July 8-9, 2017
Welcome to my new travel blog! I am excited to begin sharing more stories from my trips than I am able to on Instagram and Facebook.
Earlier this year my wife and I began planning a vacation to Tennessee. We initially made plans to visit Knoxville because it looked like a vibrant city, and it was close to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. After listing out everything we wanted to do, we realized that we could easily spend all of our time at the National Park. We decided to split the difference and spend four days in the park and three days in Knoxville.
There is a lot of beautiful country between Saint Louis and East Tennessee which made our drive very enjoyable. We stopped in Nashville to get some BBQ at Hog Heaven, an interesting place that was basically a screened in porch. Their famous white BBQ sauce was worth the stop!
Before leaving the city we stopped at Steadfast Coffee for a caffeine refuel.
Steadfast is situated in Germantown, a historic neighborhood and Nashville’s first suburb. Taking the chance to stretch, we walked around the block and saw some charming homes and shops. It was fun to explore the neighborhood before getting back in the car.
We stopped in Knoxville for dinner at Babalu Tapas & Tacos. We shared an order of their guacamole, which was freshly prepared at our table, and a few of their artisan tacos. After dinner we walked around Knoxville’s downtown stretch, but I will talk more about that in a later post.
About an hour from Knoxville, down long winding roads and past a nice looking farm with too many Ronald McDonald statues, was our destination: Camp G.R.I.T.S. The Air BnB was recommended to me by a friend, Jason Gray, who had stayed there previously. You can see his take on the camp here.
We met Rosie, the host of the property, as she and her husband Jim were heading out for a walk with their son. We stayed in a 12’ x 12’ Swedish inspired cabin that Jim had built. It didn’t take long to adjust to the size of the cabin, and after settling in it felt plenty big. The Little Black Cabin is on their property, along with two other rentals, some free range chickens, and a wonderful outdoor shower.
Sunday Morning we enjoyed fresh eggs and homemade bread courtesy of our hosts before driving into Pigeon Forge. It had been years since either of us had been to the town, and I had forgotten how over-the-top everything is. Driving down what we have called Dinner Theater Row we saw everything from King Kong climbing the Hollywood Wax Museum, to the cartoonish “cabin” of the Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Show, to half of the Titanic!
After the extravagance of Pigeon Forge, we retreated to the peace of the Smoky Mountains to hike to Hen Wallow Falls. It was about 2.2 miles to the falls and, as we quickly learned about hiking in the park, almost entirely uphill. This area of the park felt similar to the forests of the Pacific Northwest: there was a large amount of lush growth, moss covering everything, and a general sense that it had just rained.
We had the Falls all to ourselves for the most part. We took advantage of the solitude by relaxing on the rocks surrounding it, enjoying the sound of the running water and feeling the cool mist.
When we made it back to the parking lot there was a couple trying to push start their Jeep (which brings back memories of my first car), so we helped them jump their battery.
Once our car was packed up we headed to Sevierville for some Mexican food and Tecate. Our drive back to the cabin was in the pitch black on a road that was barely big enough for one car. We finished off the night by showering under the stars, and we fell asleep with the window open, listening to the sounds of nature. It had been a long day, but our adventure was just getting started!