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Eastern Tennessee (yesterday)…still a day behind on posts.

OK, so with my detour to Knoxville last night, I ended up driving back to stay in Sieverville, not far from my next scenic stop.  What an interesting place!  Sieverville is just west of Gatlinburg and in the middle of the two cities is Pigeon Forge.  I truly felt like I was in a mini Vegas except instead of walking down the Strip past hotels and casinos, I drove down Dolly Parton Parkway past motels and attractions; magic, theater, miniature golf, speed racing, the titanic museum, moving seat cinema, laser tag, and more!  Well, really Dolly Parton Parkway was a few miles away, but I thought it sounded better to have all the entertainment lining the street named for her.  No worries, I stopped by Dollywood too…though it was closed.

I have to admit, the Titanic Museum peaked my interest, so I purchased a boarding card to enter the ship!  I walked through the ship yard, through the cabin areas (first, second, and third class), up the grand staircase, over the captain’s bridge, and into a memorial room.  The display areas included old black and white photos; letters from passengers; items recovered from the survivors, the dead, and the wreckage; samples of different items on the cruiser, statistics on the Titanic, its fateful course, and more.  The museum was also very interactive allowing visitors to watch water flowing down the aisle stairs, to experience the different slopes of the deck as the Titanic sunk, and to touch the 28 degree ocean water.  The docents dressed in character for each room in which they stood.  It was definitely a museum that accommodated children and gimmicky enough to fit in with the area entertainment!  And for one piece of trivia on the Titanic, it struck the iceberg on my birthday (April 14th) in 1912.  April 14th also happens to be the day Lincoln was shot.

Upon exiting the Titanic with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park my next destination, I saw an “As Seen On TV” Store.  I would have loved to see some of those items in person, but I fought the urge as I had detoured enough and kept going. I’m thankful I did…you’ll see why at the end of the post…ahhh, suspense!  While in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, for the most part I followed the main two lane road which tracked the path of a creek or river.  In two areas, I took a one-way loop.  The first loop was the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail which climbed into the mountains past a selection spur trails leading to waterfalls.  I planned on taking the dogs on a 2.8 mile hike to Grotto Falls and back on this spectacular sunny day, but dogs weren’t allowed on the trails due to bears…bummer for them…I went anyway.  I slopped along the muddy trail, crossed four creeks, said hello to dozens of people, arrived at the lovely falls, and hurriedly returned to VANilla as I felt bad the dogs had been cooped up since the rain yesterday afternoon.

We finished driving the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and turned south toward Cades Cove.  Cades Cove, a relatively flat valley between the mountains, was once a farming community.  Sightseers may drive along the 11 mile one-way loop past old cabins, barns, a mill and several churches.  Before I entered the loop, I asked the ranger how long it would take to make the lap as it was after 4pm. With darkness coming and the nearby campgrounds in which I planned to reside for the night lacking showers, I wanted to be out of the mountains at the Lazy Daze for a shower before nightfall and at a place where the dogs could go for more than a five minute walk around the parking lot.  The Ranger’s answer was, “30 minutes if you don’t stop”.  At 20 mph, the posted speed limit, that seemed about right…off I went!  The loop was peppered with turnouts and signs asking slower drivers to be courteous and pullover…evidently half the drivers either couldn’t read or weren’t very courteous.  We had to stop in the middle of the road for more than one occasion to see deer which were a dime a dozen in the area and 98 percent of them didn’t even have antlers!  I’m the first to admit I’m an impatient driver and I even confess to stopping in the road to take a picture of a deer in Virginia, but I didn’t hold anyone up.  Furthermore, had I not already seen more deer than the days I’ve been traveling, perhaps I would have enjoyed the 7 mph pace, but I was rather immune to spectacle except for catching a glimpse of some yearling bucks butting heads.  At this point, while I was trying not to get frustrated, I thought what have I done…I’m going to be lost in the darkness of the mountains…been there, done that, NOT fun!  With a few miles left in the loop; however, the slow pace was completely worth it as I saw two bears and this time I got photos!!!!

The first bear, was about 100 yards into the woods and almost out of sight of the road, but many tourists had pulled over and walked about 40 yards into the forest to watch it eat something.  Normally, I wouldn’t have gotten out, but I missed getting a photo the last time, and I was stopped in the road anyway, so I pulled over, walked into the forest, and made sure at least one tub-a-lard was closer to the bear than me in case all twenty of us needed to make a run for it!  He was big and didn’t look nearly cuddly as the cubs I saw last month.  About 500 yards later, we drove up on another bear out in the field.  He was busy looking down, so I snapped a poor shot from a distance (but the background was pretty) and kept going.  I was SO lucky…No “As Seen on TV Store”, seven pictures left on my camera before the battery died, and only one good one that didn’t come out blurry!  AWESOME way to end the day, especially with a $5 shower before I located the next Walmart. ETB

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