Onward and upward – literally. We last left you outside of Asheville. Since then we ventured over the Great Smoky Mountains to Gatlinburg to visit with Seester and her husband. They have a mountain oasis right up the road from one of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park visitor’s centers. It is a beautiful cabin and from their deck I even caught a glimpse of a big black bear crossing the road.
Pat wanted to revisit the highest peak on the Appalachian trail (a fact we learned on this trip) since he had fond memories of hiking there with a high school buddy. Of course this was many moons ago when I finished grad school and some things have changed. The hike up to the top is now paved, but still a steep half mile hike. We huffed and puffed and made it to the top.
On this day, the 6,644 foot elevation was completely socked in with cloud cover and mist. As I’ve said before, I like a little grumpy sky and especially like misty weather. Just another of the many mountain personalities and the hand we were dealt for viewing that day.
This is the shot from the observation tower looking North. You can see what it looks like on a clear day from the display picture vs what we were able to see. You’d think we were in the Pacific Northwest from that shot. One of the many faces of the Smokies.
Pat poses by the Appalachian Trail marker and at the overlook. On the way down we had a brief sighting of the sun to brighten things up. Seester (Elaine) & husband Jimmy along with Pat make the trek downhill. We finally catch our breath.
The break in the clouds was a perfect opportunity to photograph some “wildlife”. Look closely in the bottom picture for the ladybug and Mr. Daddy Long Legs. Got a great shot of a fly getting some pollen. We didn’t know they even did that. I did manage another honey bee shot. Their legs were loaded with bright yellow pollen. Finally my montage would not be complete without the butterfly who complied and landed right in front of me.
We stopped at Newfound Gap on the way down to get a shot of the valley, and I snagged this shot below of the forest while we drove.
Jimmy told us about the disease killing the hemlock trees. Sad that they are dying, but makes for very interesting forest shots.
Since we had a very sad dog from our sightseeing junkets away from him, we took the next morning just for him. The bears are very active in the Smokies, so the park rangers only recommended one trail in the area as dog-friendly. The Gatlinburg trail is behind the Sugarland Visitor’s Center. On this day, August 25th, 2016, it is the National Park Service’s 100th birthday. We saw soooo many rangers coming to the ranger’s luncheon and noooo parking spaces. I did manage to snag a spot in one of the close pull-offs and we set out.
I think we just about overdid it with him, but he had a good time wading in the stream and drinking the cold mountain water.
Apples & Beans
After the dog morning, we drove to the nearby apple orchard. Nice view of the orchard from our lunch table at Carver’s Applehouse Restaurant. With lunch, you get apple cider, apple fritters and apple butter. Apples, apples everywhere. I was really looking forward to getting some apple jelly from their country store, but alas, they only make apple butter and carry apple jam from another farm. Apple jelly is the flavor from my childhood and kinda hard to find. I settle for grape mostly and strawberry when I can get it, but apple, now that is the ticket!
I am happy to report that they do carry T.O.E. Jam. I am not kidding and took a picture to prove it.
You are wondering what’s in there, right? It is tangerine, orange and elderberry jam. Things went downhill from there, we started trading Monty Python quotes, and also laughed at the “Traffic Jam”. Can’t tell you what was in that one since we were totally taken with the T.O.E. Jam and how your mother smelt of elderberries… We did buy some local honey and a half a peck of apples. Ok, this sends me into another song. Anyone know “I love you, A bushel and a peck, A bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck”…. And I digress again.
We like factory tours and discovered that Bush’s Beans is located just a short drive away from the apple orchard. Off we go to travel the path of the bean.
You can’t tour the actual factory, but they have a great movie that shows the whole process and some excellent interactive displays. Did you know that 98% of customers want the chunk of bacon in the can of beans and 96% of people throw that same chunk of bacon away? That goes in the can first, then the beans, then the sauce and then they actually cook the beans in the can. A very sophisticated process.
The museum was great, too, and you can see the evolution of the Bush company. Apparently they are responsible for 80% of the baked bean market these days. Pretty good market share and they are pretty proud of it. I have to say that the advertising display of the 50’s and 60’s era commercials was a fun treat. Can’t you just hear that percolator sound from the Maxwell House “good to the last drop” commercial? And…”You’ll wonder where the yellow went, when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent”! I, of course, am not old enough to really remember these, but had avid TV watchers for parents who loved to quote sayings and sing jingles.
We made a few purchases in the gift shop of course. Had to have their hummus dip mix (just add Bush’s Garbanzo beans) and a can of Grillin’Beans that were Black Bean Fiesta flavor. Haven’t seen that one in any of the grocery stores we’ve been in lately.
Finally time to head back to the campground and we decide we don’t want to go back on the road we came in on. Let’s go the “back way” we say. This turns out to be the road WAY less traveled and up over some mountain I cannot name. Pat keeps saying to stay in the center of the road and slow down. “I’m only going 15 miles per hour”, I say. But boy it feels SO fast going downhill. I do all this in first gear mind you since it is just that steep on the way up and we’d rocket off the hill on the way down if not. On one turn I accused him of sending me into serial killer holler. This so called 2-lane road is not big enough for even two Bitsy’s and has no center stripe at all. We hope someone gets to the dog in time if we are never heard from again. Ah, but we make it back safe and sound and are delighted to see road markings again.
Our last outing in the Gatlingburg area is again with Lane and Jimmy and they drive us to and through Cades Cove. On the way, we stop at the Sinks – a very pretty waterfall with huge rocks right by the Little River Road scenic roadway. Apparently this is also one of the most deadly spots in the Smokies since people drown here most every season. We did see a few brave souls jump off the big rock formations into the water below. The ranger warned them, but they did it anyway.
Cades Cove is an 11-mile loop in a beautiful valley. Famous for lots of wildlife, but we’re back to hot weather and the animals stayed in hiding. We did stop at a few sights along the drive.
Pat, Lane & Jimmy check out the old grave markers at the Methodist Church. Some date back to the 1800s. This church was built in 115 days for $115. Seems like a good bargain. Also a view of the valley from the drive.
Pat was taken with the mill. They had it grinding away making corn meal when we were there. We walked to where the stream was diverted to the mill to make it all happen. Love that moss-covered wheel – slow and steady.
The Meander Homeward
We’re now on what I’m calling the meander home. Taking it slow since August was crammed with activity and visits with friends and family. Stay tuned for one more post about this trip where I describe the spot that wins the “Most Peaceful Place” award. For now just know we are sleeping late, walking Jackson when he makes us and binge-watching TV shows like Bering Sea Gold, American Ninja Warriors and a particularly funny episode of Running Wild with Bear Grylls – the one with Shaq. A total hoot!
Thanks for hanging in on this long post. See you on the way!