Ending in The Great Smokey Mountains (October 2015)

Arrival Nashville, Tennessee – There is nothing more inspiring to me than being above the clouds and seeing the sunrise.

Arriving Nashville TN

Breakfast in Nashville before driving to Arkansas. I work with someone who has family in Nashville so who better to ask about best breakfast places than someone who knows the area. My friend Robin, gave me two places to check out but, Fido’s was the easiest place to find and park so that’s where I landed for breakfast. I didn’t really give the name much thought, until I went to open the door, I laughed, stepped back and took this picture.

Fido Nashville TN
Fido Nashville TN

There were many reasons I started this healing journey but, one of the biggest reasons was losing my friend “Blue Dog” to a misunderstanding. Looking at the Fido picture, hopefully you can see why I laughed. The universe has many ways of showing us signs, if you keep your eyes open the signs will reveal themselves to you.  You have to be open to seeing them tho.  Based on the many signs I’ve seen along this journey, I believe my friend is with me in spirit. In fact he’s probable a bit jealous at all the camping and exploring I’ve been doing 😛

YUM Coffee Nashville TN
YUM / Coffee

 

Arkansas

After breakfast, I had a four hour drive to Crowley Ridge State Park and I still had to pick up supplies for the next couple of day so four hours is really 5-6 with stops.

Like most other places I’ve camped, this park has influences by the CCC, so before setting up my tent I took a short walk along the boardwalk and explored the old pavilion within the park. As I walk around these places, I find myself  thinking about the history of these places and what life must have been like when these parks, sites were created.

Crowley Ridge State Park
Crowley Ridge State Park / Trails by the CCC

 

Pavilion and Bath House
Pavilion and Bath House built by the CCC 1930’s

 

This is how it starts, first night; unpack the gear, set up my tent, start a fire and then organize the car for the next morning. This has been my routine everytime I’ve gone out on a camping trip as far back as I can remember.

Gear to make a home
All the gear I need to make a home

 

The Teton Sports Mountain Ultralight 2 person tent has been my go to tent for most of 2015, easy set-up and more room than I really need.  It weighs roughly the same as my other Teton Sports tent, I absolutely love that it has two sides that open for air movement along with easy in and out accessibility.

Arkansas Campsite
Arkansas Campsite

 

LOVE CAMPFIRES

Campfire
Campfire

 

Missouri

St Louis was never in the plan. For some reason I woke up and mapped how long it would take to get there. Only three hours ok, I can do that and find another place to camp. Since the Arch in St Louis is considered the Gateway to the East and/or the West, I decided I should make an attempt to spend some time there. So off I went to make my way to the Gateway Arch in St Louis.

Arrived around lunch time, super easy to park and well within walking distance of the Arch. The allotted time for the parking meter was only 2 or 3 hours, so I had to be fast. I’ve got this!!!

Gateway Arch
Gateway Arch

 

STL Baseball Field
Busch Stadium St Louis – Taken from inside the Gateway Arch

 

Church STL
Church below the Arch – St Louis

 

It was now 3pm, time to find me a home for the night. The National Park Rangers at the Arch told me about Babler State Park so that’s where I went, 33 miles from Gateway Arch . Clean campground, clean bathrooms, hot showers and great firewood. Time to set things up, start a fire, and relax.

Campground RD Missouri
Campground Road

HOME

Babler State Park MO
Babler State Park MO

 

After a good nights sleep, I headed back into downtown St Louis. I enjoy exploring big cities early in the morning. Here are a couple of pictures before I found me a Starbucks and headed towards Kentucky.

Early Morning St Louis
Early Morning St Louis

 

Ball Park Villiage
Ball Park Villiage

 

STL Cardinals
Exploring St Louis / Early Morning

 

Kentucky

I did a lot of research on this location. Lots of amazing internet pictures but, you never really know until you get there and see for yourself. Land Between the Lakes National Recreational Area, borders two states Kentucky and Tennessee. There’s so much to see here but, sadly like most of Camp50, I was in and out so fast I didn’t get to do much exploring. Great campsite, showers were clean and hot.

Land Between the Lakes KY
Land Between the Lakes KY – Lakeside site

 

There’s an Elk and Bison prairie within the borders of the park. For $5 you can drive around this 700 acre sanctuary as many times as you want but beware the bison may not let your vehicle pass. It’s not how I truly want to see bison but, since I didn’t seen any bison in North or South Dakota I wanted to take this opportunity to take a peak.

Bison KY
Interesting to witness for sure!!! Bison in Kentucky

 

Young Elk
Young Elk – Kentucky

 

Tennessee

I’ve been waiting to visit The Great Smokey Mountains National Park for a long time.  I’m so happy to wrap up this trip in this park. Like most of my Camp50 adventures in 2015, I’ve run into less than optimum weather on each trip and this trip would follow the same path.  Raining for days and now under a Flash Flood warning but, since some of these places are once in a lifetime places for me. I scouted out the river sites and made this site my home.  The site was about 75 feet from the raging river with a slight uphill slope so I was ok with my decision.  Plus the rangers were well aware of the flash flood warning and they were making regular rounds throughout the park watching the water levels. I was able to set up the tent when it wasn’t raining. BONUS……WINNING!!!

Elkmont Campground

Campsite GSMNP
The Great Smoky Mountains

Took a ride to the Cades Cove section of the park, it was raining, and there were misty mountains all around. It was more than I’ve dreamed of.

Waterfall GSMP
Waterfall
Horses Cades Cove
Horses – Cades Cove

 

Cades Cove 1
Cades Cove – Love Trees

Someone from work surprised me with gift certificates to Dick’s Last Resort, with locations on Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg so after exploring and since it was raining, I made my way to Gatlinburg for some dinner. Thank you for dinner and for being so kind and generous.

Gatlinburg or Seattle
Gatlinburg or Seattle

 

Frosty Mug
Would you like a Frosty Mug and this is what they gave me

 

There was no point in sleeping late since this was my last day before heading home and there was so much to see.  It was time to take a ride to Clingman’s dome. Misty morning, roads were wet with fall leaves and fog through the trees. It was a good morning to be driving on the back roads of the park before the masses got out.

The Road 2
The Road to Clingman’s Dome
Great Smoky MTN (2)
Great Smoky Mountains

Clingman’s Dome……. 6643 feet

  • Highest Point in Tennessee
  • Highest Point in The Great Smokey Mountains
  • Highest Point of the Appalachian Trail
  • The Third Highest mountain east of the Mississippi

Based on the above information, I had to make my way up to the Dome. I’ve never claimed to be a hiker and I know first hand how out of shape I’m in but, for some reason I had to make it up that trail. I had all morning to walk up the 1/2 mile steep but paved trail. Gusty winds and heavy misty were my companions. It was cold and raw but, I dressed appropriately and just took my time. I saw maybe four people total, so it was pretty much me and that mountain. I’ve listened to various experienced hikers over the last two years and  I’ve heard of “knowing when to turn back” but, not on this day. My gosh Karen,  it’s only a 1/2 mile.  Then I saw it “Clingman’s Dome”.  Felt great to reach a goal, felt great feeling the wind, felt great being soaked from the mist. Love the day that has been given to you!!

Clingmans Dome and Me HighPoint
Me and Clingman’s Dome

 

And that’s where this adventure ends, Clingman’s Dome in The Great Smokey Mountains. Now a quote to wrap things up.

I discovered our disconnect was never because of the insecurities we felt, but rather the emptiness we created when we failed to make sense of ourselves.  ~ R.M. Drake

 

 

 

 

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