August 8, 2023 We got up without the alarm and pulled out of the campground at 10:30. We have to say goodbye to Pigeon Forge. We had a great time!
We loved our campsite #401 by the river and would choose that spot again. It was in the newly developed section of the campground.
It was partly cloudy with a temp of 75 as we started on our 108-mile drive to Asheville today. Clouds hung over the mountains.
Our drive would start out on Highway 441 out of Pigeon Forge. We passed by Dollywood and it was crazy busy. There were 3 lines of traffic going into the parking lot.
From there, we would take Highway 411 to I-40 which would take us through the Appalachian Mountains to North Carolina. Highway 411 was a 2-lane highway with no shoulder which wound up and down through the hills.
We were a little surprised and unprepared for that, but we took our time. It was not Bob’s idea of a fun road to drive on, but to our surprise we came upon the Bush’s Baked Beans plant tucked away in a valley.
They even had a Visitor’s Center! We could have visited yesterday if we had known it was here and maybe gotten a free sample. We love those Bush’s Baked Beans!
I-40 is a designated “scenic highway” and it follows the Pigeon River Gorge for 16 miles into the valley for most of the drive.
The road had steep sections with sharp turns at times.
There was even a warning about bears in the area for the next 6 miles.
We crossed over into North Carolina about 11:30 while we were climbing over the mountains.
The drive was definitely scenic with lots of twists and turns.
Some areas with exposed rock cliffs were covered in wire mesh to protect the highway from falling rocks. This area is prone to rock slides.
I-40 would take us through the Swannanoa Gap at an elevation of 2,657 ft. and cross the Appalachian Trail and the Blue Ridge Mountains. The word “Swannanoa” means “beautiful river”.
I-40 parallels the Pigeon River and goes through twin tunnels. The long tunnels cut through Hurricane Mountain. There are a total of 25 tunnels in North Carolina and only one in Virginia.
We couldn’t see much of the river from the highway, but when we did get a glimpse of it, the water level was low. At times, the river flowed in a deep gorge alongside the highway. Coming out of the mountains and the Pisgah National Forest, we crossed the Pigeon River and the skies were sunny. We left the grey clouds behind.
We passed the exit for the Biltmore Mansion which we have reservations to tour on Thursday.
Our drive today through the mountains was very scenic and only 2 hours long. We arrived at our campground, Asheville East KOA, for the next 6 days. It is near the town of Swannanoa.
Bob checked us in at the office. We arrived at 12:30 and were a little early. They almost didn’t let us check in (check-in is 1:00), but then they gave us an escort to our site #B23 because it was empty and ready for us.
We chose this site online when we made our reservation months ago and it is one of the nicest sites we’ve had at a KOA campground. Auggie has plenty of grass and shade. We have a nice patio and breathing room on the end of the row.
Quite a few campers arrived after we got here. We had a nice dinner of steak and lobster and walked Auggie. The radar showed rain passing to the south of us, but there was no rain in our forecast. Tomorrow we’ll take a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway.