There is something magical about Tennessee that draws me back year after year. With the Great Smoky Mountains as a backdrop and overlooking Wears Valley, the view from my cabin is ever-changing. Rising early to watch the sunrise – this year with a rooster cock-a-doodle-doing in the valley and enjoying a glass of wine while witnessing every sunset is a priority for me. It’s a perfect way to bookend a day in Tennessee and never disappoints.
Road trip 2021, arrived on Memorial Day hours early for my Wears Valley cabin check-in. Already in nearby Townsend it was time to let my vacation begin, starting with an impromptu wine tasting at Cades Cove Cellars, stocking up on wine…. since I was there anyway. Next on to drive Cades Cove Loop, 11 miles, one lane/one way road. The 11 miles is leisurely and slow-moving easily 2-3 hours which lined up with my check-in and a perfect choice as this place is everything I love about Tennessee. My #1 Tennessee trip goal is to see a black bear every trip – hopefully more than one. Photos never truly capture the majestic mountains, abundant meadows and that sky above… what I’d imagine heaven looks like.
And on this first vacay day, I had my first bear sighting, check!
There’s something about the Great Smoky Mountains that connects with my soul, a sense of peace that I crave. After rescheduling my May trip due to Covid-19 lockdowns, I made the trip this month and immersed myself in the beauty and calm of the Smokies.
One of the first things on my list was to drive the Cades Cove loop. It’s an eleven mile, one way, slow and scenic drive with a high likelihood of seeing wildlife. It never disappoints.
When visiting the Smokies the food is a major part of the appeal. There are endless choices – I’m highlighting a few that I love.
My longtime favorite bbq spot, Smokin Joe’s in Townsend never disappoints. While I’ve had their brisket and ribs this time I ordered the pulled pork with fried okra and corn nuggets (fried cream corn). OMG.
A new find was Trailhead Steak and Trout House also in Townsend. I started with fried green tomatoes, a Caesar salad followed by their grilled trout that was perfectly prepared. While I neglected to photograph those meals (too hungry?) I did manage to capture the following:
Driving the Cades Cove Loop you’ll find several churches with small cemeteries. It was early Sunday morning when I came upon them and I was able to hear parts of the sermons and hymns at each as I walked with reverence around the graveside pathways. It was peaceful and I was in awe of the history in this place.
The Dan Lawson Place, which was originally constructed in 1856, is a transitional piece of architecture – the home features both sawn lumber and hewn logs. In addition, the pioneer cabin featured a modern chimney made out of bricks.
Over the years, Lawson expanded both his land holdings and his residence. By the time of his death, the cabin had been expanded to have a large porch and an additional second story. The large, covered porch was used as a post office that Dan ran from his house.
I visited Cades Cove on three occasions this trip and my posts only provide a glimpse of the beauty. The peaceful meandering loop road connects you to nature. At any hour of the day you’re assured of unforgettable scenic views and often wildlife sightings making it a must-see when you’re visiting the Smoky Mountains.
Since my last visit in 2016, the Foothills Parkway was completed. The Wears Valley entrance was less than a mile from my cabin and I decided to check it out. I drove it several times during my stay; it’s scenic with many turnouts for taking pictures and little to no traffic.
”The Foothills Parkway is a national parkway which traverses the foothills of the northern Great Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee, located in the southeastern United States”. Wikipedia
A trip to the Smoky Mountains isn’t complete without driving the Cades Cove Loop. I drove it three times during the trip choosing daybreak, midday and late afternoon to experience the changing light and wildlife sightings. It’s a one-way 11 mile drive that progresses slowly as you savor the scenery, take photos and stop for animals.
I get a thrill seeing the black bears that are a beloved fixture in Tennessee. I’d been following several Facebook groups in the weeks before my trip with numerous posts of mother bears with multiple cubs. I’ve always had multiple bear sightings on past trips – my hopes were high. I saw one bear cub on my late morning drive. He scampered across the road in front of me and was gone before I could get a photo. He was my only bear on this trip but there’s always next time.