The Smoky Mountains are magnificent, and if you’ve never taken a drive through them, I suggest you put it on your list. This was my second trip to the Smoky’s and Paul’s first. I think one of the best ways to really experience the Smoky Mountains is to tent camp there. Of course, you could opt instead to join the thousands of tourists that flock to DollyWood in nearby Pigeon Forge or Ripley’s Believe It or Not in Gatlinburg and completely miss out on the mountains sandwiched so beautifully in between. As I’m sure you could guess, I wouldn’t recommend that option.
The winding drive into the mountains is incredibly fascinating and there are plenty of places to pull off to the side and snap some photos of the haze looming in the mountains. It is incredibly quiet and serene in these locations and the view is just breathtaking.
We camped in the Elkmont Campground which is one of many campgrounds scattered throughout Smoky Mountain National Park. The national park rangers are extremely pleasant and helpful and the campground is well maintained. Bathrooms are easily accessible and within walking distance to all sites.
You do have to sign a “bear waiver” to camp in the Smoky Mountains. Yes, you read that correctly. This waiver is necessary so that the park has proof that you were made aware of the restrictions on food containment within the park. Don’t let this minor little detail scare you. I mean, these mountains are their habitat, not ours, and they have little interest in us as humans. Now our food is an entirely different matter. The smell of food lures the bears into the park, and if you don’t dispose of it correctly, you’ll have some big problems. This doesn’t mean you can’t eat while camping. You certainly can eat as much food as you want within the campground, just make sure you don’t eat in your tent or drop any food on the ground. You don’t want the scent of food to invite Yogi into the tent only to find you and not the chips and salsa he was hoping for.
My Smoky Mountain food find is the Smoky Mountain Brewery located in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. It is a short drive out of the park and hidden among all the bells, whistles, and cheesy amusements along the main drag of Pigeon Forge. It really is hidden in the back of a shopping center. This wasn’t the greatest food we’ve ever had, but we came hungry and left full. I had a portobello salad and Paul had a portobello sandwich. I know, this sounds a little boring compared to my other post.
Actually my real food find in the Smoky Mountains was my own cooking by the campfire. Paul and I had a romantic dinner of black beans and rice topped with tomatoes, cilantro, green onions, salsa, and a few generous dashes of Chilula hot sauce. This was all accompanied by some chilled white wine in my Raven’s purple solo cups and served picnic table style upon our fancy red and white checkered tablecloth.
Now I do have to mention our camp stove caught on fire just before making this elegant meal. My parents lent us their Coleman stove that they’d had since the dinosaurs roamed the Earth or at least since before I was born. Mom said it looked old, but it worked great. I believed her entirely until the dial that you turn to regulate the flame burst into flames. I, of course, screamed for Paul who was intently working on getting the campfire to ignite and actually burn the firewood. I know now that screaming, “Baby, the stove is on fire, the stove is on fire!” repeatedly is not the correct way to deal with this kind of situation. Luckily, Paul came to the rescue and put out the fire by simply turning the gas dial off. So I panicked a little, what can I say. We were able to still use the left burner without the stove bursting into flames and therefore, my rice was cooked to perfection. However, we did have to bid farewell to the old family camp stove after all these years of dedicated service.
After a lovely night by the fire, we had a cool, comfortable, and quiet night for sleeping and woke early the next morning to head to our next destination.
Next post: Nashville, Tennessee
Did I mention Paul hates country music?