Late November, always an “iffy” time for weather, requires a lot of positive thinking to plan and carry off a camping Thanksgiving dinner. But that is just what we did, along with NOVA friends – for the second year in a row!
Winton Woods, a metro park in Cincinnati, is a perfect gathering place with wonderful amenities: full hook-ups, concrete pads in full sunshine, and a bath house that is open . . . and heated. On top of that it is smack dab in the middle of any kind of urban offerings that might be needed.
We all joined up Wednesday: Lou and Larry, John, Suzie and Tim, Alan and Carie, Chris and Randy, and Tom and I, with Micah, Caleb and Halie. . . a total of fourteen in 5 Airstreams and one cabin! By 5:00 we were all in place, headed out for BJ's Brewhouse for dinner, then returned for a campfire.
I think I ended up with a picture of everyone that was there for the weekend.
Thursday, from the get-go, was beautiful weather – cloudless blue sky, warm sunshine, and temperatures hovering around 50 degrees. Dinner was set for 2:00 – and everything made it to the banquet table on time! Alan’s worky/turkey was deep-fat-fried on-site, and Carie added dozens of deviled eggs and green bean casserole to the menu. Suize made homemade pies (pecan, pumpkin, and cherry), dressing in the Dutch oven and dinner rolls. Chris and Randy crafted real, homemade cranberry relish and savory sweet potatoes. Lou and Larry brought a ham and a turkey vegetable platter and Caleb and Halie baked a strawberry/rhubarb pie in their cabin oven. Tom fried the turkey, and I made mashed potatoes, a butternut squash/rice casserole and gravy. You couldn’t top that spread in the comfort of your home!
Also during the day (while the turkey was cooking) there was a pick-up frisbee game.
Friday was a flurry of activity – some shopped the Black Friday deals while others shot pistols at the shooting range and drove go-carts on an indoor track. Caleb was thrilled that there was a hand-controlled go-cart, and he enjoyed his first racing experience. The day was busy, busy, busy, and nobody thought to get pictures.
The afternoon was unexpectedly sunny and warm and we collected Thanksgiving dinner left-overs and combined them with some fresh grilling for dinner. Our timing was a little off, and it was dead-dark by the time we were done eating and cleaning up. . . and rain was moving in.
Yes, it rained during the night, but was mostly gone by late morning, leaving some soggy campsites. Saturday was dedicated to the Ohio State/Michican football game starting at noon. Alan’s event tent was headquarters for the TV and John’s satellite dish. Chairs and a snack table were set up, and there were fans of both teams present. Many were dressed in Lou's Warriors shirts and sporting pink hair, beard, sideburns, eyebrows, and mustache . . . in support of Lou on her lingering cancer journey.
Game over – big win for Ohio State! Celebration was a taco/Mexican feast, followed by the usual last-night clean-up and put-away. This was one successful Thanksgiving weekend, and a fitting end to our 2018 camping season!
Sunday, October 28
This would be our last day in Knoxville at Yarberry Peninsula Campground before moving up to the Great Smoky Mountains and Elkmont. The weather took a dramatic change for the positive – sunsine and warming temperatures. In the morning we went to the nearby town of Lenoir City and the Ugly Mugg Coffee Café to partake of breakfast . . . and the Internet! I worked on my blog and got the first five days of this trip published – a relief as we would be heading to the realm of no phone or wifi hook-ups for the next week.
We also made a visit to Maryville to Tom’s favorite Little River hiking supply outfitter – it was time for new boots! He walked in, explained what he wanted, tried on one pair, and walked out wearing new boots!
The afternoon at the campground was everything we had wanted yesterday . . . sunshine and temperatures in the low 70’s enjoying our beautiful view of the lake. I took time to shake the rugs from the camper and do a bit of clean-up chores - - - including a good brush-out of the doggies! Housekeeping is sooooooo easy when it is limited to 25 feet of living!
Dinner was grilled bratwurst with green peppers/onions, blueberries, and coleslaw. We are both excited to be moving up to Elkmont Campground where we will meet up with other Airstream friends and spend a week boondocking (without electricity or hookups!)
Monday, Oct 29
Tom took the shortest route to Elkmont, even thought it involved narrow and winding roads along the Laurel River Road . . . always a bit dicey with a wide-body Airstream. Tom did a great job threading that needle!
We arrived at 10:00 (and a day early!) and set up in site A17 in plenty of time to fix grilled hamburgers for lunch. Temperatures hit the high 60’s for a brief period of time, and the sun was delicious. Sue & Terry were the first to join us in mid-afternoon, and we four immediately sat down to the business of . . . camping-with-friends! This involved a dinner of lobster ravioli, fresh corn off the cob, and a splendid salad – consumed in the warmth of the Silver Burrito (Sue & Terry’s Airstream) followed by a nice campfire.
The temperature dipped down to 38 degrees, but we never felt the need to run the furnace. Under our layers of quilts, stuffed in long-john PJ’s, we were warm as toast – except when we had to get up in the middle of the night for the three steps down the hall to the bathroom.
