waterfalls

Best Smelling Restroom, Evah!

If you're new to following us, I'll tell you that we love Tennessee! We come as often as we can and have bobbed and weaved chasing waterfalls along the way. This trip we spent two nights getting to Gatlinburg so we could see some beauties in the Monteagle area and the Fall Creek Falls State Park.
As I am writing this, we are back on I-40 heading to lunch at Full Service Barbecue in Maryville, TN.  We woke up to snow in Fall Creek Falls and hiked to the main fall which was stunning! The hike was a little steeper than I recall but short and easy. It's rocky with plenty to see.

Trail to Fall Creek Falls

Fall Creek Falls

 The water was flowing with all the rain they've had and the snow was starting to accumulate. We opted to drive to Cane's Creek Falls (<-video of falls) and park at the Nature Center so we could just hop in the car after and head out. We probably would have hiked it if we were staying another night and had more time. Either way you come out at the gorgeous Falls that cascade two levels. From the main overlook there was another fall back to the right that was tall! The lady at the Nature Center told me it was called Rockhouse Falls.

Rockhouse Creek Falls

Suspension Bridge over Cane's Creek

View from the Suspension Bridge

Darren picked up a new book at the Nature Center as well. Waterfall Walks and Drives of Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee will be the source for many new hikes, I am sure!
They park staff was great sweeping the snow from the suspension bridge and the stairs. It was all so nice! It was 27 degrees out but didn't feel cold at all. Not until we got in the truck sweaty and then got out for gas a ways down the road...33 then felt like 12!  Heated seats never felt so good!
The snow stopped as we got onto I-40, when I was writing earlier. We had a clear drive into Maryville for lunch. It was about 35 degrees out so we grabbed our ribs and ate in the truck. Full Service is an old gas station and only has outdoor seating at this location. They have the best smelling bathrooms evah! I know, that's weird. The bathrooms backup to the smokehouse so it smells like smoked ribs!!! It is rather strange walking into a restroom and enjoying the smell! Leave it to us to find such a gem...

Full Service BBQ

The ribs are so good they fall off the bone. Darren said the flavor was so good they must have been smoking these since we were here in August. I have to agree! I didn't even like ribs before I tried these. (I know I shouldn't admit that since I am from Texas...I don't like chicken fried steak either now that I am confessing.) This is a must stop for all carnivores. Dry ribs rock!
As we continued on, we went through Townsend, Wears Valley, Piegon Forge and then onto the Parkway to our resort. If you have followed us on Facebook, you know that our resort caught fire in December. Thankfully, some of the cabins were spared and here we are!  We could see some of the destruction driving in but when we turned onto our property, tears filled my eyes. It was overwhelming to look up the side of the mountain and not see it how we left it last summer. I couldn't even look at the parking attendant. I was afraid I'd look like a crazy woman.
We will post some pictures tomorrow for those curious. After hiking today, the only thing I wanted to do when we got here was unpack and shower. Darren took a few pictures and we will take plenty more I am sure. Be sure to follow us on Facebook if you don't already! I posted some live videos today and will do the same as the week continues!
We'd also love to hear from you in the comments. Let us know if there is anything here you'd like to know about or see? If you have any questions about any of the hikes, we'd love to help!

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How To See Six Waterfalls In One Day!

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference." ~Robert Frost Yesterday, we headed out for our first parents only trip in six years. It was hard to leave our sixteen year-old, but she will have a blast with her 29 year-old sister; especially, riding around in sister's new Jeep with the top off! They've got manicures and pedicures on the schedule, as well. Sounds like great sister bonding time!

As usual, Darren planned a wonderful trip. We got out of town yesterday around 3:30pm. We wanted to make it to Memphis to maximize our day today. We did make it to the East side of Memphis which we've found is a nice area right off I-40 to stay with plenty of eating options.

We arrived late so the snacks in the car were our dinner. Which brings me to a few travel tips, pack: •    snacks within reach in the car •    drinks, think about what you'd want to drink with your snacks, water for taking medications and for staying hydrated, and whatever you'd drink for breakfast if you don't drink coffee or juice. (Are we the only rare people that don't drink either?) •    hiking boots in a plastic tote and take a pair of flip flops/crocs/slides for swapping out after a hike. The tote will keep the dirt/mud contained and makes for easy clean up. We leave the tote with the dirty boots in the car and change into and out of our boots at the car. Keeps the hotel/cabin cleaner too! •    a gallon size ziplock bag to collect all your hotel soaps. (We are collecting this time for my daughter's mission trip to Brazil this summer.) •    an old towel and some wipes to clean any mud off your legs (I usually kick myself and get mud right above my boot. Maybe I just need to learn how to walk.)

