Saturday, May 21, 2016

May 20, 2016

Cumberland Gap

Relatively short drive (less than 100 miles) with a short detour to Knoxville Sam’s Club for gas.  Scenic federal and state highways with light traffic.


Plate says ‘Dr D’


Part of road north.

Parked in national park campground.  Secluded, quiet, well maintained, not crowded, two loops with electricity, and senior pass gets us half off.  Very nice.


Camp spot.

Off to the visitor center to get educated and directions.  Given our time frame two spots stood out.  Pinnacle Overlook viewpoint and a hike to the Saddle of the Gap.

From the visitor center a drive up (and up and up) a twisty road and then a short walk to Pinnacle Overlook.  Great view even though it was overcast. On a clear day you can see over a hundred miles. From overlook you look straight down on historic town of Cumberland Gap, TN. Directly below us we saw parking lot we had parked in half hour earlier while visiting remains of pioneer iron furnace.


Historic Cumberland Gap, TN.  Iron furnace parking lot lower right corner with white and red vehicles.



Remains of iron furnace.  This thing is huge and rocks of which it is built are massive.  Quite a building marvel given technology of the time.


Across from overlook is Tri-State Peak. Junction of borders of Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee.  Obviously then, one can see into three different states from the overlook. Between the overlook and the peak is the route of the historic Wilderness Road as it passes through and over the high point of the Cumberland Gap.


Tri-State Peak center foreground.


Tri-State Peak center left.  Rift in front of it is actual Cumberland Gap along which runs the Wilderness Road.


Back down the twisty road to a large parking lot and then a half mile hike up to the Saddle of the Gap. High point on Wilderness Road and gateway to Kentucky for thousands of pioneers.




  Pretty neat to stand there and imagine the stream of humanity struggling through the Gap.  The term ‘Road’ was a misnomer. This was a trail and a difficult one but it was the only way through the Cumberland Mountains to the Promised Land of Kentucky.


This is called ‘Indian Rock’. Wilderness Road to left of it.


Walkway at an outlying visitor center that accesses the Wilderness Road trail.  Depicts mass and variety of humanity and animals that traversed the ‘Road’

Now we are cozy in the Carbus listening to a gentle rain patter on the roof.  Pretty cool.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

May 19, 2016

Pigeon Forge 2

Kick back day.

This morning we took it easy for a while then drove the Parkway(‘Strip’ to you Las Vegas types) to see if there was anything we might have overlooked two days ago.  Did see more stuff but it was just more of the same.  We did take some time to walk through an area called ‘The Island’.  Meandering outdoor mall filled with touristy specialty shops of all kinds, amusements, candy and ice cream shops, restaurants with big name owners, etc., all surrounding a large pool that has dancing fountain show every 30 minutes.  Interesting to walk through now.  Would not want to try in the summer.

Early this afternoon we did an alpine coaster.  Individual coaster cars that twist and turn down the side of a mountain.

Stock photo

Fun ride but a very fast way to spend $26 (for both of us).  Something we didn’t know was on our bucket list but now it is done. Smile(See third picture of Facebook post of a couple days ago.)


Late afternoon we headed over to Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede.

Dixie Stampede

Best description I can give – on a scale of one to ten(best) this show is a twenty.


Experience starts with a half hour preshow in a non-alcoholic saloon.


The arena is huge.  Each of above pictures shows about 1/3 of house. Seating is comfortably tight. House was full.  Have no idea how many people.

Dinner is served without utensils Smile.


Second course after soup and biscuit.  Whole chicken. Small but whole.  Two more courses and dessert followed.

Basic theme is wild west show with added elements. 







Talented horse men and women, fun comedy, historical elements, great special effects, singing, dancing, patriotism, and more.  Very fun.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

May 18, 2016

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Spent the day touring the most visited national park in the country year after year.  Quite a difference from the neighboring tourist meccas.  Quiet, green, mountains with lots of vistas. 




One similarity to the tourist cities – people.  Third week in May (not yet vacation season), middle of the week, mostly cloudy skies, and yet there were LOTS of people.  We took a drive and then a hike to the top of the tallest point in the park.



