August 4, 2023 We had light rain occasionally overnight and we woke up to cloudy skies and 73 degree temps, but it was muggy. We made plans to do a scenic drive today since it was Friday and hopefully there wouldn’t be as many people on the road on a weekday. As we left the campground around 11:00, we saw these kids having a blast getting a ride in the “train”.
Today we were heading for Great Smoky Mountains National Park to drive the Cades Cove Scenic Loop. We packed some beverages and a snack to drive the 11-mile one way loop. It would take us about 25 minutes to get there. We took Highway 321 from Pigeon Forge southwest to the town of Townsend.
Townsend is a busy little town with all kinds of shops, restaurants, and attractions. There we reached the entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
We continued on our way climbing into the mountains on a twisting, winding road–Laurel Creek Road.
It was a fun drive in the Jeep with all the banked S-turns along Cove Creek.
The road followed the creek as we climbed up the mountain.
We stopped to check out the cascades. There was a lot of water running over the rocks.
The clouds hung low over the tops of the mountains. I guess that’s where the name “smoky” comes from.
We came upon this cool tunnel as we continued up the road.
We stopped at the Orientation Shelter for information, a map, and the Cades Cove Tour Booklet. This is where we would start the Loop Road. We joined the parade of other cars driving the narrow one-way loop road.[On Wednesdays, they close down the road to all vehicular traffic to allow bikers and pedestrians the opportunity to use it safely.] The Tour Booklet explains 18 designated historical buildings and stops along the way. At some of the locations, there were no parking spaces available and the building was not near the road to see it, so we moved on. Bob spotted a wild turkey standing in an open field. This was our first wildlife sighting, but it wouldn’t be our last.
Stop #5 on the tour was the Methodist Church built in 1902, which replaced the 1820s old church.
This church had two front doors. Something I learned was that this indicates the church follows the custom of men sitting on one side of the house and women on the other side. Stop #7 was the Missionary Baptist Church built in 1915 which only had one door.
The cemetery was built right next to the church.
As we continued on the Loop Road, Bob spotted a small fox exiting the field ready to cross the road.
It was a cute little thing taking its good-natured time to cross the road and he seemed unafraid.
We stopped to watch and in doing so, the line of cars behind us also stopped. I motioned out of my window to the people in the cars behind us what we were looking at so they could enjoy it too. The fox finally moved across the road, so we moved on slowly too. As we did, I spotted another small fox wandering in the grass. There were 2 red fox pups, but where was their mama?
We noticed that when cars were stopped, there was usually some wildlife to look at. Sometimes by the time we got there to see, whatever it was had moved off.
Stop #11 was the Visitor Center. We weren’t going to stop, but we saw a lot of people standing around in the field which peaked our curiosity. We drove in and parked. Out in the field stood 4 bucks with large racks eating grass.
We decided to stay and eat our snack while watching the bucks. We have never seen 4 bucks in a group like that. It was amazing!
We left there and moved on to Stop #15, the Dan Lewis Place.
Stop #16 was the Tipton Place built in the early 1870s.
Stop #17 was the Carter Shield’s Cabin built in the clearing in the 1900s.
The clouds cleared from the top of the mountain and we had a fabulous view of the Smoky Mountains surrounding the Cove.
We completed the Loop Drive and as we headed back to our starting point, we saw many horseback riders leaving the stable on their trail ride. Can you see her through the trees sitting side-saddle on her horse?
As we tried to exit, the traffic came to a standstill because someone must have seen some wildlife up ahead.
Our drive back down the mountain was just as fun and thrilling as it was on the drive up.
At the junction of two roads, we saw a large cluster of people swimming and tubing in the river.
The river was flowing swiftly in places causing rapids over the rocks and lots of fun for the tubers. It was also slow moving in places.
In Townsend, we stopped to look at the Little Arrow Outdoor Resort.
It looked like a really nice high-end campground. There were even some glamping tents available to rent. They looked pretty nice.
One of the places I wanted to stop at was the Cades Cove Jeep Outpost. We went in to look at all the Jeep clothing and gear they had. It was pretty cool inside.
We stopped for a few groceries in Pigeon Forge before going back to the campground.
Once we got back, we sat outside with Auggie while he enjoyed checking under the fence for whatever he could find.
We sat outside until we ran out of shade and the temp reached 85. It was hot in the sun. Then we headed inside. Bob cooked us a great perch dinner. After it cooled off, I took Auggie for his walk around the campground. We watched TV as we heard the fireworks go off at Dollywood. That happens every night. Tomorrow, we do a little more exploring in the park.