Yup! That was where we were for the long weekend - The Smoky mountain National Park. It was a very relaxing and eventful trip that we had. The park and the cities sorrounding it are filled with all kinds of activities for people of all ages and tastes.
If you are the adventure kind - it is white water rafting and some head-cum-body turning-cum-twisting rides in Pigeon Forge for you.
If you are young - there a multitude of activities and amusement parks on either side of the "Parkway" that connects the three towns Severvile, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg - just 5 miles from each other.
If you are old - there are good hotels with relaxed swimming pools and rocking chairs in abundance. Small walks and hikes all over the place.
If you are a trek buff - there are a multitude of hike trails ranging from simple to moderate to difficult all over the park.
If you love driving - this is the place - curved roads, long drives into the mountains with abundant of vantage stop points.
If you are a photographer enthusiast - you are sure to get all kinds of subjects - from humans to animals ; to buildings to forrest to waterfalls....
So, there I have provided a good advertisement for this place, that needs none. Smokies is probably one of the most often visited spot , atleast for all folks on the east coast of United States - because as I told above , the variety of things you can do here.
The mountain range is bordered by the city of Gatlinburg at its feet. A small quaint town consisting of only one 2-lane road - the Parkway / US 441 ; and innumerable shops, restaurants and activity centres on either side of it. If you are at this place during a long weekend, then don't even think of taking the car - unless you love the brake-gas pedal excercise every 3 seconds! Just 5 miles away from this place is the small town of Pigeon Forge where we stayed. US 441 grows slightly bigger here - with 3 lanes on each side. This place is no less compared to "The Strip" in terms of the people , attractions, neon lights and variety of entertainment. Mini-Golf and Go-Karting are two of the most popular events here. All kinds of eat-outs flank this town of about 6 miles in length. This is where we stayed in a very nice inn called Twin Mountain Inns and Suites. One portion of the pigeon river flowed by the backside of the hotel, providing us a good view and picnic spot.
Summer is the best time to visit this place for white water rafting and tubing; as the water is in abundance and at the best temperature to soothe the scorching sun. We did both of them. I don't know how to swim - so was scared - but as our raft got stuck in more rapids , the more I felt I was enjoying. Tubing - is probably the best ever thing I did in life.. You just seat yourself on the little tube and then float down till eternity, soaking in the sun , splashing some cool water over your face and relaaaaaaaaaxed!
We trekked down one of the many trails in smokies that end up in a beautiful waterfall. This one was the "Grotto fall" - the only fall behind which you can walk around. Rajesh had his best time here, photographing the falls and we were pleased that every single shot of his came out terrific.
We went on long drives :- on the Newfound Gap road - leading to the Clingman dome - the tallest tower in smokies from which you could see the entire mountain range. It is as we were here, that we realised just how "smoky" the place is - a blue haze sorrounds the mountains all the time - which is how it got its name; many a times on the US 321 -once to Cades Cove and once to Foothills Parkway. Having come from Michigan, the roads of Tenesse seemed like silk to us.
Cades Cove - is the area where the early settlers in this area stayed. It is a flat pasture land, abundant with deer - you see one even when you don't want to :D .., cabins of the early people and a couple of historical churches. It is a very good place to make a picnic - snug in the laps of nature.
Foothills parkway is a scenic drive divided into 2 parts. The first one is a small well-rounded and curved strip of 6 miles that connects the US 321 and I 40 (the route to go for white water rafting). The second one is a 15.4 miles scenic drive providing wonderful vantage points that goes up to the Chilhowee lake. It is here that we saw a bear , about 100 feet in front of us - hopping from one side of the mountains to the other. We were so happy to see that one as we were dissapointed that we would leave smokies without seeing one.
But then, I did meet a "Bear" at the world's largest Bear factory - Boyd's in Pigeon Forge. In fact we had breakfast with "him" ....