April 12, 2017
We left Delmonaco Winery for the Smokies, arriving in the late afternoon. The towns of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg are bustling resort towns that cater to the tourists coming to the Park. Driving through them, it’s clear that they are built mainly for the tourists (lots of hotels, restaurants, attractions, and more than a few dinner theaters). Most of the tourist sections escaped a horrific fire back in November 2016. We’re glad to see that the towns were unscathed. It’s easy to see why so many people come here. (Photos from tripadvisor.com and static.reservedirect.com respectively.)
We took a gamble by trying to stay at Cades Cove campground in the park. It’s a gamble because the campground is first come, first served (outside of summer, supposedly) and it takes about an hour to drive there from the entrance to the park (about 25 miles of narrow road driven at 20 to 25 mph). We got there and found 2/3 of the campground closed for the season (which starts on April 15, only a couple of days away) and the rest already occupied. We saw several RVs come and go looking for a spot to stay. Clearly, the park didn’t want any of our money, so we had to drive back to town (taking another hour). None of the RV parks we called would return our calls since it was already 10PM by this time. So we went to Pine Mountain RV park and set up there for the night.
April 13, 2017
After getting up, I went to the office at Pine Mountain to extend our stay. It turns out that they didn’t have any openings for the next night, so we had to pack up and find another RV park. We moved to Eagle’s Nest RV park for the next few nights, dropping the RV off there so we can get started exploring the area (tried some local mexican food first). Then we took in some history at the Titanic Museum (only fitting since it is on the anniversary of her maiden voyage). This museum was set up by John Joslyn (the second person to send an expedition to the wreckage of the Titanic). Upon entering, you get a boarding pass and background info of a person that was on the Titanic maiden voyage. There are many letters and artifacts from people associated with the Titanic, from White Star Lines employees who built it to the passengers and crew who sailed. There are exhibits to show what it was like for those onboard before and during the disaster such as a grand staircase and other refinements to give us an idea of just how different life was for the first class passengers compared to the third class passengers. You can tour what the bridge and engine room looked like and how cold the water would be for someone outside on the night of the collision. You’re guaranteed to know much more about the Titanic after coming here. We couldn’t take any pictures inside, so the photos below are of the exterior or borrowed from other websites. While it is still very much a tourist trap, it is more interesting than most and worth the admission (if you get it on Groupon).
After the museum, we went back to Cades Cove. There is a scenic loop there that we weren’t able to drive since we couldn’t dump our trailer off yesterday. So we drove back to the loop, which showed off several historic buildings (cabins and churches of the inhabitants before it was a park) and many opportunities to see some wildlife (deer, black bears, and some squirrels). The drive around the loop took several hours and we got back to town at night. We listened to some blues and some comedy during the drive (Justin Johnson, Paul F. Thompkins, Louis C.K., etc.)
We toppped the night off with a craving for pizza. As there are no good pizza joints in the area (most were closed by this time anyway), we went to Smokey Mountain Brewery for pizza and wings. They certainly didn’t disappoint with great white pizza, great wings, good beer, and live music. (Didn’t get photos of the food. We were too hungry and it was too good.)
What we wish we could do: It was kind of a good thing that we didn’t get a spot at Cades Cove. It takes a while to get back to town from there, and we wouldn’t have been able to easily explore. We do wish we could get more of this pizza.