Cades Cove

Cades Cove is located in a valley in the Great Smoky Mountains.  Before the park was established, it was inhabited by settlers .  Now it is the most visited spot in the park with more than 2 million people visiting every year.  So why do people flock to this place?

History

Many of the original structures remain in Cades Cove, most of which the public can access.  Cabins, churches, barns and mills dot the landscape, and each one tells a unique story.  Cemeteries are also located on the land, and the first settlers of the valley are buried in the park.

Hiking

Hiking is the only reason I travel to Cades Cove.  As a local, I’ve been to dozens of field trips to the park.  Visiting during tourist season is equivalent to torture–unless I’m going hiking.  Jake and I have hiked Abrams Falls every year around the date of our anniversary. It is one of my favorite hikes in the Smokies.  Several gains in elevation give way to amazing views, and the trail ends at one of the most voluminous falls in the national park. Here is a list of all the trails in Cades Cove.

The Loop Tour

Cades Cove is 100% free to drive through.  Eleven miles of wildlife and adventure await, or you can see it all from the comfort of your car.  On several occasions, I’ve seen bears off the edge of the road, and I’ve never been to the cove without seeing dozens of deer.  Just remember to respect the wildlife!

Porter’s Creek

So one thing I may not have mentioned before: I love to hike.  I love the sunshine in my face, and the feeling rocks, mud, and leaves under my feet.  I love the feeling of being so tired after a hike that I collapse on the couch. With that said, I went for another hike last week.

It was my turn to pick a trail, and I searched for one that was going to take longer than Baskin’s Creek, but not as difficult.  I read recommendations for several other trails before I finally picked Porter’s Creek.

Let me get this out there too: I love my car.  It is a tiny Honda Civic, and even though it’s a 2008 model, it’s the newest car I’ve ever owned.  I told you that so I could tell you this: I regret driving my car.  The road to get to the trail head is gravel, which I knew it would be, but there were also huge potholes everywhere.  In a tiny five-speed, this road sucked and I was regretting picking this trail, but the hike made up for the crummy road.

At some point in the gravel road, there is a parking lot, but this isn’t where the trail begins.  We  continued to walk on the road (which is closed to motor vehicles at this point) for one mile.  Finally we had reached the sign indicating the trail head for Porter’s Creek.  We promptly went the opposite direction so we could view the old farm house and cabin located about 200 yards from the trail.

The cabin is no longer in use, but visitors are welcome to walk around it and explore.  It was neat to see how people in the 1930’s liked to come up to the mountains and how they spent their time there.  The barn is even more ancient; it was built sometime around 1875.

We got back to the trail and continued to hike up the gradual incline.  There was a foot bridge we had to cross, and normally, these not bother me.  This one however, was several feet above gushing water and big rocks.  I admit I was a bit on edge walking across.

We continued to walk and then, out of nowhere, we walked upon the waterfall.  It was beautiful, and everything around the water was bright green.  We had the falls to ourselves for a bit, so we took a much needed break to snack on granola bars and of course, take a few selfies.  The view opposite of the falls was just as amazing.   The slight elevation gain gave way to amazing views of the surrounding mountains.

Although I’d never heard of Porter’s Creek before last week, it is definitely  one of my new favorite hikes in the Smokies.  And that is another thing I love about east Tennessee: after living here my whole life, I am still able to find new, beautiful adventures to go on!

 

 

 

River-Sitting

My favorite spot in the mountains is in the Tremont Institute.  Tremont is a place that offers day camps for kids, as well as back-country camping and hiking.  But that’s not what I’m there for.  I go there to river-sit.

tremont 1
Where I go to get my tan.

My favorite summer activity can be summed up as this: going to my secret spot in the river, with or without company, and tossing my chair out into the water.  I then proceed to sit there.  Its a relatively cheap hobby that requires absolutely no experience.  All you need is a chair and few hours to kill.

The best part about my secret spot is that I can spend eight hours there and never see another human being.  Occasionally, I’ll take friends and we spend the day reading, chatting, eating and dozing in and out of consciousness.  Sometimes, if its hot enough we’ll drive back down to Townsend to get ice cream or shakes from The Burgermaster. 

Although it’s only about a 30 minute drive to get to Tremont, it’s easy to feel like you are completely removed from civilization.  There’s no cell signal, and that only adds to the seclusion of the park.  And yes, there are snakes, but as long as you leave them alone, they’ll ignore you.

Everyone needs their own secret spot to go to, which is why I’m not giving directions to mine.  Getting out there and exploring the park is half the fun, and maybe if you’re lucky, you’ll find your own spot in the mountains.