Wednesday, October 16, 2019

DESTINATION: The Great Smokey Mountains

After a great night's sleep in Dillsboro, North Carolina, we headed into the Great Smoky Mountains by way of the Newfound Gap Road.  The day was cold, cloudy, and misting so we stayed in the car as much as possible.  Our first top was the Oconaluftee Visitors Center.

The Mountain Farm Museum and Oconaluftee Visitor Center are located at the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on U.S. Highway 441 / Newfound Gap Road near Cherokee, North Carolina. 

The Mountain Farm Museum includes farm buildings, most dating around 1900, that were moved from their original locations throughout the Great Smoky Mountain National Park to create an open-air museum. Visitors can explore a log farmhouse, barn, apple house, springhouse and a working blacksmith shop to get a sense of how families may have lived 100 years ago. It's a beautiful setting for a stroll.

Most of the structures were built in the late 19th-century and were moved here in the 1950s. The Davis House is a rare chance to view a log house built from chestnut wood before the chestnut blight decimated the American Chestnut in our forests during the 1930s and early 1940s. 
About one-half mile north of the Oconaluftee Visitors Center lies the Mingus Mill, a large water-powered mill for grinding corn.

Built in 1886, this historic grist mill uses a water-powered turbine instead of a water wheel to power all of the machinery in the building.
A miller is on site to demonstrate the grinding of corn into cornmeal, which is available for purchase. 
From the Mingus Mill we continued on to Clingmans Dome.  At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome boasts the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The “Dome” refers to the mountaintop, not the man-made observation tower. The Dome actually lies within both Tennessee and North Carolina and is the highest point in Tennessee. On clear days, visitors may see as far as 100 miles.  Unfortunately, the fog and wind kept us from seeing the observation tower or the dome, at all.

With colder temperatures and more rain/fog rolling in we decided to head into Gatlinburg, Tennessee, for lunch.  After lunch we completed a self guided tour of the Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery but our excitement to be in Gatlinburg faded as we battled the cold wind and crowds.  We decided to leave the Gatlinburg area and head to our VRBO cabin rental in Cosby, Tennessee.  On the road to Cosby we saw a sign for Gatlinburg Arts & Crafts Community so we detoured and spent an hour roaming around the crafters' shops.

Tired from a busy day we went straight to our cabin in Cosby to get some rest before hitting the road, again, the next day!

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

DESTINATION: Ashland, North Carolina

By October 2019 we were ready for another travel adventure so we packed up TK's parents, booked a flight, and headed to Asheville, North Carolina, to start a tour of the Great Smokey Mountains.

We landed at the Asheville airport and picked up our rental car which, to our surprise, turned out the to be the perfect mountain touring ride, a Jeep Rubicon!

We spent the night in Asheville at the Holiday Inn Biltmore West.  This hotel had an attentive staff and clean, spacious rooms but was desperately in need of a renovation. We understand that by spring they will start their remodel.  We ate at the Cracker Barrel near the hotel.  Our waitress was the first, of what would be many, friendly people we met in North Carolina and Tennessee. During our trip we lost count of how many times we were called southern pet names like... sweetie, honey, baby, or sugar!  

Friends and family that had already visited Asheville prompted us to go to the Biltmore Estate but we rarely do what people tell us and don't enjoy overly priced tourist traps.  Instead we found the Riverview Station Art District.  This unique 1902 historical building houses 60 local artists.  One of them our favorite potter, 
Akira Satake.

The next morning we traveled the Blue Ridge Parkway towards our next destination of Dillsboro, NC.

This beautiful drive had many tunnels and scenic view points. We passed on scenic over look after another along the parkway so we decided to venture off the main road and visit Looking Glass Falls.  This waterfall is literally right off the road making it an easy adventure for TK's parents.

In Dillsboro we stayed at a Best Western Plus River Escape Inn & Suites that overlooked the Tuckaseegee River.  This amazing hotel did not disappoint us!  Not only is is beautifully decorated with quiet rooms but the outside walkway and deck spans the entire length of the hotel and gave us an amazing view of the river.  We didn't use it but there was a community fire pit sitting along side the river for guests to use.  We grabbed a bottle of wine and enjoyed cocktails on the patio before we headed to dinner.

Take it from two self proclaimed Texas BBQ experts when we say that we found the most amazing Texas Style BBQ right in the middle of Dillsboro, North Carolina, at The Haywood Smokehouse!!! Portions were so big that we shared platters and dined on their delicious burnt end beans, perfectly smoked, melt in your mouth brisket and mac-n-cheese!

Leaving fatter and happier than when we arrived we had a good night's sleep and were ready to hit the road again the next morning!