"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood... And sorry I could not travel both. I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference." --Robert Frost

Monday, June 5, 2017

Moonshine and Caves - Tennessee

Kodak, Tennessee
Douglas Dam Headwaters Campground


Once we left North Carolina we were headed to Tennessee. We've been to the area of Sevierville before. The last time was the RV-Dreams Rally where we learned so much about the fulltime lifestyle and met so many wonderful friends.

This time we stayed at the Douglas Dam Campground.  They have the Low Waters which sits along the river and the Headwaters which sits on the lake on the other side of the dam.  We chose the Headwaters as we had planned on doing some kayaking.  Both are run in partnership with the TVA, Tennessee Valley Authority.  They do a great job with campgrounds. Much like the CCC.  $25 for W/E, very spacious and incredibly clean!

We loved #25.

We did a little geocaching and found a cleverly hidden "Bug Hotel" in a birdhouse.  We dropped off a couple that we had been visiting along for a while and picked up a couple more.  Then it was time to hit a couple of distilleries to try some gool 'ol Tennessee Moonshine.
 
First up  was Thunder Road.  They had all kinds of moonshine to taste.  Some straight up and some that had been blended with chocolate, fruit, vanilla, etc.  Some they would mix with root beer.  I didn't care for any of them.  Just too strong for me.  I leave the tastings for Steve and do the driving.
 

Then we went to Tennessee Legend. I didn't get any pictures inside, but they all seem to have an automobile theme going.
Old Dodge Truck


And inside, another old car.  The offerings were more of the same. 
 
My good friend, Chris, had sent me a gift certificate for my birthday and I finally had a chance to use it.  Dinner and drinks at Applebee's. Thanks Chris!!

This building looks like a tornado lifted it up and dropped it upside down.
The areas of Sevierville and Pigeon Forge have turned into a mini Las Vegas for families.  One street lined with every restaurant you can think of, hotels, Dollywood, outdoor adventure type places, crazy buildings and every other touristy thing you can think of.  Not our cup of tea.  We're just here for the hiking!  The traffic now that the kids are out of school is crazy.

The Titanic.

King Kong climbing one of the buildings on the main drag.
Now for the fun stuff.  We're here to hike the Alum Cave Trail to Mt. LeConte.  At 6,594 feet, Mt. LeConte is one of the highest peaks in the state.  It is known for panoramic views, history and geological features.  The total gain is 2,763 feet and about 11 miles round trip.  Now we're talking!  No drive by here!  You will pass the Arch, more like a huge overhang, the bluffs, an old alpine hotel (hike in only) and the peak itself.


We were up very early for the hike and had beautiful weather.

It actually started out on the cold side and a little foggy but warmed up quickly.

Saucer-like fungus

Quite a bit of the beginning of the trail was along the river.


This large fungus looked like a turkey with a wing missing and head cut off.
 
One of the many little waterfalls and cascades along the river.

Very sturdy bridge.

The beginning of the Arch Rock Tunnel.

Many steps built into the arch tunnel.

And more on the other side.

Some cables at the steep parts near the ledges.


One of the gorgeous views as we climbed higher.

Plenty of stairs to climb too.

Almost 1/2 way to the top!

Alum Cave Bluffs.  It's more a huge overhang than a cave.


There were lots of springs dripping down the moss.  A nice way to cool your hands and face in the ice cold water.

This little guy was having a good time.
 
There were many colors and layers to the stone.

Some very narrow sections of the trail with cables.

 
Finally we reach the LeConte Lodge.  The Lodge is in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and is the highest guest lodge in the eastern United States. It sits just below the summit of Mt. LeConte at an elevation of about 6400 feet.  There are no roads to get here.  It is hike-in only.  The lodge was built in 1926 by Jack Huff.  It's pricey at $145 per person per night for a one room cabin, but what a gorgeous, special event place to stay.  Breakfast and dinner are included.  There is propane heat but no piped water or bathrooms in the cabins.  When you arrive you are given a large pail that you can use to fill hot water from an outside community faucet.  There are outhouses too.  Because of the bears, you are not allowed to have any food in your cabin.  They have locked cabinets in the rec room to put your food in.
One of about 10 cabins on the mountainside.

An original loom in the Rec Room.


Plenty of games to play and tables for everyone to hang out in.

 
Plenty of music to make.

 

There is a big porch off the Rec Room that has a great view down the mountain side.  Another large room is the community dining room with an equally gorgeous view but I didn't get a picture of that.
 

 
After having our packed lunch at the lodge, we hiked the last .3 miles to the summit.

This part of the trail was narrow and rocky but an easy hike.

We didn't see any bears, just this cute deer.

You also pass the Mt. LeConte Shelter which backpackers hiking the Appalachian Trail can sleep in. 

A couple more views then the summit!

And here is the Mt. LeConte Summit.  It is a tradition to bring a rock and add it to the summit pile.


Me adding our rock.

And back down we go.


 


On the way down I spotted this painted stone next to the trail tucked into the moss.  I've heard of these before but wasn't sure if I was supposed to take it, re-hide it somewhere else or leave it.  So we left it.  We later went on facebook and read about it.  Apparently people paint happy things on stones and leave them around for others and you can do what you want with it.  They do want you to go to the facebook page and take a picture of where you found the rock and where you left it.  Sort of like Geocaching in a way.
It was a very long day but a great hike and a great trail! 

We really enjoyed our time here so we decided to stay a few more days.  It meant we had to switch campsites but no problem.  We moved to #63, a nice large spot with plenty of grass and shade.


 

 
Later in the week we hiked the very steep paved trail up to Clingman's Dome which tops out at 6,643 feet making it the highest point in Tennessee.

Veni Vidi Vici

If you were able to make it up here there was a really nice viewing platform with a 360 degree view.



 
On the way down we also hiked part of the Appalachian Trail that passes through.


We also had to walk about a mile down the road to where we were parked.  Hoss doesn't fit too well in those tiny parking spots so we had to find a big enough place to pull over and park further down the mountain.  I had to ask these guys about these scooter on the way.  They are custom made Honda's called a Ruckus. They don't drive them on the highway, but apparently there is quite the following and they were part of a club that was in the area.  They were tiny.

A little further down the mountain and you can stop at the border and stand in both Tennessee and North Carolina at the same time.


The Appalachian Trail runs through here also.  Note that they mention Katahdin in Maine.  This is the ending point.  We plan to hike that section with Curt and Glenda when we meet up with them in August.


As we wrap up our time here, we visit one more distillery.  This time I did find a couple things of moonshine I actually liked.  The Oatmeal Cookie Shine was amazing and would be good as a dessert drink, on ice cream or in coffee.  I opted to get the Dark Chocolate Soaked Cherries instead.

It's not all fun and games and hiking and drinking though.  Sometimes it's Laundry Day.  At least I had some company by this adorable Bassett Hound.