Tuesday, Oct 30
By 9:00 the four of us were off for the Coleman and Lodge outlet stores in Pigeon Forge, and the Knife Works in Sevierville – the largest knife store in the world -- KNIFE MECCA! Shopping in such tempting environments, I concluded that I already had everything I needed -- but I did pick up a bag/mix of Beer-Cheese-Bacon bread to prepare in the Dutch Oven.
Georgia and Rick arrived in the afternoon, and settled into the campsite line-up right between our two Airstreams. In no time we hatched a plan for dinner – chili Sue cooked on her new Coleman stove, beer bread cooked in my small Dutch Oven, and an assortment of chili toppings. Georgia ruined us all by combining a rich cheese spread with strawberry jam on buttery crackers . . . a new addiction!
As we sat around a fire in the total dark at 7:15 talk revolved around a plan to drive 4 miles down the road to the Laurel Falls trailhead for a morning hike. If you don’t reach the limited trailhead parking lot by 10:00 it is full for the rest of the day!
Wednesday, Oct 31
An early crew of 5 (Tom, Sue, Terry, Georgia & Rick) left the campground at 8:00 for Laurel Falls -- as planned last night. Beating most of the crowds on the trail, they enjoyed beautiful temperatures and fall colors on the mostly paved 1.5-mile walkway back to the falls. A small group like this gets to spread out along the trail so each can enjoy the hike at their own pace. After posing for the traditional group picture at the falls, they headed back to find the trail much more crowded on the return trip. . . thus the bonus of their early morning effort.
Such a beautiful afternoon to laze around and enjoy the campsite . . . but, I grabbed Sue for a quick trip into GBurg, and we left Tom and Terry lounging and napping in the warm sun! We had a wonderful time shopping in the pricy outdoor supply store, checking our e-mail in their outdoor rocking chairs, and stopping by the Sugarland visitor center on the way home. Rick and Georgia were doing what good outdoor-folk ought to be doing . . . hiking!
Late afternoon saw the arrival of our last Airstream peeps – John, Suzie, and Tim. It took awhile to get them settled in, completing our row of four “silver quarters” for the next few days. The dinner plan was for more outdoor cooking – in pie irons. Crispy, toasty, buttery, slices of bread, with WHATEVER put in the middle, followed by another campfire.
Thursday, Nov 1
We all slept a little later this morning, and then rushed to the Pancake Pantry in downtown GBurg for breakfast. The restaurant is so beautiful with tall glass windows and light wood paneling. Pancakes, eggs, grits, and decadent fruit-filled crepes were delivered to the boy-table, and the girl-table! As we walked back outside, the sun was shining and the day was warming, and we decided to do a stroll down and around the many intriguing shops.
We pulled out the map, identified the start of the Roaring Forks one-way, scenic, motor trail, and took off. When we were off the main road, we re-arranged for a red-neck style ride – lawn chairs in the back of the truck. That lasted only 2 miles – as the touring road was CLOSED – due to high winds that MIGHT bring down trees! Another day!
As promised, rain moved in during the afternoon and the temperature dropped dramatically, leaving us huddled under the PahaQue awning! By dinner-time we’d had enough, and piled back in the trucks for a drive into Bennett’s B-B-Q for a lengthy sit-down, out-to-eat-treat. Afterwards, we wandered over to the outdoor supply store – Suzie, John, and Rick hadn’t seen it yet. I walked out with new Colombia legging-style pants . . . guaranteed for a lifetime! I also made the decision to not buy that pricey chair I’d had my eye on (at this time,) and John said “no” to a combination of hammock accessories.
Back at the campsite by 9:00, John pulled out his propane fire-pit for the 3 die-hards that wanted to sit out a bit longer.
Friday, Nov 2
We heard rain on the roof overnight; not an upsetting thing while you’re tucked snugly in bed in the Silvermine. As we got up in the morning, the campground was soggy, but the temperature was not that cold, and we were hoping for a somewhat clear day for some kind of outing . . . time will tell.
The first excursion for the day was a hike walking from our campsites to the back of the campground and up to old Daisy Town -- a potpourri of nicely derelict cabins. It is a fascinating peek into the glory years of the park history and the pre-existing Appalachian Club. An effort has been (and is being) made into restoring and preserving the cabins, but there is never enough money and inclination for a full-out restoration effort.
By 12:30 we were all back at the campground with an agreed-on plan for lunch in Pigeon Forge and a drive to the Knife Works in Sevierville. . . for those that did not go on Tuesday. There is always enough stuff to look at in the Knife Works for a re-do trip, and Georgia and Suzie had some serious shopping to conduct.
John piled in with Tom and me for the return trip to the campground and Suzie and Tim headed out for a bit more shopping. Rick and Georgia saw that there were traffic tie-ups in Sevierville and Pigeon Forge, and they opted for a little known road trip through Wears Valley and a short-cut road up over the mountain that dumped them just down the road from Elkmont.
We were all back at the campground for supper, but the temperature was dropping and it was a bit drizzly, and there was a bone-chilling cold. We retreated to our Airstreams for dinner cooked inside . . . and didn’t come back out!
