Monday, July 7, 2014

From the Ocean to the Mountains-The Great Smokie Mountains

Sunset Jordan Lake

It was so difficult to say goodbye to the ocean-I’m a beach girl down to the bottom of my soul and heading for the Smokies was not what I wanted to be doing.  But I knew my sweetie wanted to try some fishing and he spoils me rotten so it was the least I could do.

Site 27 Jordan Lake

As we pointed in the direction of the Smokies we knew we needed a place that was halfway to our destination since we didn’t want to do the drive in one day.  We stumbled upon Jordan Lake State Recreation Area.  It’s a huge 14,000 acre reservoir with numerous campgrounds.  We booked 2 nights and immediately jumped into the lake.  What a shock-the water felt like it was about 85 degrees.  You had to kick the cold water up from the bottom or it felt like you were swimming in a warm bath.  This place has really nice campgrounds all around the lake-very family oriented and for those of you who enjoy a cold beer on a hot day-this is not the place for you.  I speak from experience as I was busted by the Ranger.  Jim had taken Hailey for a walk and I was inside making dessert for his return.  I heard someone yelling hello anyone home several times and then I realized he was in our campsite.  It was the ranger and he stopped to remind us to place our reservation tag on the wooden post and not on our dashboard.  As he glanced around the camp he spotted my Corona on the camp table and told me it was a misdemeanor to have alcohol in the park. I explained I didn’t know that.  He asked me to pour it out on the ground, which of course I quickly did-feeling like I had just been busted by my father!  He was very nice and said let’s just consider this a warning-OK?  Of course I said ok-and then he added in almost a whisper keep it inside on the down low and you’ll be ok.  Nice guy-Jim died laughing when I told him –needless to say we did our beer drinking inside Ruby for the remained of our stay.

Spotted this creative paint job on a bookstore as we passed through small town after small town 
en route to Asheville

Scenes from Asheville:

Did I mention how much we enjoyed Asheville?  It’s another city I would list alongside Austin TX.  Artsy, musical, walking friendly, lots of green spaces and friendly welcoming people. Oh and they had a Brueggers Bagel Shop, one of our favorites and of course we loaded up.

Loft-great little shop

 Plus I found the coolest little artsy shop-LOFT- and bought a dragonfly wind chime to remind us of this portion of the trip.

The other place we fell in love with that I also forgot to mention is Black Mountain-a very cool mountain town just east of Asheville.  You have to stop there-incredible restaurants and lots of cool little shops-another artsy community. We had a fabulous lunch at Thai Basil in town and then walked off the calories as we toured the town.

 Delicious lunch in Black Mountain

 Downtown Black Mountain

If we ever make it back to Black Mountain we are dining here-the smells were incredible when we went by

Love all the day lilies and wild flowers along North Carolina Highways !

After 2 days at Jordan Lake and 1 night at Bear Creek RV Resort in Asheville,  we were ready to head to the Smokies. We hadn’t been to the Smokies for about 30 years.  Instead of doing the tourist stops, Gatlinburg and Cades Cove we headed to the smallest campground in the park that is vehicle accessible.  Cataloochee Campground with a total of 27sites, a men and women’s restroom, no showers, no hookup, fresh mountain spring water from a hand pump and gorgeous scenery along Cataloochee Creek.

The Smokies overlooking Maggie Valley

When planning this trip I read the reviews about the campground and almost every single reviewer said this was their favorite spot in the Smokies but the road in was horrible-they described it as rutted, dirt and gravel washboard, huge potholes and very narrow with steep drop offs.  Did I share that with Jim?  Nope!  I just told him the paved road turned to gravel for a bit.  Lucky for me the road had been recently graded so it wasn’t as bad as everyone described.  The narrow portions though were always on blind curves so I would make Jim sound Ruby’s horn as we came around the bend.  I would never drive this road in the dark or during a rain storm!

We discovered that most of the people who camp here are mostly from North Carolina and have returned to this site year after year with their families.  We met Bruce and Heywood from Chicago who made the drive in one night-he comes here because 14 years ago it was the first campground he brought his wife to so it holds special memories and now he’s making even more memories with his son.

 Our daily swimming hole !

The campsites are nestled under some of the tallest trees I have seen in a long time-that meant very little solar for Ruby and with no electric hook ups we were power challenged.  We didn’t want to be the rude RV campers with the generator since most of the folks were in tents, so we would drive to the open field of the group area and charge our solar panels for a bit.

Getting our solar fix for the day

Hailey and I found this little spring house while out exploring

 Ice cold spring water

Elk roam the open fields and roadways usually early morning and just at sunset.  It’s a tradition in the evening to go in search of them.  We saw our share of elk and wild turkeys while we were there along with my favorite the firefly aka lightening bug!  It was sweet to lay in the back of Ruby at night and watch them lighting up the forest around us.

Since we didn’t have camp showers we normally took advantage of the clear mountain creek water and went swimming every day to rinse of the days dirt!  It was always revitalizing –in 63 degree water. Our last 2 nights in the campground the temperature actually dropped to 52-a temperature we hadn’t experienced in about 6 months.  We actually slept under a quilt and down comforter-quite the switch from Ocracoke with the fans blowing to cool us down.
I noticed that I had many dreams of my childhood while camping here.  I can only guess that the smell of the woods and the mountain water triggered the memories.  When I was very young we use to spend a great deal of time at a place called Conneaut Lake Park in the Pennsylvania Mountains and the trees and streams in the Smokies reminded me of that park. Plus the lightening bugs-we were those nasty little children who use to take their tails and smear them on our fingers like rings-cruel I know and I apologize to all generations of lightening bugs!

Our first sign of civilization coming out of the park-doesn't this look like the perfect place to daydream and relax ?

After 8 days with no hot showers I’m looking forward to moving on.  Our next stop is a place called Brown Mountain Beach Resort in the mountains of North Carolina and about 90 minutes north east of Asheville.
So Happy Trails my friends, it’s going to be even longer before I get to update you on our travels-no Wi-Fi in the Smokies and no connections at the place we are heading to.  Until later-safe travels.


  1. My little sister lives in Black Mountain and we spend quite of bit of time in the Asheville area. That area is blessed with a thriving art and restaurant scene along with gorgeous scenery. I have always wanted to visit Cataloochee to camp and see the elk but my sister warned my that the road is a bit sketchy. Do you think I can get my Airstream back their? Do you think I can get it back their without my wife flipping out?

  2. Doug a 28ft airstream made it to the campground with no problems !