Category: Cades Cove Campground

Work Day

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Karen went for a 6 mile run up Anthony Creek Trail while the kids had fun cooking pancakes, pouring batter in letters for their names, then adding caramel M&M’s on top. Of course they couldn’t turn them over very well, but they had fun with the project and readily ate them. Karen needed to get back at a decent time, so they packed up for their 4.5 hour trip home. I have been trying to kiss Melissa on the forehead for a week while she squeals, kicks, pushes and calls me “Crazy Dude”. I was taken by surprise when she jumped up in my arms with a big hug I will forever remember. It was a great week with the kids, one that will be hard to top.

We took the trailer to the Loop parking lot, which was busy on a Saturday. I blocked one lane of traffic while I parked it and unhooked. The batteries are at 35%, and we needed a good day’s charge so we can stay 5 days in Cataloochee.

Then we went to town to do laundry, fill up gas, get a fuse for the jack, grocery shop and fill a propane tank. We were too efficient. Everything was right there in one lot – the laundry, Ace Hardware, a propane refill, and even an excellent car wash that could fit any size RV. 

We started four washers. Then I went to Ace for the fuse, but they still didn’t have it. Fortunately, the 25 amp I bought a few days ago was working fine. I got some more firewood and filled the propane tank. The people in this Ace Hardware are really nice and helpful. They also own the propane station. 

A lady named Melissa, at the laundry told us places to go, showed us pictures of wildlife in her yard, and videos taken by a doorbell camera, of bears, turkeys, wild boar and a bobcat. She was a cool, big lady and very nice. She told us to go to Tennessee Sally’s Craft Store, where we would find local arts and crafts. Angels come in all shapes and forms.

We went to Tennessee Sally’s, and it must have been Sally who greeted us. It’s nice, little store with lots of interesting things. Martha bought a solar Mason Jar painted with a bear and trees to remind us of the Smokies. I bought a photography book with pictures of Cades Cove to send to the kids.

It was a good, productive, efficient day. where we got a lot of stuff done with good teamwork. We loaded groceries in the hot trailer parked in the parking lot. Checking the solar, we had gotten to 56%, not enough to make it five days in Cataloochee, so I suggested we go for a hike. We might not be at 100%, but maybe 75. Martha wanted to get out of the heat and go back to the campground. We hooked up, blocking traffic in one lane as people poured in for the Loop Drive on a Saturday afternoon.

People run their phones and iPads down to 0% all the time, but then they buy a new $1,000 phone before the battery wears out. As Lou told us after he installed the solar system, “The batteries are happiest between 20 and 80%.” These are lithium batteries, not lead acid. It’s pretty amazing we have been able to stay in Cades Cove with five people in the trailer for a week in a shaded site that got little sun.

At the campground, we packed up for the move to Cataloochee Campground tomorrow, and we had a full load with all the cooking stuff, bikes, firewood, cameras, tents and sleeping bags. Then Martha went to the Institute to hike to a waterfall someone had told her about. I was ready for a glass of wine.

I sat and listened to some music, first Elke Brook, then Andrew Lloyd Webber. I couldn’t connect Bluetooth from outside the trailer, so I put some earphones on and turned it up.

Abrams Falls and Tubing Little River

Friday, August 13, 2021

We took the morning Loop Drive, which is always fun. After breakfast the plan was to hike to Abrams Falls, about a 5-mile hike, then tube Little River in the afternoon. The Airstream’s vitals were getting low, so I opted out to go dump the tanks, fill up with fresh water and see if I could find a sunny spot to get some solar power. We have been here for six days with no hookups with two kids and now three adults, all charging iPads, phones, watches and a computer. We are getting solar each day, but it is minimal, since we are in the shade.

I hooked up, went to the dump station, which is a good one, then went over to the Loop parking lot, the only open, sunny area I have seen, except for in town. I was afraid there wouldn’t be enough room to turn around, but pulling over onto the grass, I was able to easily make the turn. I parked at the end of the lot, which wasn’t terribly busy in the middle of the day. Ahhh, 304 Watts of solar. It was hot in the sun, so I opened a window and turned the fans on.

I shook out the rugs and vacuumed the floors. I recently bought a Tineco battery-operated stick vacuum. I have been thinking about it for a long time, but finally did it after reading Consumer Reports, and I am quite happy with it. Sweeping isn’t difficult in an Airstream, but you can’t get into all the nooks and crannies. 

I straightened up a bit, then downloaded pictures from the cameras. Josh has been using the camera with the telephoto lens and has really had fun with it. It’s a big, heavy lens and tough to handle, but once he learned to rest it on a window or door, he got better with it. He got some very good pictures along with a number of unfocused ones, but that’s part of the learning curve. He has a good eye for it.

At 12:30, I thought I should bet back. Another four hours and I would have been fully charged, but I thought I should go. I parked the trailer and put everything back – bikes, drying racks, the stove and all the hanging, wet clothes. 

