The Great Smoky Mountain Adventure
If you've been following along, you've probably read our North Carolina story, and thought "WHOA. You guys need a vacation." Well, we thought so too. After almost losing all of our equipment to rain, our drone Jerome going MIA for a period of time, all while getting some kick-ass content, we kinda needed to disconnect. We love our work, but there are days when we even need to take a moment for ourselves. So we thought "we're kinda close to Tennessee...and the Smokies." I think you can tell where we're going with this. We packed our bags, and headed to the mountains.
So I'm gonna be honest here; we're the epitome of Floridians. We live below sea level, are so used to humidity we have gills, and hibernate in our AC house because it is unbearable outside. Okay, so maybe two out of the three things mentioned above is true, however, we have little to no experience hiking. We wanted an adventure, and the time we spent with our couple in North Carolina gave us a taste of the outdoors. Like...real mountain air. There's nothing like it!
We also kinda wanted to see a black bear...not like super close up! Just far away in the distance to where we could see it, take pics, and walk away. I've seen and heard enough stories about these black bears to never ever want to encounter one close up, but to see the state animal in its own habitat would still be an experience. The mountains sent us a sweet little deer instead. You lose some, but you win some!
We decided to stay in Gatlinburg, which is totally a tourist trap...but it's so cute. There is truly so much to do and check out, and you are right at the front gates of the Smokies. We spent the first night walking everywhere. The next morning (super early, by the way), we went straight to the Smokies, and totally stopped for the photo opportunity at the big ol' Smoky Mountain National Park sign. I've never been so excited; my grandparents would always go every year and bring us back goodies and pictures of this exact spot. Now I get to do that with Dezi.
If you ever do happen to visit Gatlinburg, I highly recommend the Ol' Smokey Candy Kitchen. They make their own taffy on property and they make the best taffy I have ever had. Watching them pull the taffy is also insanely cool and mesmerizing to watch! We also decided to try moonshine while we were there...why not right? And yeah, it is definitely not the true neighborhood moonshine that you get from your neighbor's uncle, but it was yummy enough. Besides, we were being tourists for once!
Our first day we spent majority of the day hiking to Grotto Falls, which when we looked it up, said it was an easy hike to do. Well...we are here to say that it was not quite so easy for us! Take pity on us simple Floridians, we get tired going up a hill.
It really did take a good chunk of the day to get to Grotto Falls. One way was about 2.5 to almost 3 hours (not including the drive, which was about 30-45 minutes), and that was stopping with breaks in between to catch our breath and rest for a little. We were also hiking with some of our camera equipment, which definitely did not help us either.
Once we finally arrived at the Grotto, it was loaded with people. Not really a great way to start, but it was so beautiful. The water was roaring and was oh so cold! People where actually swimming in the little pool...I don't know how because we were freezing (especially me, but I get cold when a gust of wind blows by).
By the time we got back down to our car, we had spent a huge chunk of the day driving and hiking. The clouds were starting to turn grey, and with our recent experience with rain in the mountain, we decided to head back into town for a "late lunch, early dinner" and decide whether to head back out after, weather permitting.
Well, it poured. So we decided to stay in and plan for our next day, since we really had to make it count. We had really wanted to head back over to Clingman's Dome, which is the highest point in the Smokies; you have clear views in every direction and can see all the beautiful mountain ranges of the Appalachia.
It also rained in the morning. We couldn't get away from this rain! So we still decided to make the drive up to the Dome, and stopped along the way to snap some photos and take a time-lapse or two.
About 10 minutes from Clingman's Dome, is Newfound Gap, which straddles the state line between North Carolina and Tennessee. The rain starts to clear up by this point, so we whip out the camera again and start to take a time-lapse. Not long after, we start to see fog rolling in. Which was no big deal, that's why it's called the "smoky" mountains. Little did we know, that after it rains, that fog becomes a very dense mist that covers everything. We watched as the mountains below us became swallowed in swirls of white mist. It was eerie and fascinating to watch. And then we got swept in the cool mist too! We waited until it was safe enough to continue the trek up to the Dome, then headed up.
This was our view. We had no visibility when we made it to the top of the Dome! When we had made it to the parking area for Clingman's Dome, we had even taken a nap in the car to hopefully wake to a clearer view. Then we decided to hike, because we knew we were going to take forever to get to the top, and still hoped the mist would have disintegrated by then.
As you see, that was sadly not the case. We still had a great time, chatting with other visitors and taking hilarious photos of the views we were not seeing. We went back down, and of course...the mist had lifted. We were starting to think that the mountains were deliberately playing tricks on us!
All in all, we still had an incredible time. From the excessive long hike to a little grotto, to our mist-full views, we left with renewed vigor, and a taste for what our state parks have to offer. Dezi and I both decided then to start a bucket list to visit every state park in the US. We will come back to the Smokies though, because we're not quite done and I'm pretty determined to really see the Clingman's Dome in all her glory.