Our destination for the first night was barely over the Tennessee border, in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I’d never been there before, but it seemed like a good place to stop and incorporate some nature into our trip.
This definitely beat sticking to the freeway for our trip.
Our first stop of the evening was at our campsite. I made a reservation in advance, but the place wasn’t too crowded.
We’d brought along my parents’ old tent to sleep in. It had seen many a scout campout, but the zipper on the main door was broken. So we secured the opening with clothes pins that night and threw it away in the morning. It had a good run.
I don’t tend to use sleeping mats or air mattresses or fancy things like that. I’m not sure my dad agreed with that choice, but he could have brought whatever he wanted! It was especially dicey because there was nowhere to put our tent but on gravel.
There were a lot of snide comments about how he’d already slept on the ground enough for one lifetime. In the end, he sucked it up and spent one more night outside.
Of course this wasn’t really a camping trip, so we weren’t fully prepared to live in the woods. After we set up the tent we went back into the nearest town for some dinner.
Luckily for us, that nearby town was Gatlinburg, TN. Gatlinburg and the surrounding areas are the epitome of a tourist trap.
On the drive in we stopped to see the Titanic memorialized as a restaurant, complete with iceberg and bow wave.
And we couldn’t just drive on past this upside down building.
But the highlight of it all had to be this car museum, complete with Herbie (the Love Bug). His hood even came up automatically!
In the end, Gatlinburg was a huge win, although one evening of crowded streets and Ripley’s-type attractions was enough to tide me over for the week. Unfortunately we didn’t have the time to stop at Dollywood in nearby Pigeon Forge, TN. I guess we’ll have to go back.
After dinner and some sight-seeing, we headed back to the campsite. We built a campfire and roasted the requisite marshmallows. It was a relaxing evening after a long, but fun, day of driving.
The next morning we packed up (okay, threw out) the tent and went for a hike before getting back on the open road. Dad wore his finest attire for our foray into nature.
At the end of the trail there was a nice waterfall.
Gatlinburg was the perfect mix of nature and gaudy tourist destination. Great for a quick stop through on a road trip. Highly recommended if you’re ever in the area.