We didn't have a room reserved for the night so I drove while Darren did his magic on TripAdvisor. We stayed at a nice Hyatt Place Hotel. It had one of the best hotel free breakfasts we've ever had. Well, besides the one in San Antonio that had a breakfast taco bar. All South Texans would agree, breakfast tacos rock!

After breakfast we snagged a couple apples for our hike and loaded up for our next stop...Greeter Falls in Monteagle, Tennessee. Last summer we did this hike. Little did we know there had been a drought and it was a trickle!

When we first left Memphis headed east, the speed limit was only 65mph on the interstate. It was a nice speed trap with cops everywhere. I don't recall it being like this before but just beware if you are doing that way. Even after the speed limit changed to 70mph, the cops were still out until at least Jackson. Maybe that's why I -40 in Tennessee is better than in Arkansas? They can afford to fix the roads! Haha!

Stopped for lunch at one of our favorites, Whitts Barbecue. Doesn't look like much from the outside but the food is always great.

Free Maps!

We always like to stop at the ranger station or park headquarters before we set out on hikes. They can tell you water levels, and if there are any hazards to look out for on the trails. They usually have great maps and even a visual small scale mountain map…I am sure that has a fancy name but it escapes me at this moment. It’s 10:35pm, I hiked to six waterfalls at this point and I am beyond pooped so help me out…

When we stopped for the info, we were reminded of all the many falls that were in this area. We intended on only hiking to two that were pretty short. We decided to take on the Grundy Forest Day Loop with the extra 1.2 miles for Sycamore Falls. The water was high and the falls were full. In fact, we entered the loop to the right and passed several mini falls and cascades along the way. The trail is nice, ups, downs and flats. Don’t be fooled by the sign like the couple was that passed us on the trail. They thought the Sycamore Falls sign said 6 miles when it said .6 miles. You cross over a nice bridge to get to that trail and it is a stunning hike. A few narrow points but other than that it was great. We finished out the loop in a hurry as we wanted to make it to Greeter Falls before dark.

Again, the ranger gave us great directions along with addresses that we could put in our GPS so getting from one fall to another was a piece of cake. Greeter is in the Savage Gulf State Natural Area. The trail was muddy so we knew it would have water in the fall. It didn’t disappoint! It was worth the trek down the spiral staircase and other stairs.

Greeter Falls

After, we climbed out with shaky legs, we decided to go ahead to Boardtree Falls. That short little hike revealed my favorite of the day. The last time we were here it was completely dry. Not even a trickle. Today was amazing! Such a beautiful cascading fall.

See Darren at the bottom of Boardtree Falls!

We ended our day arriving at Fall Creek Falls State Park. We’ve been here before too. Enjoyed a nice dinner in their lodge. I had the salmon and Darren had the buffet. We are settled in for the night and will hike the falls in this park in the morning before heading on to Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

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Don't Make This Mistake When Buying Hiking Boots!

Pinecone in Sequoia National Park

Size Matters!

The first mistake I made in buying a new pair of hiking boots was buying them in my size. When we first started hiking I didn't know much about hiking or gear. We went to a local sporting goods store to try on hiking boots. I wanted something cute and comfortable. I knew I wanted high tops for the ankle support. Unfortunately, there wasn't many cute ones to choose from but I found a pair that was comfy and high top. I purchased a size eight. In dress shoes/boots I normally were a seven and a half. I went up a half size to compensate for the thicker hiking socks.

Out on the trail, I quickly learned that my hiking boots were too small.  When you're on a flat trail or go up a steep hill they fit just fine but coming back down that incline your feet slide forward in the boots smooshing your toes into the boots. Yes, I said smooshing. I'm from Texas and we say that. Needless to say, my little piggies weren't very happy with me. No matter how tight I laced them, you can't beat gravity, and my foot would slide.

I logged plenty of miles in those boots but the next time we went hiking boot shopping we went to a store more equip for selling hiking boots. It had a ramp you could walk up and down when trying on the boots. This time around I purchased a size 10! Much better! No more toe smooshing!

Above all, size is the most important thing to think about when ordering or purchasing hiking boots.

Two reasons to rethink your size:

  1. Downhill
  2. Thick socks

Something else to consider, waterproof boots.  Darren and I both have completely waterproof boots. Not rain boots but waterproof hiking boots. At first, we weren't sure if we would need waterproof or not but it sure has been nice especially since we are waterfall chasers. We have been able to walk right through shallow streams, right up to waterfalls and even wore them on the rugged beaches of Northern California when the water was freezing our toes were still dry! I personally don't think the waterproofing makes them hotter than usual, maybe it is the great wicking socks that keep our feel cool.

