Day 258 – 5/16/21 Cades Cove and Laurel Falls

We had a nice day seeing more of the Smoky Mountains National Park.

I had another great night of sleep, went to bed around 11 last night and got up around 8, for sure the record of the trip for me  🙂

We all really took our time today, I just wanted to do my writing and get bills caught up.  Bella woke up as I was writing, and I had her do some school work before using her phone.  Carol woke up soon after, and helped Bella find the page she needed.  Well, actually Carol could not find the paper, so she just printed it again.  It is a bit of a pain to have to print as we need to get the printer from under my boxes in my closet, set it up, then put it back, but it’s not a big deal.  Bia was the last one to wake up, and she woke up after 9.

I was able to finish my writing and took care of the bills.  Bella finished the pending school work.  Carol was on her phone for a while this morning, looking stuff up.  And Bia was working on her presentation on Wyoming.  She has to get a 3-5 minute presentation done, and needs to finish figuring out the content, and practice.  Fortunately for her, we’ve been there and it’s easy for her to know what to talk about, she just needs to practice so it sounds smooth, and she doesn’t make up stuff along the way. hahahaha.  When I was done, I started getting ready to leave for the day, and then pushed the ladies to get going too.  Bia was to bring her notebook along so she could practice through the day.  While they got ready I went outside to empty the black tank, and start loading the truck.  Carol made some sandwiches to go, got some fruit and snacks too.  We left around 11.

The plan today was to go to the Cades Cove area, and hit the Cades Cove loop first, so we headed that way.  It took about an hour to get there, but it is a beautiful drive.  Again, the roads in the park are amazing to drive around.  You go up the mountain, there is a river running along side the road, sometimes the road is pretty enclosed by trees, sometimes you have a view of the valley, it is very pretty. 

It is a bit different from some other national parks that have very specific things to see that are their signature.  Here, it’s the entire beauty of the area that makes it nice.  We only made one stop on our way to Cades Cove Loop, by a water fall which was just by the road, and it was very fast.  Carol just went in front of it and took some pictures, and we kept going.  As we drove through the day, Bia rehearsed her presentation and got better and better.  She would still throw in some stuff that was not quite correct, and Carol would get very frustrated and irritated that she was not being exact.  I told Carol to just let it go, she’d get better and better, but she had a hard time hearing Bia say “The Grand Tetons is a national park that has some mountains and canyons” hahahaha, Carol wanted more specific stuff based on reading, which is right, but Bia needs to get comfortable with little by little and add on top of what she got rather than try to give her the whole thing to do right away.  Anyway, Carol kind of gave up eventually and just let it be.

Cades Cove Loop is an 11 mile loop around Cades Cove, which is an area formed between mountain ranges.  The entire area was not too full today, which was good, but the amount of people was still enough to make this loop very slow.  It was slow, stop and go, and took us more than an hour to finish, but it was very worth it. 

The first half of the loop, you’re riding through some fields, with the mountain ranges behind them.  There are stories about the people who lived there in the beginning of the 19th century or what not, we could see some old houses and churches.  The audio guide we had said the loop was very pastoral, and it was right.  Very pretty.  By time we hit the second half of the loop, there was a slow down in traffic, and it got more intense by a turn, when we got there, it was because of a big black bear.  I let Carol and the girls out as we drove right by where the bear was, and parked a bit past it.  The bear was just eating kind of far back by the woods, but it was a straight shot from where we were, so it was easy to see it.  It was a bit far, so you couldn’t see great details, but we had our binoculars, so it was very cool to watch the bear.  The bear was pretty big, fluffy coat, and was just out there minding his own business eating.  We hung out there for a good amount of time.  I got some pictures through the binoculars, of Carol taking pictures of the bear, and it turned out decent. 

