Day 4: I guess you all know by now, I keep waking up to another great day of vacation. Well, today is no different! Yesterday, we ran the Loop, which was one of the highlights of our trip thus far, but today was going to prove to be a very satisfying day also. We are taking Hwy 441 from Cherokee, through the Smokey Mountain National Park into Gatlinburg. We plan to ride up to Cade's Cove while we are on the north end of the park before we come back to this area at the end of the day. As we have already discovered on our previous days of riding, the roads are filled with breathtaking views and more beautiful sights around every corner. Can it be legal for us to be having this much fun?
We had a bit of an overcast sky, making the air cool, but comfortable. I started out with a short sleeve t-shirt this morning, but I could tell already, I would be donning another layer as we made our climb up the mountains to cooler temperatures. We weren't long into our journey before the view we saw made us want to stop and take some pics.
This is what I call "Hogs in Heaven"!
We were ascending these glorious mountains, when we saw the sign pointing us towards Clingman's Dome. The road up to the Dome is off the main road and runs along the Tennessee and North Carolina state line for about 27 miles and climbs higher in elevation as it goes. It will take you to the highest point of the Park which is 6,643 feet. I guess, this is what you could call the nose bleed section! Yes, my ears popped again, but no bloody noses.
Have you ever ridden through a cloud? It's awesome! As we were riding up this road, the clouds were hugging this part of the mountain, which made it darker and cooler. It was like entering into a twilight zone of fog, while we moved through the clouds that were laying in our paths. As we did so, a sudden blanket of cold air would engulf you, and it felt like misting machines spraying us with cool moisture. As soon as we poked back out of the cloud, you'd feel the warmer air hit you again. Totally awesome experience! I actually started shivering and hoped I could make it to the top, where I could put on my long sleeve shirt.
To reach the absolute top, you have to park your vehicles and walk the rest of the way up, which is about another 1/2 mile. The Lone Ranger said, "If I can't take it in 2nd gear, I guess I won't be seeing it." We all just laughed! Looking at the path, I think we all could have taken it if we could have just told all the people to get out of the way! LOL! Maybe we'll save that dare for another trip!
The top of Clingman's Dome overlooking the Smokey Mountains.After granting ourselves a pretty long stretch and some drinks up at the Dome area, we decided we were ready for more that these mountains had to offer. The rest of our way over the mountain into Gatinburg, brought us one beautiful view after another. We were like sissies in boys town, let me tell you!
When we got into the town of Gatlinburg, it was busy and crowded, as usual. We parked our bikes behind a Harley Davidson Store right along the main drag and walked across the street to the Hard Rock Cafe for a great lunch. The food was really good and our server was a hoot! We left the Hard Rock full and satisfied, and since none of us really cared to walk around the tourist filled sidewalks, we made our way back to the bikes so we could mount up and head over to Cade's Cove.
We saw some more pretty water falls along the road and Harley stopped to get this nice shot. We have a system for getting great pics and it works out real well. He would stay in back, and pull off to snap a pic or two when he saw an opportunity, and then catch back up to the rest of us. That way we all didn't have to keep stopping and lose the "zen" of our ride. Besides, he said it was fun playing catch up!
At the north end of the Smokey Mountain National Park, not too far out of Gatlinburg, is a road that takes you up to a wildlife preserve, within an 11 mile loop, called Cade's Cove. This really nice 23 mile stretch of road that takes you there, makes you feel like your in the fairy tale forests you read about in your story books.I kept looking around the next curve for a glimpse of Snow White or Hansel and Gretel. Sadly, we did not see them nor any dwarfs either. But while the Lone Ranger was leading us, a small bear cub ran out onto the road right in front of him! Awesome! It was about the size of a Saint Bernard but, you could tell it was young. As I got to the point where I knew the bear crossed him, I was steady watching the side of the road for Mama Bear! Thankfully, she did not show herself, but we all said later, she probably was not far away. The funny thing about us seeing that bear, was a conversation we had that morning before we left. Harley joked that he wanted to lead in the Cove, because he wanted to be the first one to see a bear. Oh well, he missed out! Due to the fact that he was bringing up the rear, taking beautiful scenery pics, he missed a great pic of the bear. Boo hoo! Truth is, that little cub was gone into the forest so fast, we wouldn't have gotten a good picture anyway. Made for a little excitement though!
There are a couple of places along the way that have cool little waterfalls right next to the road, so close, you could almost reach out and touch the water as you passed. The pavement was wet in several areas, not from rain, but from water falls flowing over the road.
After coming back out of the Cove area, we continued on our way and stopped at this tunnel. We went through it once on the way up, so we decided to stop here on the way back and take in the view and have a stretch. The Lone Ranger took the opportunity to play meet and greet some other park guests. LOL! We laughed at some of the reactions he got, as people would look up at him and start pointing.
Today ended up being another very fulfilling and rewarding ride. Being on a motorcycle in the mountains has to be one of the best experiences there is to enjoy! There is no way to completely relate the peace and contentment that you feel when you can ride like this. Just for the fun of it! When we got back to Cherokee, we hit Hwy 441 again, that took us back to Bryson City for the night. We sauntered into Mickey's Pub to throw back a few for the last time while we were here. As we sat back and conversed over all we've done for these last few days, the decision was unanimous that this was probably the best motorcycle vacation ever. It was all because of the roads.
Tomorrow we will get up and have to head back into the real world of telephones and deadlines, but tonight we'll relish in our happiness! Night, night.
To be continued...