Tennessee Vacation: Newfound Gap Road

Day two in the Smokies was the Newfound Gap Road.  This 33 mile drive goes through the park from Gatlinburg, TN to Cherokee, NC. The views along this road are amazing. The whole drive is mountain views and there are lots of scenic overlooks to pull over and get photos. The day was cloudy and hazy, so our views weren’t as far as what they might have been, but they were still spectacular.

At approximately 14 miles into the drive, you get to the Newfound Gap and the scenic overlooks in that area. The Rockefeller Memorial is here as well as the Tennesssee-North Carolina State Line. It is also here where the Appalachian Trail crossed our way and we hiked on the famous trail for a bit. Shortly after leaving here, we turned off on the road to Clingman’s Dome. This is the highest point in Tennessee, and on a clear day we are told you can see 7 states. As you can see, our view was a bit more limited from the top of the observation tower.

At the North Carolina end of the road is the Mountain Farm museum. This outdoor museum contains several pioneer buildings that have been moved here to preserve them and allow visitors to experience them. We were told that as sunset approaches, there area is taken over by elk, but we were too early for that and only saw one or two.

Greenbrier Campground

Our four nights in Gatlinburg were spent at the Greenbrier Campground. It was right outside the Smoky Mountain National Park and only a short drive to Gatlinburg. This campground was amazing. It has it’s own private swimming hole in the Little Pigeon River. Our tent site had electric and water and wasn’t too close to our neighbors. This campground had the best bathrooms I have seen in a campground. Seriously, they were as nice as a hotel and were kept clean. I saw people cleaning them several times a day. There is also a large yard area set up for all kinds of fun and games–basketball, volleyball, pool table and ping pong (you could check equipment out in the office). All this plus a large pavilion with a fire pit and a shelter with several gas grills. I will be back at this campground the next time we go to the Smokies.

Tennessee Vacation, Days 4 and 5

On our second day in Nashville, we drove a bit south to go to the Stones River National Battlefield. This memorial to the Civil War was very interesting. It’s not one of the well-known battles, but it was one of the bloodiest. We did the cemetery tour. A park ranger walked with us to the cemetery and told us about the battle and also about national cemeteries in general. After an hour in the cemetery, we did the self-guided car tour and stopped a several key areas of the battle.

After the battlefield, we went back into Nashville. Our plan was to go the the agriculture museum, but that was closed. So, we went instead to Centennial Park. The main attraction there is a full sized replica of the Parthenon. We walked around the park for a while and then drove around Vanderbilt University.

We spent one last night at Poole Knobs Campground before heading East toward the Smoky Mountains. On our way out of the Nashville Area, we made a quick stop at the dam that creates Percy Priest Lake. There were so many ducks in the area and all were fairly tame and let me get close enough to get photos.

Our last stop before the Smoky Mountains was at Cummins Falls State Park where we did a quick hike to the falls. The hike to the overlook was fairly easy. If, like most of the people there on that hot day, had decided to hike all the way down to the river, it would have been a considerably harder hike.

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Tennessee Vacation, Day 3: Nashville

After a relaxing night at Poole Knobs Campground, we went to do some sightseeing in Nashville. Our first stop was Cheekwood Botanical Gardens. The different gardens were beautiful. There was a lot of color and a lot of different trees and fountains and streams.

The mansion was gorgeous (and air-conditioned which was a welcome relief on this very hot day). The second floor of the mansion is decorated as it was when the Cheek family lived there. I loved the  elaborate and elegant staircases.

The third floor of the mansion has an art museum. The exhibit when we were there was called Cracking Art. It really wasn’t our kind of art. Throughout the museum, and around the gardens, were a bunch of plastic animals. In our opinion, the bright plastic animals detracted from the beauty of the gardens.

After leaving Cheekwood, we went to downtown Nashville and walked around for a while, catching a few of the highlights–the At&T building (aka Batman Building), Country Music Hall of Fame, Ryman Auditorium, the Capitol, the farmers market and more.

Tennessee Vacation, days 1 and 2: Heading to Nashville

We spent the first day driving. We made it to Kentucky, Moutardier Campground, to be exact. Our first official vacation activity was going to Mammoth Cave National Park, which was about a 30 mile drive from the campground. While waiting for our cave tour, we did a little hiking around the park, and we had some amazing views of Kentucky.

We did the Frozen Niagara Tour, which is one of the shorter tours available. We weren’t disappointed, however. The cave is beautiful. There were so many stalactites and stalagmites and interesting formations. Our tour guide was hilarious. Or, that could just be me because I have the same dumb sense of humor.

From the cave, we drove to Nashville. We spent a little time driving around, looking at the city. We had thought about going to check out the Opryland Hotel, but didn’t feel like paying $28 to park. We went to Long Hunter State Park, to walk around their arboretum, but due to the heat, didn’t see the whole thing. We did see this deer, however, before heading to our campground.img_1801

 

Project 365, Days 210-220

 

Day 210: Vacation finally started. Our first night was spent in Kentucky, at Moutardier Campground, just north of Mammoth Cave. Our campsite was right on Nolin Lake.

Day 211: Our first official site-seeing stop on this vacation was Mammoth Cave National Park. We did the Frozen Niagara Tour and really enjoyed the interesting formations in the cave.

Day 212: Nashville was our destination today. We went to Cheekwood Botanical gardens and then to downtown Nashville. I had to get a photo of the “Batman” building.

Day 213: Today brought us to Stones River National Battlefield, a memorial from the Civil War.

Day 214: We drove from Nashville to the Smoky Mountains today. On the way, we stopped at one of the many state parks, Cummins Falls State Park, and hiked to the waterfall.

Day 215: Not the most scenic photo from today, but it’s a great reminder of one of the highlights. We were doing the Cades Cove drive today and stopped at one of the historic buildings along the way, the Primitive Baptist Church. We expected a quick stop, a photo or two and then drive on. We were blessed instead with a service. Old fashioned hymns being sung, followed by a short message. We loved it.

Day 216: Day 2 in the Smokies was the Newfound Gap Road. So many gorgeous mountain views all day long. I could have soaked in the views for hours.

Day 217: Last day in the Smokies and we went on the Roaring Forks motor trail. One of the things I was looking forward to on this drive was a waterfall called Place of a Thousand Drips, for no other reason than I liked the name. It turned out to be a really nice little waterfall.

Day 218: Time to start heading for home. We stopped in Kentucky, at Cumberland Falls State Park. I love waterfalls.

Day 219: We spent most of the day driving today. One quick stop at Fair Oaks Farms, but we didn’t pay to do any of the “adventures”. Everything was farm themed, including this milk bottle rock climbing wall.

Day 220: This sweet little girl was so happy to have me home again. She hasn’t left my side at all.