center was closed, obviously).

The cache at the visitor centet itself was a real nice one, and the one was at an interesting place… Christmas in June..?

Christmas in June

We eventually made it to the hotel, and got some well deserved sleep.

Didn’t start that early next day, but we couldn’t delay it too much .We had a long route planned! We enjoy «collecting states», so we had a few planned today, along with a visit to parts of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

We headed straight towards the Virgina-border, stopping only at a few select caches (to gather counties, another thing we like).

Virginia

We only had a few caches planned in Virginia, mostly virtuals, before crossing the border to West Virginia.

We did a quick visit to the city of Bluefield, before heading back to Virginia.

West Virginia

We continued down towards Tennessee again, and stopped to find a few more select caches (counties).

We found several caches in Damascus, before heading towards the North Carolina border.

North Carolina

Since we wanted to get to Blue Ridge Parkway while we still had daylight, we hadn’t planned many caches along the way. Only a few to break up the drive, and get the counties.

The last stop before heading onto the parkway itself, was in Blowing Rock. A virtual cache brought us to a nice little park.

We weren’t the only ones thinking it was a nice park, and we ended up in the middle of this:

But we got the info we needed, so we’re happy! 😀

We continued to the parkway, and was delighted to discover that there was almost no traffic!

It didn’t take long before we understood how the parkway got its name. The view along the way was simply amazing.

Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway

Linn Cove Viaduct
Linn Cove Viaduct

The weather was mostly good, but a patch of fog made one of the earthcaches we had planned impossible to find. And we needed that one to get the county! So we had to do a short detour to Linville (since the road to Grandfather mountain, our first potential backup cache, was closed for the day), to find the one and only cache available there. Luckily, we found it without any problems.

Before leaving the parkway, we stopped at one of the rest areas for a quick picnic break.

Picnic

We stopped at a few more caches, including an earthcache, before arriving in Marion, where we had booked a hotel (or so we thought).

We decided to get something to eat, before checking in. Wise decision!

After getting a propper meal, we headed to the hotel to check-in. Usually not something worth mentioning. But this time, check-in was everything but smooth. Apparently something had gone wrong, so the hotel had no records of our reservation. Since we had already prepaid the room through hotels.com, we had to call them to get it fixed.

As I told the nice lady at the reception, it could have been worse. Like the time we arrived with a reservation at a hotel that was shut down

Hotels.com eventually got things sorted, and faxed the reservation to the hotel. Everything worked out well in the end, we got time to find the cache outside the hotel and since the hotel was almost ful, we got upgraded to a much better room.

Like I said, it could have been worse…

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