So, from Washington we decided to head down to the Great Smoky Mountains for a few jiu-jitsu free days. We jumped on Airbnb and managed to get a little cabin up in the mountains just out of Pigeon Forge. The drive there took us around 7hrs along the way we stopped if for a look at the “world’s largest knife showplace” or so they claimed at Knife Works. This place was huge and had every brand of knife you could imagine. We spent about an hour just walking around checking all the gear they had on display. It was very typical of what I would expect to see in outdoors shop in Tennessee they had everything from AR-15 machine guns to pink camo gear for the wife “or yourself”. We had to keep a close eye on the kids as Kobe was just itching to pick up one of the display machetes or swords and swing it around.
As we continued our way to our cabin it was really surprising to see all the amusement parks and places that popped up out of nowhere as we got closer to the Great Smoky Mountains. It defiantly seems that it is a popular place for people to come and visit for their vacations. We were pretty happy to bypass all of these and head straight to our cabin on the edge of the national park.
The following day we decided to head to the park and go on a hike. We had done a fair bit of research and found that there are around 1500 black bears in the park, which equates to about 2 bears every square mile…. I wasn’t too concerned though as I was quite sure I could out run Kobe and Lilly. I explained to the kids that I would just throw Kobe at the bear which would give the rest of the family ample time to escape why it ate him. For some reason, he wasn’t sold on the idea hahaha.
After a quick trip to the visitors centre we had a map in hand wand were off to our first hike. We headed off to Laurel falls trail, it was a paved trail to a lovely waterfall that was only a 2.6-mile round trip. It was a busy trail as it was fairly close to the visitor centre and could be done in a couple of hours. I think we were only 5min in before the “my legs are tired” chant began. Once we hit the waterfall we clambered down off the walkway to a area below it where the Lilly and Kobe could play around a bit near the water, where of course Kobe had to get his shoes wet. After we returned back to the car were headed up the mountain to Clingmans Dome the highest point by vehicle. The drive up winding through the mountains was probably one of the best parts. Once we reached the top the view was amazing we wandered around the area for a good hour admiring the sights before heading back down again.
The following day we were feeling a little more adventurous so we headed to the Kephart Prong trail, it’s a trail that follows a stream for a little over 4-miles round trip to the remains of a Civilian Conservation Corps camp. As we arrived at the trail start there were only 2 other cars there which was a big difference from our last hike. We headed up the trail and soon realized that we where going to be all alone for this one. It was such a nice hike with a few single log bridges winding along the stream and with no one around it was very peaceful apart from Lilly and Kobe trying to touch everything and run ahead. I had to make sure to keep them close just in case I had to throw them in-between myself and a bear haha. After walking for a little over an hour we reached he CCC camp where we decide to head up the trail for a little further but when the trail started to disappear a bit and the forest started to close in we headed back. On the way back I managed to slip into the stream getting my shoes soaking wet while trying to get a good photo of the kids walking across one of the bridges, which made for a very squishy walk back to the car.
After our hike, we headed to check out the town of Gatlinburg which is right on the national parks boarder. The town is very touristy and has everything from a Ripley’s believe it or not, to a moonshine distillery on the main street. After a Ben and Jerry’s Ice cream “that we definitely earned from all that waking” we headed back to our cabin. Our few days in the Great Smoky Mountains were fantastic, we had such a great time just getting out of the traffic and into the clean air of the mountains. It will be for sure one of the highlights of our trip even if we didn’t see a bear which was probably a good thing, for the kids at least. ?
It’s easy to see why this is America’s most visited National Park, if you’re ever around that way it has to be a stop on your trip. We left the park destine for Charlotte in North Carolina to get back to training Jiu-Jitsu refreshed and feeling great again.