Friday, September 26, 2014

Exploring Tennessee

While we were in Tennessee for the half marathon, we stayed in a cabin just outside Great Smoky Mountains national park. Staying in a cabin meant we had kitchen facilities for food prep (way more convenient than trying to find acceptable food options in a small town) and we had more space than a hotel room provides. Though I will say our cabin was populated by many spiders and the water smelled of sulphur, despite it being in a golf course community. Either we got used to the smell or it lessened as time went on because it wasn't quite as noticeable by the time we left.

Exploring the park and surrounding areas was quite fun. This was our first visit to Tennessee, so we tried to visit as much as we could in the limited time available.

On our drive to the cabin, we passed through Sevierville and Pigeon Forge, which are super touristy areas. We didn't stop, but headed straight for the mountains.

Our first sight-seeing stop was Fort Loudon State Park. It's a reconstructed fort dating back to 1756, when it was used by the British during the French and Indian war.

We visited on a Thursday in late September, so the park rangers were all out doing maintenance work and we weren't able to go in the visitor's center. We did check out the fort though.
outer stockade

love the pose :)

cannon in the corners

most of the buildings were barracks, from what we could see

nice view of the river

We stopped by a working dairy, but just missed the cheese making tour. We did watch a very informative video about robot milking of dairy cows. Mr M and I have both worked in dairies and found the idea of using automated systems for milking fascinating. Sunshine and River weren't nearly as riveted :)
we're guessing they use the giant cow in parades

The next day we drove the Cades Cove loop of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and got Sunshine started on her Junior Ranger booklet. The Cades Cove area has a large number of preserved buildings that visitors can go inside and inspect. We had a hard time imagining traveling the distances we had just traveled by car on paved roads on horseback or in a buggy over dirt tracks. Thank goodness for modern conveniences! The coves in the mountains are flatter areas that have space for farming. We drove through other parts of the park that were not nearly as flat as this area.

panoramic view of part of Cades Cove

old-time musician playing on the porch of the visitor's center in Cades Cove.

I'm not sure if it was the same guy, but there was a banjo player along the course of the half marathon. After we passed him, one of the runners near me commented "NOW I feel like I'm running a race in Tennessee." Gotta love those stereotypes...

old mill that is still used to grind grain into flour- you could watch them grind it inside then buy bags to take home

causeway/aquaduct that redirected a stream so it could power the mill- you can see the end of it in the mill photo above

the door to the blacksmith shop had hinges made of horseshoes

my dad does some blacksmithing, so we thought the hinges were pretty cool.
we saw other hinges that were made completely of wood- I thought I took a picture of them, but I can't find it now 

We also checked out the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center, where we read about the history of the area and inspected more preserved buildings. The old barns smelled like our old barn in Ohio, when we were growing up. My sister and I decided it was a mixture of old hay/straw and old wood.
checking out the evolution of tools found in the area

Sunshine thought the large bowl was neat

some of the buildings they've brought to the Heritage Center- houses, cantilever barns, a moonshine still, and more

After the race, we headed back to Cades Cove for a photo op.

Then we hiked to Laurel Falls for another photo op. The falls were a bit crowded, but still pretty.

River was not excited about the hike up- he was hot and sweaty from being strapped to daddy, who was hot and sweaty 

view on the way down from the falls- the fog and rain clouds moving in

Then we went to Clingman's Dome, which turned out to be a short (1 mile round trip) but really steep hike. Way steeper than we expected, but we made it. It was so foggy when we reached the top that we didn't actually climb the ramp to the very top, since we wouldn't have been able to see anything anyway. We were able to get some photos standing in front of it though.
look how thick that fog is!

so glad we brought our rain jackets on this trip

the Appalachian Trail crosses the trail to Clingman's Dome

view on the way down from Clingman's Dome

Taking pics of our bibs and medals at each of those locations earned my sister and I the Trifecta (and a discount on a future race):

We also turned in Sunshine's Junior Ranger booklet and she received another pin to add to her vest.

Our last stop as we headed home was a covered bridge in Emerts Cove. It was in much better condition and much fancier than the ones we remembered from Ohio, but we hadn't seen one in years and were excited to see this one.

note the separate footpath on the left side

cool ironwork in all the windows

There's no way we could see everything in just a couple days, but we did see a decent amount. I haven't decided yet if I'll be running the half next year (there's a lot of things up in the air right now and planning that far in advance isn't very practical right now), but if I do, there's definitely more things to see and do.

Have you been to the Great Smoky Mountains?

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