Finding the Eagle’s Nest Campground on Wears Valley Rd. sure wasn’t hard. Lots of campgrounds along it. This one is Passport America with no restrictions, good level well-defined sites, great free wifi, and free cable TV. The laundry room is a bit expensive at $1.75 per wash load and taking out the trash requires a car but the rest is good and it has a trolley stop right out front. Definitely a good place to stay again.
Oh my God! I have stumbled into another Myrtle Beach with bunches of dinner shows to decide between, wonderful restaurants, a gazillion fun tourist traps, Dollywood, Smoky Mountains National Park, fascinating stores, and on and on. Oh my God! Way too many decisions to make while I’m here. I will definitely have to come back when I have more time.
I had planned to hit Dollywood first thing on my day off but of course they had to be closed that day. Switch to plan B. I took a drive through the town to get acquainted, located the trolley station at Patriot Park since I will likely go to Dollywood by trolley, then got sucked in by Lid’l Dollys gigantic quilt and little girl’s dress store. I had to get beautiful and ridiculously frilly southern belle dresses for my granddaughters, a quilt for the daughter-in-law, and my youngest son will be glad to know I now have another blanket/quilt on board for the times he joins me for some fun.
Off for more exploring, I headed out through Gatlinburg to see what the big deal was. It rather reminded me of Lake Placid with cute little shops everywhere, some more tourist traps, narrow busy main street. With my wallet firmly tucked in my purse, I just drove through to the Smoky Mountains National Park. Stop at the Welcome Center before going in too far to check out all the choices you have. Again, too many. I opted for a short interesting hike to a waterfall close to the welcome center. If you can hike a mile or more, they have numerous other waterfalls in the park to hike to.
I decided on the Cades Cove motor route instead to see the remaining homes of the mountain folk that were built in the 1800s. It’s on an 11 mile single lane loop. The drive through the park was stunning as I followed the river most of the way through lush vegetation. I came across another waterfall and watched canoeists navigating the fast river waters. They were definitely not beginners. Eventually, the narrow walls spread and a gorgeous valley with deep meadows appeared. It was so lovely and suitable for sustaining life that I could see why people would come there to such a remote place. Many came after the Civil War, I suppose to get as far away from it as possible. This would be a good place to find one’s soul again.
They didn’t need much money since most were very self-sufficient and one could always sell excess chicken eggs, etc. This was a community of the old times with 3 churches that everyone attended and neighbor helping neighbor. I’m told the highest population was around 658 at one time. A walk through the cemeteries shows some tombstones with recent 199x to 200x dates on them which I assume are descendants who choose to be buried there with their kin. I saw members of the Sparks family buried in both the Baptist and Methodist cemeteries. I guess with so few mates to choose from, some things can be overlooked and lived with. 😉 The Baptist church closed without a word during the Civil War. It reopened after and they explained, most of the Baptists were of the northern persuasion and were far outnumbered by those that tended to lean more southern in there beliefs. They thought it best to keep a low profile until the war was over. Smart people. I also saw lots of deer and black bears including a mother and her cubs.
I got to do a major league bucket list thing while here. I went to Wahoo Ziplines here to view the Smoky Mountains while gliding through, under, and over the trees on metal cables in a harness. Wahoo! I was surprised how many older couples were doing it. It isn’t cheap or for the faint of heart or those afraid of heights. They provide the equipment, 2 guides, transportation to and from the start and end, and bottles of ice cold water half way through. They were a little trepidacious and awed about a handicapped person doing this but I assured them I could handle the very short walks up steep hills with my cane, brace, and a head start. The start was a bit slow with no one readily volunteering to be first, but once we got past the first zip line everyone was fine. They showed us how to brake on the line by pulling our padded glove hand down on the cable. That will also keep you from spinning. I must say I did that very well. However, it is hard on the arms. After the first zip line, most of us threw caution to the wind and just leaped off the platforms and dangled holding on to the strap rather than braking. On one of the lines, the guide threw in some added fun by bouncing the line on us as we slid down it. Not a good idea to do with anyone with back problems. It hurt but I was laughing anyway. He also decided to widen my horizons by getting me to let go and lay back to fly like an angel.
For Dollywood, the best way to get there is to park in the trolley lot in Pigeon Forge by the old mill and take the trolley to it. The trolley is only 50 cents each way compared to $8 to park at Dollywood. Dollywood has lockers for $1 if you want to take extra jackets, towels, etc. I highly recommend taking the bare minimum which should include plastic baggies for your wallet, cell phone, keys, etc. The best way to dress is in a Tshirt, shorts, and sandals. You will get wet there or should I say soaked.
I bought a one day ticket then later upped it to a season pass for only $34 more when I saw how much there is to do there and how much fun the place is. I did manage to get there twice in my time there and hope to go back again.
I found a couple buffets reasonably priced and many other food vendors with great food. There are a lot of stores and artisans there with lots of variety in their wares. Half the fun is just browsing. There are many truly excellent shows there. I loved Sha-Kon-O-Hey and would have paid the park admission price for that show alone. The music, cast, and special effects are wonderful. It’s a must see. I also enjoyed the Crossroads and Dreamland Drive-In shows as well as the street singers. The magician was very funny and it was amazing seeing his head shrink like a balloon. I got to see Dolly’s cousins and uncles Bill and Louis perform as well.
All the roller coasters there of, which there are many, go upside down at some point and are pretty fast. If that is your thing, you will love it. Everything else involves water, lots of it. I hit all of those from the flume ride, to the whitewater rafting, to the Slidewinder which is like a bobsled but on water instead of ice. The River Battle was a blast! It consists of boats with 4 positions on each side, all armed with water canons. Along the river are additional water cannons for spectators to join in. You float though the river on a track and attack adjacent boats as well as spectators who tend to attack right back. It is rip roaring family fun soaking complete strangers and loved ones. Just next to it but out of order that day is a large booth you squeeze the whole family into and for $3 it blow dries you all.
Another good ride seats everyone in a circle around a giant log. The circle spins up high on the log then the log tilts in various directions. What makes it fun is that sometimes it tilts some of the poor suckers into the fountain below it getting them very wet. LOL Don’t miss the ride where again you sit on a circle around a static log and have to pull yourselves up the log with a rope. Let go of the rope and you gently glide back to the bottom to start again.
Tour Dolly’s tour bus that she just replaced and her museum at Dollywood. They also have a replica of her childhood home/cabin which still stands today.
Dolly Parton was actually in Pigeon Forge while I was there. She appeared in the parade and at a concert. The parade was very good and long. Folks setup their chairs in good spots along the route early then went off for food or shopping until it was time. The hotel balconies were full. I took my duck bill and quacked everyone in the parade again including Dolly. They got a kick out of it and some of the folks around me started calling me AFLAC and yelling “get ’em AFLAC, get ’em!”. He he you just can’t take me anywhere.
Since I had 2 weeks there, I managed to get in some geocaching. I didn’t do the shows this time since I was seeing shows at Dollywood and plan to come back. I hear the Smith Family show is the best. I did hit up TGI Fridays and the Wood Grill buffet. I can highly recommend both of them.
For lots more pics click here.