Tom was first out of bed Thursday morning with a mission . . . a hike to Laurel Falls. Although we live in Ohio, Tom has spent years and miles on the Great Smoky Mountain National Park trails, with my father, experiencing the good treks. This hike was perfectly suited for a walk in the park!
The trail-head was a 14 mile drive from our campground, and Tom loaded the 6 hikers in the van at 8:00 a.m. for an early start. The round trip was just 2.3 miles, was rated "easy" and was partially paved. The hikers had 314 feet of elevation to gain, so there was just enough physical exertion for bragging rights. Spring is a great time of year for this hike as there is a lot of mountain water runoff going over the falls!
The hikers were back by 10:30 a.m. leaving plenty of time for a drive into Gatlinburg for lunch with Steve and Cindy. We ate Bar-B-Q sandwiches at a restaurant and shopped my favorite outdoor supply store -- don't know the name -- just know it is big and has everything I need for outdoor exploring and living.
On the way out of Gatlinburg, we took Steve and Cindy for a peek at the lost city near Elkmont Campground. In the late 1800's the area was a rip roaring lumber town. The Little River Railroad Company transported the logs to the mill, and also brought well-to-do tourists to the area where they built summer cottages and an exclusive gun-club hotel. With the advent of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, the railroad was needed no more for logging, and didn't want to continue transporting tourists from Knoxville. A road was built and the tourist trade continued after the purchase of the land for the National Park, and the gun club gave way to the Wonderland Hotel. The cabins stood empty. The hotel owners continued to work out their leases until they all expired in the 1990's. The hotel has been destroyed by fire, but the hotel annex, deserted homes, summer cabins, and hunting lodge still exist. It is truly a ghost town.
Our next stop was 6 miles down the road at an area known as "the Sinks." I have fond memories from my teenage years of many lazy Friday afternoons diving from the rocks and swimming in the natural, deep swimming hole -- instead of being in school!
Now it was time for Tom and Steve to work out a personal little trip they dreamed up. Coming out of Cades Cove the day before, Tom pointed out that the road back to the campground (7 miles) was downhill all the way! Steve was itching for a bike cruise in the mountains, and they decided this road would be perfect. Cindy and I drove them past the "Y" and several miles up the road and let them out with the bikes. They coasted back down to the campground . . . and called it a bike ride!
Cindy and I had to drive the winding road another mile before we found a turn-around spot. We started back and immediately began looking for the boys around each next turn, but drove several miles and didn't see them. Just as I was convinced they had turned off the road and hidden to tease us, we saw them up ahead. We passed by and it was only another couple minutes to the "Y", and from there another mile to our campground. We got back to the campground about five minutes before they rode in.
The evening's dinner agenda was an "open grill." Tink provided a charcoal fire and large grill rack, and everyone brought a meat to grill and a side dish to share. Tom also got out our little twig-powered grill for our rib-eye steaks.
Dinner was a casual affair and had the full-blown variety of a pot-luck. It was an easy transition from laying out the food, to eating, to clean-up, to walking across the street for an evening campfire. A cold night was predicted in the upper 30's, and Tink was a bit worried about serving an outdoor breakfast to everyone in the morning. Come back to read all about that!
We don’t go camping any more . . . we go ‘streamin’ ! The “SIlvermine and His” is our 2016 23' Airstream, 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