The group got back at 2:30. They had a good hike and a swim at the base of the falls. After a bit of a rest, we drove into town to tube Little River again. The water had dropped a couple of inches since Monday, making it more difficult to negotiate the rocks and rapids. There are three or four fun rapids on this section. The tubes are very sturdy, bouncing off rocks with ease. We had to lift our buts many times to avoid getting banged by slightly submerged rocks. It’s a fun, little trip that took us 2 hours. The kids went for ice cream at Burger Master.

Abrams Falls

It rained like crazy coming up the mountain. Of course I had decided to air out my tent, pulling out the sheet, sleeping bag and air mattress. Now they would all be wet and a mess. As we crossed the mountain and descended into Cades cove, the rains stopped. Martha had not gone for the tube ride, but wanted to chill after the hike. She had put my things back into the tent😊

We cooked potatoes and onions in the cast iron skillet and chicken strips on the griddle, along with cucumbers, tomatoes and green peppers. Karen had brought bunt cake for an early celebration of Martha’s birthday.

We have had a great trip with the kids. With rain predicted every day, it hasn’t bothered us. We have had great weather. It’s always good to be in the mountains in August. We’ve had some great hikes, tubing and wildlife drives through Cades Cove Loop Trail. These mountains are gorgeous. I love the “smoke” in the Smoky Mountains, and we have seen some picture-perfect trout streams. On the hike yesterday we saw two fishermen coming back down the mountain. They said they caught one fish, but knew they were fishing behind someone else. Brook trout are like that. Once someone has been through, they become very wary. You could spend all summer fishing in here. The park is huge, and there is a lot of back country to hike in, complete with shelters and campsites. What a treasure!

Hike Little River Trail, Cucumber Gap

We went on the Loop Drive in the morning, now the fifth time we’ve done it. We saw lots of turkeys early, but the highlight was finding a “bear jam” with a ranger present. There was a mother and three babies in a wild black cherry tree….all on one branch!

We relaxed and hung out, waiting for Karen to come at 12:30. She brought us lunch, and the kids told stories of the trip. They were so excited to see her! After a little nap, we drove to hike the Little River Trail loop through Cucumber Gap. The Little River is a beautiful stream with big pools. We saw two fishermen coming down the trail. I asked how they did. They had only caught one, probably because they were fishing behind someone else.

Little River
Little River

I was a little unsure after turning onto Cucumber Gap as it looked like it was going the wrong way. After awhile two ladies came down the trail. After some conversation, we determined we were going the right way. Martha stayed and talked with them as we walked on. One’s husband had been at the JAG School at UVA, and they had lived on Carter’s Mountain.

Josh was telling stories and talking about school that starts next week all the way down the mountain. I was behind them and Melissa and Martha 100 yards back. Suddenly, there was a large cracking noise. Looking up, we saw a tree fall to the ground with a big crash on our right. Scared us to death, but fortunately we were not in its way.

We got back a bit late, and the kids wanted to take Karen on the loop drive. Martha said she would stay and get dinner ready – campfire stew. What a show we had. Our best spotter is Melissa, especially standing out the sunroof. There were turkeys near the barn; then a coyote trotting through a field. Then Melissa spotted two bears in a big tree to our right. I handed the camera with a big, heavy lens to Josh in the back seat, first setting it to automatic and adjusting the iso. He did a fabulous job and loved every minute. Thinking that was all we would see, and talking about how lucky we were, we rounded a corner and were stopped by a husband and wife in the street. A mother bear and three babies were in the woods. I parked the truck and everyone got out. They appeared right in front of us in the field. Josh was shooting while a man was talking to the mother bear, guiding her to a hole in a wire fence. As she made it to the opening, I ordered everyone back in the truck. Josh stood on the console and out the skylight, still shooting pictures. All four bears walked right in front of the truck, up the side of it and crossed the road into the forest. We were breathless. Those little babies were soooo cute! What a night we had. Back at camp, we told Martha all the stories.

Melissa Quotes:

Getting up from the hammock, I asked where she was going. “Gone to Nebraska’, she said.

Eating her second piece of bacon while the eggs were cooking, I said, “Don’t fill up on bacon.” She replied, “You can’t fill up on bacon. Everyone knows that. It’s a commonly known fact.”

She kept calling me “Crazy Dude” as I tried to kiss her on the forehead while she kicked, pushed and screamed.

Biking Cades Cove Loop

Wednesday, August 11. 2021

At 7:00 everyone was still sleeping, so I went up to the picnic area thinking I would try fishing Anthony Creek for an hour. As I put my rod together, two guys in their 60’s parked next to me and got their hiking gear out. I asked if they were going for a big hike and one replied, “Well big enough for us.” Thunder rolled close by and it started to rain. Off they went saying they hoped it wouldn’t be a big rain. I wished them well. The rain came harder, so I put the rod back in the case. I was rather unprepared for rain, as the whole thing was a spur of the moment idea.

It is Wednesday, the day the Cades Cove Loop is closed to cars and open to bikes. The parking lot was filled, but experienced bikers parked in the picnic area, which was quiet. Rain or no rain, they were going.

