We visited the GSMNP during the first week of August 2017, this was our first trip since the fires last November 2016.  For the first few days, we saw some fire damage in isolated areas but nothing shocking.  On our last day in the area, we decided to visit the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail since we had heard there was significant damage there.  What we saw was breath taking; the beauty of nature healing itself, but also the total destruction of so much mountainside and of man-made structures as well.  I’ll be posting some images of the fire damage in the near future but will also share some pics of elk and bear.  We were blessed to see both on this trip, always fun to see the animals in the park.

Roaring Fork Fire2Roaring Fork Fire


Smoky Mountain Fires

By now, most of you reading are well aware of the Smoky Mountain fires, most significantly the fire from Chimney Tops that almost destroyed Gatlinburg on November 28, 2016 (my birthday by the way).  I won’t get into the guilt or innocence of those accused of setting the fires but I would encourage anyone reading this blog who loves the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the people that support it to do 2 things: 1.pray for those directly impacted by the fires and 2.contribute in some way.  Friends of The Smokies  has setup a special contribution link on their web page to contribute and support of those that suffered as a result of the fires.  There are many other legitimate organizations doing the same.  I would suggest exercising caution with GoFundMe sites.

Also, if you have a chance to visit the GSMNP, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, or Sevierville, please do so.  Remember, less than 5% of the GSMNP was impacted by fire.  Visit, have fun, spend some cash.  We aren’t visiting this New Year’s like we have the past two years but plan on visiting sometime next year and can’t wait to see our Park in all of its beauty.  While the fire below looks devastating, nature recovers quickly and “our park” will survive.



Sort of last minute, we decided to go to The Smokies and take the grown-up kids with us in early June.  We were there for 3 days starting June 1st and were pleasantly surprised at the low number of visitors to The Park and to Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.  We really didn’t wait for anymore than a few minutes to get into any restaurants and took two trips to Cades Cove, which also wasn’t busy at all.  It was a nice change from our last trip over New Year’s and last October 2015 when it was ridiculously busy.  We did go to Cades Cove to try to get sunset pics for the first time ever.  Usually we go to Newfound Gap to get sunset pics but decided to try something different.  We weren’t disappointed.  It rained almost all of the way to Cades Cove but as we arrived, the rain stopped, the skies cleared a bit and then the fog rolled in.  As you can see from the pic above and below, it was perfect for some really cool pics.



We were able to spend New Year’s 2016 in The Smokies for the second year in a row.  It has definitely become a winter time destination as more people want to spend New Year’s away from home.  We went to The Island’s fireworks to ring in the New Year and then spent the next couple of days in the park, visiting Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, all the usual things.  What we did notice is how busy it has become, even in the winter.  Traffic was as bad, maybe worse, than during the summer, and many restaurants were so busy we couldn’t get in to eat, even if we went at 5:00 in the evening.  The Christmas decorations are still up so it is neat to see the area decorated but be aware that if you plan a New Year’s trip to Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg, it will be busy.  The photo above was the sunset on New Year’s Day night.  It was cloudy all the way to Newfound Gap but just as we arrived, we were above the clouds.  The pic below was fireworks from The Island at midnight, New Year’s Eve.


We will be visiting the Smokies in the near future so we are hoping for lots of fall leaf color and maybe we will see a black bear?  Here is one of our photos from our October 2013 visit.



We were fortunate enough to get to go to The Smokies for a long weekend over the July 4th holiday.  After visiting Cades Cove on July 3rd Friday morning, we decided to hike to Spruce Flats Falls at Tremont.  Spruce Flats Falls isn’t publicized in any of the National Park Service literature so if you want more details, be sure to search on the Internet.  When you get to Tremont, you won’t even see a sign telling you how to get to the falls but the nice people in the gift shop can explain how to get there.

I had read several blogs and articles that said Spruce Flats Falls was a relatively easy 1-mile hike except for the last 2/10 of a mile or so.  Let me say in no minced words, they lied.  This hike is definitely more intense than some of the moderate trails like Laurel Falls and Grotto Falls but off and on rain made this hike even that much more difficult.  But as you can see from the photo, if you don’t mind a short but difficult hike and some mud and slippery surfaces, then go for it. You won’t be disappointed.

DSC04782 Stay tuned for our first update in several months.  We have a short summer trip planned to The Smoky Mountains.  We plan to visit Cades Coves and hopefully see some bears and we will be trying at least one new restaurant on this trip so watch for that review as well.  In the meantime, here is a photo from summer 2010 of The Sinks.