Tuesday, June 14
Today was our first day to really experience what we came for, the beauty of the Smoky Mountains! We enjoyed a great sit down breakfast at one of the many pancake houses in Pigeon Forge. Seriously, what is with pancakes and this town? There was a pancake place every other building it seemed. We had a great breakfast and headed out in the two vans to the entrance of the national park.
The plan was to enjoy the drive and head into Cades Cove and drive that loop. It features old cemeteries, churches and other buildings.
On the drive in, we stopped at a few places to just enjoy the creek. William had a ball throwing rocks and loved it when Alan threw a HUGE boulder in the water.
We also spotted a little spot where 4-5 gorgeous butterflies were hiding out!
We continued on the drive to Cades Cove, where we spotted wild turkey and a deer. My parents got a pic with all of the grandkids.
Then we finally made it to the little village and explored the mill and old buildings. The mill was operational and we were able to purchase some ground cornmeal from it!
On the way out, my parents and sister and her family spotted a black bear and its cubs, but we couldn't find a place to park since we were driving the larger van, so we missed it. We stopped for ice cream at the campground area on the way out.
We also spotted a few waterfalls on the drive back. I would have loved to have hiked over to it, but with all the kids and the baby, it just wasn't going to happen. Maybe another trip.
We also saw many spots where kids and adults were swimming and jumping off cliffs. We stopped to have a look.
We made the drive back and stopped in Gatlinburg for a bit to shop. Oh the cheesiness was oozing from every crevice. Cheesy souvie shops, Ripley's Believe or Not Museums, candy store after candy store etc. The streets were pretty crowded with foot traffic too, so we didn't shop for long. We did find a little alcove that had some decent real stores. Note mini golf in the background (again, they were every 100 ft or so it seemed!).
That night, we had dinner at the Old Mill in Pigeon Forge. The food was delicious, all home cooking! All in all, a great day, taking in the beauty of nature!