Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Chattanooga, The Smokey Mountains, Blue Ridge Parkway, & Skyline Drive

After six weeks hanging around in Missouri (not doing much blog post worthy things except talking) with friends & family, putting a solid piece of vinyl flooring over our carpeting, crocheting several hanging pockets to keep things off my very limited counter space, & completing several VA appointments, we FINALLY got to head east. It was SOO good to be on the road again.

First we slid down to Chattanooga TN to visit with Lynn & David (Casita in the Desert, Casita in the Mountains), fellow Casita owners & visitors in Poudre Canyon this summer. Lynn’s latest blog post describes our visit. They were excellent hosts & guides!

First off, I’d never been to Chattanooga & was totally blown away by the surrounding mountains. Yes, I’d been told, but seeing is much different than hearing. We snugged our trailer into their backyard & had two fabulous days of full-on sightseeing. We walked across the oldest bridge across the Tennessee River that’s been turned into a walking bridge, visited a local farmers’ market, saw the dam across the River east of town, toured the mountains farther east of town, drove west of town up Signal Mountain, & went south of town to Lookout Mountain. Wow, just a gorgeous area & great hosts. Here’s a few of the photos, but click on this photo to view the entire album.



We reluctantly left our friends for The Great Smokey Mountains in NC/TN. We stayed at Happy Holiday RV Park in Cherokee NC where a big Casita rally is held. We’d planned to stay in the National Park, but there were just too many trees (even leafless) to get a satellite TV signal. (Yeah, I know. . .but I’m NOT‘camping’, I LIVE here.) The next day, we traveled west (back into TN) thru The Great Smokey Mountains National Park. WOW!

The road goes up & over the highest peak in the Park where we saw 1-2” of snow. Then we turned south to Cades Cove. A cove is a southern word for a mountain valley. We saw a nice bull elk shortly after entering the Park from Cherokee, & then turkey & white-tail deer in Cades Cove. Jeff got a glimpse of a black bear walking off thru the woods, but I missed it.



Our day was quickly running out of sunlight, so we exited the Park on the west side at Gatlinburg TN (instead of returning to Cherokee). Very, very busy tourist town that day – people all over the sidewalks. We stayed at Fox Fire Riverside Campground, a little RV park near Hartford TN along I-40. On the way tho, we missed a turn & ended up on a very narrow, wooded, snowy, steep road climbing up the side of a mountain, going the wrong direction from our destination. Whew, was I ever nervous being on that road. My amazing, truck-driving husband tho found a small wide place in the road to make a u-turn to get us back to the missed turn toward the campground.

After breakfast the next morning at a little cafĂ© along I-40, we picked up the Blue Ridge Parkway in Ashville NC to head north to visit Jeff’s mother in Virginia. It’s a well maintained road with only an occasional stop sign & lots of (bare now) hardwood trees, some evergreens, a plethora of azaleas or mountain laurels or something with thick green leaves. Unfortunately, we missed the Fall foliage in the area so the distant mountain views were pretty brown & drab. And a fire near Table Rock (NC) put a lot of smoke also in the valleys to the north, so I didn’t get many good views or photos.


After a long day of driving the curvy road, we barely made it into Virginia to the Cool Breeze Campground that evening about the time the drizzle started. I had to walk up to the office to get a (flakey) cell fon signal, but had internet on my fon in the trailer. It rained some that night, so the next morning was very, very foggy. . .especially on those ridges of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

In fact, after several hours of creeping along in the fog, barely seeing 20’ down the road at times & definitely no scenic views, we jumped off the Parkway north of Roanoke VA. We thought about stopping to see the Natural Bridge (one in Virginia – who knew?), but after weeks in southern Utah last winter seeing huge, gorgeous, red natural bridges & arches, paying $20 each to see this one just didn’t seem like a good buy for us.

Because of the cargo deck on the back of the Casita (holding our four 6V batteries), Jeff didn’t feel like we could safely get up his mother’s very, very steep driveway so we stayed at Swift Run Campground, east of Elkton VA, 16 miles from his mom’s house. The storms that caused all the horrible tornadoes in IL & IN only brought some rain over night, & the next day was gorgeous, warm, beautifully clear, & sunny although a bit windy. We took the opportunity to travel on Skyline Drive in the Blue Ridge Mountains (east side of the Shenandoah Valley) which is a continuation of the Blue Ridge Parkway & the (hiking) Appalachian Trail. Again the bare trees were a pretty drab but actually allowed much better views of distant scenes than a wall of green leaves would have done.

We’re heading back to Missouri soon for an early Thanksgiving meal with Jeff’s daughter & family, then another early holiday meal with my parents, actual Thanksgiving Day with my cousin in Branson, & the last of our follow-up VA appointments. Then —THEN —finally we can head south for the winter (fingers crossed we get gone before any snow flies). We’re stopping by Larry Gamble’s Little House Custom for a few repairs mid-December, a visit with Jeff’s uncle near New Braunfels TX on the way to check out Big Bend NP & the Marfa TX lights. Then we’ll be investigating more of NM & AZ, & make it to the Quartszite gathering of fiberglass “eggs” again in February. Otherwise, we have no more “have to” dates for the winter. We’re ready & looking forward to seeing (& feeling) the Desert again. I haven’t been bored enough since leaving CO to even read a book, so we’re needing some serious veg-time.

If you’re anywhere near our expected route this winter, let me know so we can meet up.


  1. We'll miss you in Big Bend but catch up in Feb in the desert! Missed the colors...but what a beautiful area to tour...on our list! Been years since Gatlinburg...and the Smokies! Onward...you two are moving right along!

  2. Wondered where you landed in Cherokee? We also would have chosen the Happy Holiday park.

    Loved your pictures, especially the first ones and most of all, that fifth one of the Smokies. Safe travels and see you in the desert!

  3. WOW is right!!! Those pictures of the Smokies are just breathtaking!!! You guys have a great Thanksgiving (sounds like you'll be enjoying several good meals with family) and safe travels!!

  4. That's just a great area...I guess you missed the Fall colors by a couple weeks...even without that its a magnificent place to travel through...super photo's...did you go to Front Royal or any of those other small towns at the end of Skyline Drive....thanks for sharing....Safe Journey..Horst sends

  5. Lovely photos...America is so beautiful! We're fellow Missourians, and we'll be spending our Thanksgiving holidays camped in Missouri's woods...LOL It's our "tradition" as empty nesters to spend Thanksgiving "winterized" for the most part.

  6. I'm continuing to enjoy your travels. I'm nearly caught up to the present. Glad you got through the smokies and shenandoah. We travelled through there last April. It's a beautiful area; you got some great pix.


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