The iPhone has the 3 cameras so I think it makes it harder to do that.  Carol tested with the GoPro later and it looked like it would have worked perfect.  We continued driving, and soon hit another spot with another bear, this time a younger bear.  We stopped and took some pictures again.  Same type of thing, open field and the bear was way in the back, just out of the forrest line, eating.  As we drove towards the exit of the loop, we saw a couple more smaller bears, and just as we were about to exit, a very small cub crossed the road one car in front of us.  That was cool.  The cub was coming from the right and the people in the car spotted it and just stopped, so I saw it next and we stopped and the cub crossed right in front of them, continuing on and disappearing within 2-3 minutes.  And from there we were out.  The loop was definitely worth it for us, not only because it is very pretty, but we got to see bears easily, and super close.

From there, we wanted to do one more thing on this area, we wanted to do a hike, and Carol had found one that was short enough and had a waterfall at the end, so we went to Laurel Falls.  I’m glad we had a map of the area because I had no cel reception and I didn’t have offline maps of this area, but there are not that many roads around, so it was easy to get there.  As we drove towards that trail, Bia continued practicing for her presentation, and Carol continued not being comfortable with her content 🙂 hahahah.  We got to the parking area for the trail around 4, and got lucky someone was leaving as we arrived, the parking area was pretty full.  We all got our hiking shoes on, Carol put Maggie in the backpack and Bia took her.  I got the waters, a towel, and took my backpack, and off we went. 

The trail is an easy 1.3 miles to the falls.  It does have some ascending, but it’s not too hard.  Bella was chatty the entire time, on the way there and back.  Bia was talking too, but not as much as Bella. hahahahah… I love doing hikes with them, I love connecting with them, hearing their stories, having conversations about all kinds of stuff.  This hike was great.  As soon as we arrived by the waterfall area, Bella said she wanted to go down by where the water pools up, which you need to climb down rocks to get there.  We went first to the deck by the waterfall and took some pictures there.  That spot was a bit full of people, so we moved to the area Bella wanted to go next. 

That spot is not part of the trail, so not many people went there.  We did see a couple of people there, but like 3-4.  Bella wanted me to go first, so I started our climb down, and they came right behind.  No one needed help today, and we were soon by the water.  The water was pretty cold.  Once we were down there we explored around, took some pictures, checked out the water, etc. 

We hung out there for some time before heading back.  Carol had Maggie as we were in that area as Bia had a harder time crossing some rocks with Maggie, and then Carol kept Maggie the rest of the way.  As we started heading back, Bia said it was great to do this hike and especially the rocks part, she said she missed it.  She was walking and doing her happy dance, which I love and always try to get on camera :). On the way back, Bella continued chatting and talking non stop, telling me some story about some video game or what not, hahahaha….

As we got back to the truck I asked everyone how they liked the trail and got two thumbs up from everyone.  I for sure missed doing trails with them.  Now they both are looking forward to the trail we said we’d do Monday, which takes us behind a water fall, so we actually will see a waterfall from a different angle.  From there, we started driving towards town while Carol chose a place for us to have dinner.  

Carol chose the Mellow Mushroom pizza place for dinner, and without knowing exactly where it was, we went there.  The place ended up being in this very touristic area called The Island.  The area is full of restaurants, rides and even has shows.  If it was not by mistake, I don’t think we would have gone there. :). But, we were there, so we looked around as we walked towards the pizza place.  We had been to a pizza place called Mellow Mushroom before, in Alabama, which was super nice.  When we got to this one, we were quick to realize it was not the same.  This one was not quite a sit down and get served place, it was more of a “order at the counter and get a buzzer and we’ll bring to you” place.  But, it was fine.  We ordered, found a table, I got some beers and we waited for the pizza.  The pizza was actually pretty good, everyone really enjoyed their pizza. 

As we left the pizza place, we saw a few more things they had at this area, and went back to the truck and went home.  It was almost 8pm, so we had the girls shower right away.  Bia first, so she could finish preparing for her presentation tomorrow.  I helped her finish the pictures and an outline and she was pretty tired after that.  Bella was working with Carol on number facts while I was helping Bia.  We put the girls to bed around 9, and then got ready ourselves.

We had a great day at Cades Cove and Laurel Falls today.

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