Knowing that we hadn't eaten breakfast and would have to get some lunch in Gatlinburg, I had it in mind to stay near Gatlinburg in the morning on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and venture further afield to Cades Cove in the afternoon. Before we left the Lodge, we got a couple of recommendations for lunch and decided to stop at the more promising of the two.
At the Visitors Center, a wonderful volunteer gave us a quick orientation on the map and showed us some of her highlights of the park. Ann asked her for a waterfall to see and she suggested Rainbow Falls or Laurel Falls. We decided to see Laurel Falls after lunch as it was on the way to Cades Cove. I would have liked to have seen Rainbow Falls but we didn't have enough time to make that hike and do all the other things on our list.
From the Visitors Center to the beginning of the motor nature trail, it is necessary to drive down the main drag of Gatlinburg. Gatlinburg is unique in that it is basically a one-road valley town whose traffic lights are numbered. This certainly makes it easy to give directions to tourists, such as "Turn right at traffic light number 8."
Gatlinburg is certainly touristy but is nothing compared to the hellhole that is Pigeon Forge: Gatlinburg at least has some charm, some trees, and the beautiful west fork of the Little Pigeon River running through it. I can see how getting around at the height of tourist season would be a chore, but in the offseason, especially early on a Monday morning, we had an easy go of it heading east to the start of the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.
Within moments of turning off the main drag, we found ourselves at peace in the woods and as we climbed the views became nicer and nicer.
|Overlook on Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail|
|Blue Phlox and Tiarella Cordifolia|
|Detail from Alex Cole Cabin|
|Detail from Homer Bales Barn|
|Trilliums in Bloom|
|Smoky Mountain Brewery: Beautiful Open Space|
|Wings for Ann|
|Ruben for Ed|
After lunch, Ann wanted to ride the ski lift up the mountain above town, but I put my best pouty face on and insisted that we needed to get a move on. I'm not sure she has forgiven me yet, but we did arrive in Cades Cove in time to see a mama bear and her two cubs. I hope that was at least some compensation for vacating Gatlinburg immediately after lunch.