Observation tower on top of Clingmans Dome



View north from tower.  Pigeon Forge is in center of picture in distance beyond ridge.


Appalachian Trail goes over Clingmans Dome.  Second time we have been on it. Last time was in 2013 at Harpers Ferry.

  We got to parking lot near summit about 10:30 in the morning.  Had to park near far end of large parking lot.  Hiked half mile (all up) to viewing tower on top of Clingmans Dome.  When we returned to parking lot cars were parked along the road a quarter mile from lot.

Twenty miles back to visitor center and then 24 miles of twisty road to the Cades Cove scenic loop.  One way, narrow, twisty, eleven mile long road around historic and very scenic valley in heart of Smoky Mountains.  Again, LOTS of people.  Often bumper to bumper with long standstills.  Most pullouts (and there were a lot of them) filled.  Still able to enjoy the tour. Just very slowly. 


There are a number of well preserved pioneer homes in Cades Cove


Saw many species of butterflies today.


Single view of very small part of Cades Cove.


Given the number of people we saw today, I would hate to visit this park in the summer when schools are all out.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

May 17, 2016

Pigeon Forge

Left the nice little campground on a lake, headed east and immediately lost an hour as we passed into Eastern time.  Dipped briefly into Georgia and back up to Tennessee and around Chattanooga.  North a few miles on an interstate and then shifted over to a parallel highway.  Four lane divided road through country side and small towns.  Much more relaxing way to travel. 


After about 50 more miles we turned onto a two lane mountain road and drove into Pigeon Forge from the less congested rural side.


Reached our campground before getting to main drag of town.  After setting up and having lunch we headed out to do some sightseeing.


Smoky Mountains

How to describe Pigeon Forge?  Combination of Branson, Wisconsin Dells (if you have been there you will know what I mean), Las Vegas, and several other destination tourist spots.  Pigeon Forge is the home of Dollywood amusement park.  Thankfully it is tucked back in the hills east of town and not visible from town or even from the park parking lot (it really is tucked back in hills).  Aside from Dollywood there is plenty else to attract the tourist dollar.  Arcades, go karts, dinner theaters of all kinds, souvenirs, food of all kinds, shopping malls, and on and on and on.  Very difficult to find old, historic parts of town.  They are there but even those spots now cater to tourism.



As I said, ‘Dinner theaters of all kinds’



We saw this same thing in Branson several years ago. 



In the Napa Valley one has to pay for wine tasting.  Other places in California you do not.  At Jack Daniel’s we had to pay to sample whisky.  Here we did not and got eight different tastes.  Best deal so far in Pigeon Forge.

Drove north a few miles to Sevierville, home town of Dolly Parton. 




‘nuff said Smile

Map of journey so far.

May 16, 2016

Jack Daniels

South from Nashville.  Starting on interstate but then changing to two lane state roads.  Fun driving.  Have to pay close attention because the roads are rarely straight and there are occasional farm vehicles but the scenery is constantly changing and always lovely.


A couple of hours south of Nashville, in the middle of nowhere with no major roads leading to it, is Lynchburg, TN.  Tiny town, population 361, but one huge business.  Jack Daniel Distillery.  This is 150 year anniversary of distillery.  P1160694


For being so remote, this place is very popular.  Parking lot was packed.  We took the tour that included tasting at the the conclusion.  Our guide was very informative and and very entertaining.  Hour and a half tour with lots of walking covered all the steps in making Jack Daniel whiskey and visited a number of historic spots on the property.  Very interesting and enjoyable tour.


Wood ready to be made into charcoal.  Barrels for aging are made of same wood and are made on site also.



Charcoal for filtering whisky



Open air charcoal kiln.  Open air technique developed by Jack Daniel


Fire starter – 140 proof whiskey.


Spring that provides water for Jack Daniel whisky



Natural grotto that holds spring


The woman is closer in height to Jack Daniel’s actual height.  Sculpture took some artistic liberties.


Title of statue Smile


Jack’s actual height would be to my shoulder.


Another hour south, much of it on county farm roads, and we are parked in a very nice county park on a lake about 20 minutes from Chattanooga.