Purchasing hiking boots is completely optional obviously but I can tell you first hand that my high tops have saved me many times from sprained ankles on rugged or rocky trails. We have seen people in all types of shoes out on the trails. From dress boots, to flip flops and everything in between. I can't imagine doing that to my feet. I want to enjoy my hike and keep my feet safely blister-free for my next hike!

Our current boots our older models now but are similar to these:

Another option for you may be trail running shoes. My current favorites are pictured below. I am not currently running any trails but the tread on the bottom serves the same purpose when hiking those trails. I love that this shoe comes in cute colors and is very reasonably priced. I just ordered these pink ones from

Trail Shoes

Amazon. These shoes have outlasted my normal running shoes because of the thicker tread. When we are at home, we walk on a roughly paved road two-four miles every evening. The tread on these can handle it!

Saucony Excursion TR9 Trail Running Shoes

Overall things to consider when shopping for hiking boots/shoes:

  1. Size Matters
  2. High top vs. Low  (we recommend high or mid)
  3. Waterproof vs. Mesh
  4. Sock type

 

 

 

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3 Free Things You Must Do in The Smoky Mountains

There is so much to do and see in the Great Smoky Mountains. In Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge there are plenty of places to spend money. If you are traveling with children or teenagers we suggest giving them a budget so they can decide how they will spend their money. From shopping, shows, miniature golf, go-carts, Ferris wheels, bungee jumping, indoor sky diving, arcades, mountain coasters and more! Set your parameters with the kids ahead of time so the flashy lights and attractions don't sink you from the start. We prefer to head to the woods. Don't get me wrong, we partake in some of the attractions, but we prefer the woods. Here are three motor trails that would only cost you gas and time. Pack a picnic (remember to bear proof it), load the cooler and hit the road. Even if you never step foot out of the car you'd be glad you made these drives. Each one is packed with things to see and do. Plan ahead if you want to do some hiking, swimming or hammocking.

Fall in the Smoky Mountains

  1. Roaring Fork Motor Trail: from the Parkway (441) in Gatlinburg coming from Pigeon Forge the traffic lights are numbered. Take a left at #8 Historic Motor Trail Road. Follow the road until it forks to the right. At first, the road will be two lanes but once you get into the actual 5.5 mile motor trail it  narrows to a ONE WAY loop. It is paved but buses, trailers, and motor homes are not permitted on the motor nature trail.  Leave plenty of time to stop at the pull-outs for great pictures or to explore the old cabins. There are several great hiking trails along the motor trail but you should prepare/plan ahead of time. Do your homework! The only easy family friendly, spur of the moment, "hey, get out of the car and come see!" is the Bud Ogle Trail. It is a short loop less than a mile. It is easy and mostly flat. There is an old mill beside a beautiful mountain stream that everyone will love. The huge moss covered boulders are gorgeous. There are several more stops along the Motor Trail. Enjoy, watch for bear, snakes and wildlife and leave nothing behind. Plan 2-4 hours depending on how much you get out to explore and traffic.

    Bear in Cades Cove

  2. Cades Cove: from the Parkway (441) in Gatlinburg head South toward Cherokee (our through Gatlinburg if your coming from the Pigeon Forge side, you can also take the Gatlinburg Bypass). You will see signs for the Sugarland Visitor's Center. Take a right onto Fighting Creek Gap Road. It's the second street outside of Gatlinburg. You might want to stop for a potty break at the visitor's center because you've got 27 miles of a beautiful winding road all next to a stream. If your from Texas don't think 27 miles equals 27 minutes. This is a twisted road and the speed limit is between 20-35mph. USE pull-offs if cars are stacking up behind you or if you want to stop for pictures. This drive alone is scenic with waterfalls, the stream and tunnels. Make note of Laurel Falls, you'll want to come back to this or stop on the way. It's a paved 2.5 mile round trip hike to an always beautiful waterfall. This is where the road changes to Little River Road. There are also four other falls, Upper Meigs at the Sinks, Spruce Flats in the Tremont area, and Abrams and Crooked Arm Cascades in Cades Cove you may want to do along this road so plan to see which one fits your level or which ones you want to come back to. The Sinks is a nice stop. This thunderous cascade is worth it. After leaving the sinks, keep an eye out for Meigs Falls. There will be a pull out on the side of the road. Worth the stop! Both the Sinks and Meigs Falls is a quick in and out of the car or you can linger at the Sinks. There are also several camp grounds to explore along the way. Once you get to Cades Cove follow the signs to the restroom before you hit the loop. Traffic is slow going and if you hit a bear jam you could be there for a while. We have spotted bear here every trip except one. There are several old churches to stop at and a visitors center, restroom and working old mill about half way around the loop. Please be courteous and use pull offs! The loop is only 11 miles but can get backed up if drivers don't pull off for every picture. Up for a swim? You can splash in the cold river where Little River Road intersects Laurel Creek Road just before the Townsend turn off after leaving the cove. If you've had a full day and want to get back to town quicker, cut through Townsend. Look for the signs after leaving the cove. You will take a left on E. Lamar Alexander Parkway. Then take a right on 73/321/Wears Valley Road this will bring you out across from The Island in Pigeon Forge. Important note: Cades Cove is closed to motor vehicles until 10am on Saturday and Wednesdays so bicyclists can use the loop safely. You can rent bikes! Plan for a full day. Pack a picnic and bring a cooler. There is so much to do and see!