Our crew was slow to get up, probably tired from our long hike yesterday. It was 8:30 by the time the kids got up. Martha and I fried bacon and made pancakes. The kids enjoy being involved in the cooking, but it does get a bit messy, although we agree it’s worth it for the experience.

By 10:30 we were ready to bike and the rains had cleared. Martha loaded some snacks and filled the water bottles. Off we went, riding through the horse barn parking lot. A ranger warned us it was slick after the rain. I did not want to take another fall after breaking four ribs last year. We have driven the loop four times now, looking for wildlife. In the horse pasture we saw four turkeys. 

8 year-old Melissa rides a little bike with only one gear, and she does an incredible job with it, but there are some pretty good hills on this 11-mile ride, and she walked most of them. Josh, riding his mother’s bike, proved to be a much better rider since we last rode together a year ago. He has been riding with his friends in the neighborhood. Last year he couldn’t keep up. This year I couldn’t keep up with him.

Martha and Melissa

I stopped to take pictures along the way. The beauty is striking even after driving it four times. Josh and I waited for the girls many times. Martha told me not to ride ahead. Josh wanted to go, and I wanted to ride with him, but that made for a lot of waiting. We stopped at the farm with the cherry trees, and sure enough the same bear was back in the tree, although a different one. A nice ranger named Mark, told us the cherry trees are full of berries this year, but the bears do a lot of damage, breaking limbs to get to the fruit, so the tree may not produce the next year. Maybe it’s a natural pruning job. A bear in a tree draws a big crowd, but the bear seemed unaffected. I was amazed at the way this big animal walked out on limbs with ease, then up to the next one, pulling branches with one paw to get to the fruit. 

We explored the old house, outbuildings and barn before getting back on the road. Josh and I, way ahead of the girls, stopped at the next farm to explore the house and barn. Then back on the road, up a big hill, we decided to wait for the girls again. They didn’t come, so I rode back quite a ways, but didn’t find them. Either they had passed us at the farm, or someone was hurt. Martha’s warning loomed in my head, “ Don’t ride ahead. Stay with the group.” When I rode back, bikers warned me of a car coming. What?! I managed to get off the road as a ranger car passed me. Could they be in that car? There is no cell phone reception in the park. We should have taken radios.

Josh and I decided they passed us, so we sped ahead. Finally back at camp, we found them sitting at the picnic table smiling. Whew! We went back down to the Visitors Center and got ice cream. It was 4:00 and we were all sweaty. With no showers and no hookups in the park, we have had to be innovative to stay here a week. 

Josh, Melissa and I drove down to Little River at the bridge where there is a popular swimming hole. This would be our bath for the day, while Martha took a bucket bath. The water was cold, but felt great once we got in…….except Miss Melissa didn’t get all the way in. It was just too cold for her.

We drove the 9 miles back to camp and made Tacos for dinner with everyone participating. It was a good day, and everyone enjoyed the Loop bike ride. 

Smores after a long day

Hike Mt. Le Conte to the Bluffs

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

We had a rather lazy morning. I downloaded pictures from two cameras and the phone to the computer and wrote up the last couple of days. We were all tired from a very active day yesterday, and the kids didn’t get up until almost 8:00. They had a big breakfast of cereal, fruit, sausage and eggs, and then Josh had a yogurt.

Melissa loves the hammock, and is in it swinging high every chance she gets. Amazingly flexible. Who else could sit in a hammock with their feet resting on the edge of the hammock to each side of her, legs stretched out in a super split? Then she is holding onto her toes, smiling!

Our event of the day was to hike Mt. LeConte to the bluffs, about half way to the top, about 2.3 miles up. We had reviewed some of the hiking possibilities, and this was the one chosen. It is an hour drive from the campground on the River Road that follows Little River, the one we tubed yesterday. This is a picture-perfect trout stream. A river is bigger than a stream, so in trout stream terms, this is a big one with lots of big boulders and lots of big pools. We saw some people fishing it, but not so many. With so many people visiting the park, the traffic was busy on a very narrow two-lane road that curves many times following the river up the mountain. I honked at several people who crossed the yellow line. 

Poor Melissa gets car sick, and this is not a good road for people who get car sick. She was a little wobbly by the time we got to the trailhead. Cars filled the parking lot and lined both sides of the road in both directions. We finally found a spot a half mile from the trailhead. Several people were fishing a beautiful pool below us. Getting down the steep bank must have been interesting. Getting back up would be a real challenge.

It’s a beautiful hike up Mt. LeConte, following a very pretty trout stream. The Bluffs are a huge rock overhang with water dripping over the edge. This could be a big waterfall after a heavy rain. A lady said I should continue a quarter mile further to “The Fields” for a spectacular view. While Martha and the kids ate lunch, I hiked ahead. The climb is more steep as you go higher, and I never found “The Fields”, so I headed back. The walk down wasn’t so bad, but still a long walk. Everyone was tired by the time we drove an hour to get back to camp.

It was a good night to make pizza in the new oven, and it was a big hit, letting Josh and Melissa make their own. It was a good pizza and a fun way to let everyone participate.

error: Content is protected !!