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It was easier than I thought it might be to get (my hubby) going this morning. Turns out exploring the Smokies is considered relaxing, especially when I drive. We took the Parkway into the Park and took an immediate right after the Sugarlands Visitor Center on Little River Road.
Today we would journey on the Cades Cove Loop through Great Smoky Mountains National Park. With a backdrop of mountains, the road winds gently for 11 miles through a broad valley with lush and rolling hills. Traffic is sometimes heavy, especially during the tourist season and on weekends, but we lucked out today – only having to wait a short while to get photos without cars or other people in them. There are lots of turnouts to let impatient drivers pass, or to take yet another photo and I think we used almost all of them. It was a beautiful day for a drive and the scenery was fantastic.
“The Bottom Line: Cades Cove offers visitors the chance to experience one of the most picturesque valleys in the country and simultaneously enjoy historic structures and wildlife. This is a slow-paced drive and it is not uncommon for the 11-mile loop to take 2-4 hours to drive so don’t try to rush it.” – from nps.gov
“From early May through late September, only bicycle and foot traffic are allowed on the Cades Cove Loop until 10 a.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Vehicles can enter on Wednesdays and Saturdays after 10 a.m.”
“The valley has a rich history. For hundreds of years Cherokee Indians hunted in Cades Cove but archeologists have found no evidence of major settlements. The first Europeans settled in the cove sometime between 1818 and 1821. By 1830 the population of the area had already swelled to 271. Cades Cove offers the widest variety of historic buildings of any area in the national park.
Scattered along the loop road are three churches, a working grist mill, barns, log houses, and many other faithfully restored eighteenth and nineteenth century structures. Pick up the self-guiding tour booklet available at the entrance to the loop road for information about the buildings you’ll see in the cove and the people who lived here.” – READ MORE about Cades Cove
“Today, the National Park Service manages and maintains Cades Cove as it looked in the early days of the settlers. In 1945, the National Park Service designated Cades Cove as a “historical area” and restored several of the older log cabins and barns. While visiting Cades Cove, take a look around and imagine what it might have been like to grow up in the Cades Cove valley!” – READ MORE about the history of Cades Cove
The gentleman in the photo below has the right idea. Take your time when you come to Cades Cove. Relax and explore the past along with the wonderful drive to get there. We will probably take this drive on all future trips, we enjoyed it that much!
The website states (and our assumption was) that we would see lots of wildlife – including turkeys, deer, elk, bison and bears. We were slightly disappointed there, but we did see several flocks of turkeys.
Shortly after we left the historical area, we got behind several cars that were behind a hayrack-ride-full of kids on a field trip. We were getting a little annoyed at having to follow them at such a slow pace. When the procession seemed to halt, we discovered that they had spotted something in the woods beside us. As we waited patiently for our first glance at some wildlife, we could hear the branches breaking as this guy lumbered parallel to our car. When he made a turn to come towards me, I rolled up the window and he slowly went behind our car and into the woods on the other side of the road.
We made our way back to reality with smiles on our faces, that we saw a bear up close and personal. He didn’t seem too worried about us, or the stream of cars who were awed by him. I hope people weren’t stupid enough to follow him into the woods to get a better shot.
What a great day! That calls for some BBQ! Next stop was Bennett’s BBQ in Pigeon Forge, which was close to where this road would come to an end. We rubbed our bellies and wiped the sauce from our lips after another great day in the Smokies.
Next stop: the Mountain Farm Museum