Day 3 of our road trip started in Knoxville, TN with a plan to drive into the Smoky Mountains to hike around and play a little. This in itself was a big deal to us because we have tried to visit twice before and were stopped by inclement winter weather. We left the hotel very early (and sadly had to leave the doggies) to beat traffic and get there with enough daylight hours to stay in the park. Our playlist today started with the twang of Rilo Kiley’s Smoke Detector :)
The adventure began with a quick jaunt through Pigeon Forge, TN. What a tourist trap! This town reminded me of I-Drive in Orlando, FL where tourists go to spend money on junk merchandise and rundown carnival rides. Now I know that I’m a bit jaded to this stuff considering I’m from FL, and I lived in Orlando, but to me it’s a bit tough to reconcile all of this at the mouth of one of the nations best parks.
Once in the Smoky Mountains, the rains hit. We didn’t know it at the time, but the rain was a persistent companion for the remainder of our trip. We hit the visitors center first. They have some amazing topographical maps and scenic road trip routes to help you maximize your time and get the best views. We decided on the route on the Newfound Gap Road which hits 5046ft in elevation. Being from Florida, this is extremely high up.
Kenin and I stopped and took photos on almost every turnout. The views were spectacular. On one of these stops, we decided to get out of the car, put the road trip on pause, and play in Little Pigeon River. I took my shoes of and started splashing around the water, climbing over rocks, and feeling all of 5 years old while Kenin was taking pictures. I managed to convince Kenin to slip off his shoes and join me in the river. We were playing and climbing and splashing when suddenly I heard a huge thud. I turned around and Ken is on his butt in the river completely soaked (turns out he broke his toe but more on that later). Thank goodness for water proof cameras because otherwise we wouldn’t have had any pictures the rest of the trip.
After playing in the river we took a drive over to Cherokee, NC. We bought some souvenirs and then headed back up the mountains to Clingman’s Dome. You have to hike a 1/2 mile to get to the 6643ft peak. Kenin and I walked a small portion of the Appalachian trail then went up to the observation tower to take some photos. In doing so, we realized why they call the mountains Smoky. The detritus from the floor and the pollutants from the air combine in such a way to release gases that make “smoke” and that drifts thousands of feet above the trees.
The light drizzle made for an absolutely unforgettable view. Once we got back to the car and Kenin decides to take off his wet shoes.
He looks at his toes and quickly tells me to look away (like that ever works). I look at his foot and he has 3 blackened toes.The one in the middle is swollen and crooked. He looks at me and says “Told you I should have left my shoes on”.
Guilt, it’s every married person’s best weapon! Feeling slightly responsible, I let him pick where we would go for dinner.
On our way out of town we stopped for some local barbecue. Over a lack luster meal we found ourselves engaged in some deep conversation. We have been together for so many years and didn’t realize how much we both love the outdoors. Turns out we never made time to do a lot of things that we both enjoy. It still amazes me that we were both so caught up in trying to get ahead that we forgot to live in the moment. I never want to go back to that. I turn 30 tomorrow. I guess it’s kind of a big deal. I guess for my birthday I want to live. I don’t want to survive and keep on chugging along. I want to go out there and live every day like it is my last, and I want to do that with all of the people I love at my side!