Saturday, Nov 3
This morning we all divided up and went our own ways. Tom and I opted for a run to the Gatlinburg Visitor’s Center – just another excuse to drive through downtown Gatlinburg! At 10:00, traffic was starting to pick up, but we made it through in reasonable time. While I shopped the GVC gift shop, Tom checked e-mails. As we headed back through Gatlinburg, the traffic was in full roar and we took a leisurely 40-minute cruise through the main drag! But, the traffic didn’t end there – it was backed up all the way to Sugarland’s visitor center – another 3 miles!
Georgia and Rick and Terry and Sue had driven separately to Clingman’s Dome, where the temperature was 27 degrees and snow had fallen overnight to create a slippery and hazardous paved trail to the Dome. Suzie and Tim had taken off for Sevierville and were caught up in horrendous traffic there – Tim said he was “all trafficked out” by the time they got back.
Nonetheless – knowing the awful traffic congestion – some of us headed out for Cades Cove, hoping for a warm and sunny drive through the cove. After getting a mile past the “Y” a light-up sign warned of “2-3 hour drives” around the cove. We were still 7 miles away, and the traffic was bumper/bumper and at a standstill. Drivers Tom and Suzie did the unexpected and pulled a “U” turn right in the middle of the traffic, across that narrow road – and we headed back to Elkmont!
The evening was the best – a roaring fire and snacking around the campfire. Suzie made spice cookies with a pumpkin dipping sauce, and John initiated his new 10” Dutch oven with a peach cobbler.
Everyone cooperated in my efforts to take some “Flip the Bird” pictures to Cancer . . . for our friend Lou. Lou is our founding-mother-NOVA/Airstream-best-friend, and she would have (SHOULD HAVE) been on this trip with us . . . if it had not been for scheduled appointments with Round 2, Cancer.
Lou: these flips are for you!
Sue and Terry, Rick and Georgia, headed for bed a bit earlier as they would be pulling out in the morning. The rest of us enjoyed more campfire.
Sunday, Nov 4
Darn TIME CHANGE – always confuses everything! Still, by 9:00 a.m. (daylight savings or regular time – we’ll never tell) we were loaded up in two trucks and ready to go: John, Suzie and Tim and their pups, and Tom and me and our pups.
All week long the Smoky Mts. had thrown everything at us it had to prevent us from driving the Cades Clove Loop Road: Fog, closed roads, rain & cold, time change, 7-mile-long traffic back-ups. But today, on our last day in the mountains, we managed the drive. The trip was postponed by a couple of hours due to the closed road for a marathon, but by 11:00 we were on the seven mile road back to the cove. The traffic was thick and slow for the first two miles, and then revved up to normal driving speeds.
Of course, our goal was to replicate the “redneck-style” trip around the cove – all piled in one truck with some sitting in lawn chairs in the back. As we reached the cove it was already a respectable 50 degrees and getting warmer by the minutes. We were not surprised at all to see our friends Ken and Bonnie (volunteer rangers) working the front entry post to the cove, and we stopped to talk to them a bit. Then, with Suzie, Tim, me, and 3 dogs, in the truck bed and Tom and John in the front cab – we started off on the 11-mile, one-way loop road.
It was not nearly as stop-and-go as it usually is – probably because of the absence of any bears and resulting “bear-jams” . . . and very few deer. The sun was delicious, the sky was blue, and it was fun for us (on our hundredth-something trip through the cove) to share the beauty with first-timers.
We stopped at the half-way point to tour the grist mill, the little store, and the assorted buildings, and to walk the dogs. When we loaded back into the truck it was with a different arrangement (boys in the back – me and Suzie in the cab) and all with a packed lunch in hand.
After finishing the loop road we did a drive-thru of the Cades Cove campground and stopped at the campground store for . . . t-shirts, little Smoky memorabilia items and ice-cream!
On the way out of the cove we made a quick trip into Townsend to a local carver – Suzie was looking for a bear to sit outside at home. The carvings were all fun, many humorous, and a bit on the expensive side. Suzie chose a nice little bear about the size of a basketball – on all four legs, with a big butt.
It took less than an hour to get back to Elkmont Campground – and the arrival was really the signal that this camping trip was over! It was time to straighten the inside of the trailer, pack the equipment in the truck, cook dinner, and settle down for the last night. Darn time change . . . it was dark at 6:00 under the tree canopy!
The time change showed it's good side Monday morning when we were up early and able to see at 6:30 to hook up. . . and leave for home. This annual fall trip to Elkmont and the GSMNP set a new benchmark for a great fall campout!
We don’t go camping any more . . . we go ‘streamin’ ! The “SIlvermine and His” is our 2018 25' Airstream Serenity with Salsa interior and front twin beds., and ‘streamin’ is the name we use to describe our adventures. Stream along as we document everything from weekend trips to longer summer excursions and full-blown vacations. You know what they say: if you’re not in an Airstream – you’re just camping!
Tom & Ella Brown