    Elk by Oconaluftee Visitor Center in Cherokee, NC

  3. New Found Gap: from Gatlinburg take 441 South toward Cherokee. This road has the Sugarland Visitor Center on the Tennessee side and the Oconaluftee Visitor Center on the North Carolina side. Plenty to see when you stop in the middle! 360 degree views! Appalachian Trail entrance is right by the restrooms, check it out.  Again, not in Texas anymore this 32 mile trek will take you over an hour during heavy tourism. Don't ride your brakes! It smells bad and well, you might need them later. Learn how to drive in lower gears. You will be going up the mountain to the state line and then down the mountain either back to Tennessee or into North Carolina. Again, there is plenty to see along the way and hikes to make note of are Alum Cave, Chimney Tops and Clingman's Dome. All of these are hikes and should be planned. While Clingman's Dome is paved, it is the highest elevation in the park at 6,643 feet and you feel it walking up the little paved road. It's worth it! Plus, it's one more place you can step onto the Appalachian Trail. If you decide to go into Cherokee, you might see Elk herds in the grassy area by the Oconlauftee Visitor Center. Definitely go all the way to the dead end on 441 until you get to 19. Take a left and you will see nice shopping centers on the right and left. There is plenty to do in Cherokee as well. Free things, chase more waterfalls in the Cherokee-Deep Creek area, find Mingo Falls, and Soco Falls which is just a windy way down 19. Soco is a nice little pull off with an over look or you can climb down to the falls. Both Mingo and Soco are good falls for little effort. Paid things include shopping, eating at unique places, Harrah's Cherokee Casino (no children), and to really get a feel for the culture check out Unto These Hills. Plan a day if you are going over into Cherokee, depending on if you are hiking or how many pull-offs you stop at. Don't rush it as there is so much to see and there will be others enjoying the beauty as well.

Okay, so I said three free things but as you can see the GSMNP is full of free things to do and see. We've been at least once a year for the past ten years and haven't seen or done it all. We love it! My best advice would be to always have some snacks and water on hand so if you get side tracked you'll be prepared. For more information on what to have in your backpack click here.

We want to hear from you. Tell us what free things you like to do in GSMNP or if this will be your first visit, let us know if this was helpful.

Happy Travels!

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Disclosure: Some of the above links are affiliate links, which means that if you click them and buy something we make a commission — at no extra cost to you. This is just one way we are able to keep this blog going. So if you enjoy the blog and were going to buy this stuff anyway, this is a great way to show your support. And don’t forget: We only recommend products and services that we use and love.

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How to chase waterfalls in the Smoky Mountains

Best book for chasing waterfalls! The easiest way to navigate the waterfalls in the Smoky Mountains is to buy this little book. We purchased one on our first trip and had a blast chasing waterfalls. This little gem is small enough to carry on the trail but full of all the information you need:

-Pictures of the waterfalls (is it worth the hike)

-Elevation gain

-Round trip mileage (nothing worse than thinking it's a four miler when it is really an eight miler)

-Directions to the trailhead

-Directions to the falls themselves

We love this book so much, one year we couldn't find it so we bought another! We write the dates we hiked each one on the page along with any other important details we might want to remember.

Get your copy now and start planning and training if need by for those elevation gains!

 

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Disclosure: Some of the above links are affiliate links, which means that if you click them and buy something we make a commission — at no extra cost to you. This is just one way we are able to keep this blog going. So if you enjoy the blog and were going to buy this stuff anyway, this is a great way to show your support. And don’t forget: We only recommend products and services that we use and love.

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