Tennessee – Cades Cove

This yearling bear walked right next to my car. Thrilling!

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.

Returning to Tennessee – part eight

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:

Fried Oyster Basket, Hushpuppies and Fries at Paw Paw’s Catfish Kitchen
Piggy Mac is Cherry wood-smoked pulled pork in an iron skillet topped with white cheddar Mac and cheese and biscuit breadcrumbs at Pucketts in Pigeon Forge, I couldn’t resist this entree, comfort food on steroids!
I discovered an amazing bakery, Cakes by Bakin’ Bishop that had these ginormous cinnamon rolls – what an indulgence. They were my breakfast each morning as I sat on my deck, enjoying the sunrises over Wears Valley. I got to chat with the owner who was so friendly and also got two of her big cupcakes, custom frosted just before she boxed them up. They were a delightful treat and worth every calorie. This bakery will be a part of my future trips.
Inspired by southern cuisine and using my cast iron skillet I fixed this delicious plate of pea meal bacon, cheddar jalapeño cornbread, oven roasted potatoes and pickled okra.

Returning to Tennessee – part six

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.

Returning to Tennessee – part five

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

33 miles in total distance
I got up early to catch the sunrise.
Turkeys but no bears
In Wears Valley I love to seek out interesting photo opportunities and thought this was a cool old barn. And I love old barns.
It never rained during my stay but it looks like Gatlinburg got a bit of rain this day. The clouds were low, shrouding the mountains.
I pulled off on a side road to take this shot. This is Wears Valley.

Returning to Tennessee – part four

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.

Returning to Tennessee – part two

I rose every morning before daybreak to watch the sun rise, hear birdsongs in the trees as I sipped tea. Who’d want to sleep through this?
These gliders were my favorite place to sit to enjoy my view any time of day…..a close second – the hot tub.
Sunrise over Wears Valley
In love with this view.
The kitchen had everything I needed to prepare meals (except my cast iron skillet which I brought with me) as well as peppers and herbs from my garden. You may notice 3 bottles of red wine, those would be mine. 🍷
Cozy cabin
Dreamy bed, slept like a baby each night which is rare for me, so restorative.
Jacuzzi tub, perfect for a daily soak. #relaxationisgood

Travels in Tennessee – part five

Spence and I stay in a secluded log cabin in the mountains of Wears Valley when we travel to Tennessee but love that within ten to fifteen minutes we can be in Townsend, Sevierville or Pigeon Forge and within twenty minutes, Gatlinburg.

We’ve found several fun spots to enjoy a cold adult beverage, people watch, talk to locals and other tourists.  If you’re traveling in the area, these places are worth checking out.

Dick’s Last Resort – Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg – From outlandish decor and servers with “attitude” this is a fun bar with tasty eats such as the Wicked Gator bites (yes gator – tastes like chicken) accompanied by deep fried jalapenos.  And yes, there are numerous bras hung over the bar.  Hilarious.

No Way Jose’s Cantina – Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg – Spence and I love Jose’s with ice cold beer and their outdoor cantina (in Gatlinburg) which overlooks the river.  Food here is excellent as are the complimentary chips and salsa.

Loco Burro Fresh Mex Cantina in Gatlinburg – On a sweltering day, we walked by a doorway and felt a swoosh of cool air – that was all it took to lure us in. We hopped on the escalator to the second floor bar and restaurant (forgoing the rooftop bar one floor up).  When we saw the funny barstools, we decided we’d sit there.  Chris, our bartender, whipped up the most refreshing frozen banana dacquiris for me while Spence had beer.  Chris was entertaining as were the tugboat captain and his wife from New Orleans that we bantered with.  The menu looked great but we weren’t hungry – next time….

Crawdaddy’s Restaurant & Oyster Bar in Gatlinburg – While they have indoor seating, this second floor venue has a wrap-around-the-corner outdoor balcony, overlooking a main street in Gatlinburg which is a people-watchers dream – we always sit out there. I love their pina coladas and we typically order 1-2 dozen oysters as well as oyster shooters. Great service and a full menu of Cajun and seafood selections.

Friendly Falls Food & Stuff in Sevierville – This quaint place borders the Little Pigeon River as you drive along the curving mountain roads.  Not only can you sit and have a cold beer overlooking waterfalls, you can walk down to Norbert’s Gem Mine and pan for gems and crystals (watch for a future post).  It’s a fun, quirky, friendly place that is always on our list of things to do when in Tennessee.