cades cove, great smoky mountains national park

Day 65 – East Tennessee Border Tour Part 2

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Day 65 of a Year Long Road Trip Along America’s Scenic Byways

OK, after my detour to Knoxville last night, I ended up returning to Sieverville, not far from the continuation of my scenic drive along the East Tennessee Border.  What an interesting place!  Sieverville is just west of Gatlinburg. In between Sieverville and Gatlinburg is Pigeon Forge.  I felt like I was in a mini Vegas except instead of walking down the Strip past hotels and casinos, I drove down Dolly Parton Parkway past motels and attractions including magic, theater, miniature golf, speed racing, the Titanic Museum, moving seat cinema, laser tag, and more!  Well, really Dolly Parton Parkway was a few miles away, but it sounded better to have all the entertainment lining the street with her name.  No worries, I stopped by Dollywood too…though it was closed.

The Titanic Museum

The Titanic Museum peaked my interest, so I purchased a boarding card to enter the ship!  I walked through the ship yard, through the cabin areas (first, second, and third class), up the grand staircase, over the captain’s bridge, and into a memorial room.  The display areas included old black and white photos; letters from passengers; items recovered from the survivors, the dead, and the wreckage; samples of different items on the cruiser, statistics on the Titanic, its fateful course, and more. 

Titanic Museum in Tennessee

The museum was also very interactive allowing visitors to watch water flowing down the stairs, to experience the different slopes of the deck as the Titanic sunk, and to touch the 28 degree ocean water.  The docents dressed in character for each room.  It was definitely a museum that accommodated children and gimmicky enough to fit in with the area entertainment!  And for one piece of trivia on the Titanic, it struck the iceberg on my birthday (April 14th) in 1912.  April 14th also happens to be the day Lincoln was shot.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Upon exiting the Titanic, with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park being my next destination, I saw an “As Seen On TV” Store.  I would have loved to see some of those items in person, but I fought the urge as I had detoured enough recently and needed to keep going. I’m thankful I did. You’ll see why at the end of the post…ahhh, suspense!  While in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I generally followed the main two lane road which tracked the path of the Little River. 

waterfall on Little River in Tennessee

In two areas, I followed a one-way loop.  The first loop was the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail which climbed into the mountains past a selection of spur trails leading to waterfalls.  I planned on taking the dogs on a 2.8 mile roundtrip hike to Grotto Falls on this spectacular sunny day, but dogs weren’t allowed on the trails due to bears.  Bummer for them! I went anyway!  I slopped along the muddy trail, crossed four creeks, said hello to dozens of people, arrived at the lovely falls, and hurriedly returned to VANilla as I felt bad the dogs had been cooped up since the rain yesterday afternoon.

Cades Cove

We finished driving the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and turned south toward Cades Cove.  Cades Cove, a relatively flat valley between the mountains, was once a farming community.  Sightseers may drive along the 11 mile one-way loop past old cabins, barns, a mill and several churches.  Before I entered the loop, I asked the ranger how long it would take to make the lap as it was after 4pm. With darkness coming and the nearby campgrounds lacking showers, I wanted to be out of the mountains at the Lazy Daze for a shower before nightfall. I also wanted to take the dogs for more than a five minute walk around the parking lot.  The Ranger’s answer was, “30 minutes if you don’t stop”.  At 20 mph, the posted speed limit, that seemed about right…off I went! 

The loop was peppered with turnouts and signs asking slower drivers to be courteous and pullover. Either half the drivers couldn’t read or weren’t very courteous.  We had to stop in the middle of the road for more than one occasion to see deer which were a dime a dozen in the area and 98 percent of them didn’t even have antlers!  I’m the first to admit I’m an impatient driver and I even confess to stopping in the road to take a picture of a deer in Virginia, but I didn’t hold anyone up. 

Furthermore, had I not already seen more deer than the days I’ve been traveling, perhaps I would have enjoyed the 7 mph pace, but I was rather immune to the spectacle except for catching a glimpse of some yearling bucks butting heads.  At this point, while I was trying not to get frustrated, I thought, what have I done? I’m going to be lost in the darkness of the mountains…been there, done that, NOT fun!  With a few miles left in the loop; however, the slow pace was completely worth it as I saw two bears and this time I got photos!!!!

black bear in great smoky mountains national park

The first bear, was about 100 yards into the woods and almost out of sight of the road, but many tourists had pulled over and walked about 40 yards into the forest to watch it eat something.  Normally, I wouldn’t have gotten out, but I missed getting a photo the last time. Additionally, I was stopped behind traffic, so I made the most of it. I pulled over, walked into the forest, and made sure at least one tub-a-lard was closer to the bear than me in case all twenty of us needed to make a run for it! 

He was big and didn’t look nearly as cuddly as the cubs I saw last month.  About 500 yards later, we drove up on another bear out in the field.  He was busy looking down, so I snapped a poor shot from a distance (but the background was pretty) and kept going.  Regardless, I was SO lucky! Two bears in place of the “As Seen on TV Store” works for me. And I was fortunate to get seven pictures my camera battery died. At least one wasn’t to blurry!  Seeing two bears and then snagging $5 shower was an awesome way to end the day. Off to camp at Walmart. ETB

black bear in great smoky mountains national park

Map of My Road Trip Across the USA

For a summary about my road trip across the USA, click HERE. For the interactive map, see the below link.

Other Articles About Tennessee You May Like


Check out the photographic note cards and key chains at my shop.  Each card has a travel story associated with it.  20% of proceeds are donated to charity.

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

8 thoughts on “Day 65 – East Tennessee Border Tour Part 2

  1. OMGosh…..what a GREAT bear photo!! You are a brave soul to get out of VANilla to snap this shot! And your description of your “self defense” plan is hysterical! Both of these bears look huge. Glad you had such an awesome day, topped off with a nice hot (I hope) shower.

    Loved our nice chat this morning and love you tons!

    xo’s M

  2. well, you were in some of our stomping grounds. Gatlinburg is a popular vacation spot for Louivillians with it only being about a 5 hr drive. Actually my husband and I got married there. Been to the Cove, seen the bears, all that stuff & yes Pigeon Forge is something but they do have some good outlet malls there. Dolly really lives there also and a lot of her relatives work at Dollywood. Glad you had a good day, stay safe & I’m glad you got those pics in before the battery went out.

  3. Bears: Your mother told me one time in Colorado a bear broke into the cabin in the middle of the night and she was so scared she hid in the closet while Bart chased it out! I suppose you kids were upstairs. I guess the bear situation at Estabrook(sp) has been remedied!

    1. Bear problem isn’t remedied. They’ve visited every year for about the last 10, but I’ve never managed to be there when they stop by. They haven’t been in the house again and can no longer flip the dumpster (bear proofed), but they still get the bird feeders!

  4. Great pictures!!! I wanted to let you know that I decided to set one of your pictures each post as the background on my computer here at work. I have really enjoyed the beauty of each one. Although some posts I have a hard time choosing which picture to use. Today I used the waterfall. I love waterfalls too!

    1. That’s the best compliment ever! I’m so excited you are using them!! Though I would have gone for the bear — just too rare. Have a great weekend and hope the screen savers make work more relaxing!!

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