Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Great Smoky Mountains, Part 3: Second Day in the Great Smokies

Continued from Part 2.

So, we got up bright and early to get the most out of our day. Our first stop was to grab breakfast at a friendly little restaurant called the Carriage House. Food was as expected and provided us with our morning energy.

On the way to the Chimney Tops trail, our first destination inside the park, we stopped numerous times to take cool pictures. Here are a few of them. The beautiful scenery and the fall colors were really something to admire.

Chimney Tops trail is classified as strenuous despite being only 4 miles out-and-back. The first mile is actually pretty easy, but the second mile that takes you to the Chimney Tops is fairly steep. Overall, the hike wasn't so bad with around 1350 feet of elevation gain. When we finally made it to the Chimney Tops, I can't say I climbed to the top. I think very few actually do, as it looks incredibly dangerous.

Okay, with that out of the way, the next stop was to check out the highest point in the Great Smokies, Clingmans Dome, while the skies were clear. We had checked the weather report and learned that there was a high likelihood of showers the next day.

It's not much of a hike, in fact I would say it was more of a fairly steep walk on a paved trail. As you near the end, there is a curved structure that you walk up that takes you to the observation deck (that's me on the structure below). When you finally make it, you are rewarded by a really nice 360-degree view of everything.

On our way down, we learned that there was an alternate path to and from the top that allows you to traverse part of the famous Appalachian Trail.

Not far from Clingmans Dome is the Newfound Gap, a mountain pass near the center of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and home of the Rockefeller Memorial where the park was first dedicated. This pass sits atop the Tennessee-North Carolina Border and also provided a few decent views. None of the pictures of the landscape came out well, but I did manage to capture one really cool shot of some branches on a tree in that area.

After this, we pretty much called it a day and headed to Gatlinburg, Tennessee where we were going to spend the next two nights. Much to our surprise, that town is comical. Picture a really corny carnival and now put it at the border of the incredibly scenic Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The town was littered with many restaurants, souvenir shops, Western dress-up photography joints, and family fun establishments.

Here's my one and only picture of Gatlinburg's main street... I just liked the name Ole Smoky Moonshine.

Following dinner (and after we recovered from the shock that was Gatlinburg), we headed to our hotel, Bent Creek Golf Village, which was fortunately a fair distance from the madness. The hotel was wonderful. The room was basically a small one-bedroom apartment. I would definitely recommend staying there if you don't mind a 15 minute drive to and from downtown Gatlinburg.

And, that's all for now.

Continue to Part 4.

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