We left Oklahoma City at 5:45 on a chilly October morning. It was so cloudy that we never saw the sun when it came up. The sky just got light. Though the landscape was not inspiring along I-40, the time went quickly as it almost always does on our sister trips. Our first stop was fifty miles before the Arkansas state line to use the facilities and get coffee.
We crossed over into Arkansas a little before 9 AM and continued on I-40. We weren't surprised when it started to mist and then rain. We could see very little but a landscape shrouded in fog and rain. The forecast for our week-long vacation in Tennessee was for rain and more rain, but our reservations were made and we hoped for the best. It would rain on and off the whole way there.
We bypassed Little Rock, stopping in Carlisle, Arkansas when Chris spotted a sign for a place called Nick's BBQ and Catfish. We had the catfish which was great. We were ahead of schedule so we keyed in Mud Island to the Divine Miss Cue, Chris's GPS. I'd heard about Mud Island in Memphis for years, but had never been, and we figured we should have about an hour there before we needed to go find our B&B.
Mud Island was a bit of a disappointment. Mainly because it cost $4 to go on the monorail, and $6 to park even though we were only going to be there an hour. There wasn't a lot to see but the replica of the Mississippi River, but we were too early to check into our B&B. We had an overpriced ice cream "drumstick,” walked around a bit to use the time.
About 4:30 PM we headed down to our B&B, a place called Magnolia Grove. It was not really in Memphis or even Tennessee, but south in Hernando, Mississippi. The Divine miss Cue took us there without any problems and we arrived about 5:30 PM, and checked in.
Magnolia Grove is a beautiful old Southern mansion, just perfect for our first night out. We were shown to Jenny’s Room. We took just a few pictures outside while it was still light, and determined to take more in the morning when you could see inside better.
The proprietor gave us a recommendation for a restaurant, and he did not steer us wrong. We had Chicago style deep dish pizza at Windy City Grille. We could only eat half of it, so we took the rest back to the B&B intending to eat it cold for lunch the next day. Except for a guy who mistook me for Chris's mother, it was a great experience.
Back at the B&B, we had dessert, some wonderful coconut cake that our hosts had in the refrigerator for guests. It was yummy!
It had been a long day, and we were in bed by 8 PM. Chris fell asleep immediately, having not slept the night before.
Sunday, October 25, 2015
We were up before 5 in the morning, had another piece of coconut cake with coffee and debated whether we should skip the B&B breakfast and get on the road. Breakfast won.
Breakfast, however, was a long drawn-out affair. We were all packed and ready to go by the time breakfast started at 9 AM. It was delicious, but there were four courses, and no hurry between them. We had melon, mango and pineapple first, then sausage squares, then quiche loraine, and finally streusel-topped pumpkin muffins with cream-cheese filling. Coffee, of course.
We didn't get on the road until 10:10 AM. It was raining pretty good, too, but we figured we would make it if we didn't waste a lot of time on lunch and photo ops, which in the rain would not be that many, anyway.
We ate our leftover pizza about 1:00 PM in a MacDonald's parking lot, then got a hot chocolate and Frappe before we left.
As we drove east we saw more color and the terrain got more hilly. It still rained on and off. When we got close to Nashville, the signs warned us that I-40 was closed. We tried to find an alternate route through Nashville, and as one might guess, got lost. With the help of The Divine Miss Cue and the GPS on my phone, we made it through, but not without a fair amount of frustration.
We called Iva at the Garden of Eden Cabins, where we had reservations in the Smokies. We talked with the caretaker, and told him we would be later than expected. Iva goes to bed at 8 PM, so he said if we were later than that, to call again and they would leave a key in the door. In the mean time, it continued to rain. It got fairly dark past Knocksville, but we pressed on armed with the homemade map that Iva had sent.
We got very close to the Garden of Eve grounds by 8PM, and finally put in the address into GPS. She got us to the grounds, which was back in the woods and very rugged. It was dark, of course, and it took a call to Miss Iva and Chris, the caretaker, to get us to the cabin, though. He was very nice, and helped us bring our luggage into the cabin.
We ate some pumpkin bread that Chris made to bring along—with cream cheese, of course. Since it was so dark, we weren't able to see much of anything except the interior of the cabin. We could hear the creek flowing at the back of the cabin, and were anxious for morning to see it. There were some scenic turnoffs on the way down to the Garden of Eden that we were anxious to see tomorrow, too.
Monday, October 26
I was lulled to sleep by the bubbling creek below our cabin, and slept well with a minimum of pain and without codeine. Considering that I'm just getting over shingles, that was wonderful. In the morning we anxiously awaited dawn to see the creek and our surroundings. We breakfasted on toast and coffee—tea for Chris.
We heard a racket in the living area or kitchen a couple of times and could not figure out what it was. Chris finally discovered that it was a poor mouse that had its foot caught in a trap and was dragging the trap around behind the furniture. We might not have been able to get it if it hadn’t gotten stuck in the table pedestal. I took the pitiful thing out on the back porch and put it out of its misery. We disposed of it and the trap in a paper bag and placed it on the front porch since we couldn't find any outdoor trash cans. We hoped that it was the only mouse, but being out in the woods, one could expect a few mice. Sleeping the rest of the week may not be quite so peaceful, knowing there were mice about.
While it was still very early we drove to the overlooks that were on the Foothills Parkway, and got some wonderful pictures of fall color and the Great Smoky Mountains. The drive was beautiful. We took in a quilt store and antique place, then went in search of a welcome center or grocery story whichever one we came to first.
We drove all the way to Gatlinburg to find a grocery store but found a nice one. It was a pretty drive, so we didn’t mind at all. We even found moose tracks ice cream there. We found a welcome center on our drive back to the cabin and got some maps.
At the cabin, we ate lunch, tortilla soup that Chris made at home and brought along. It was excellent. We had a bit of ice cream, too, of course.
At 1:40 PM we set out again toward Gatlinburg, intending to take the Newfound Gap Road from there to Cherokee across the national park. There is a waterfall, Mingo Falls that we hoped to see there, but we were open to whatever came along.
We stopped along the Little Pigeon River to take some photographs. It was raining, but by then rain was not going to stop us from doing anything. We just walked down to the river and took our shots. Unfortunately, Chris discovered her camera was missing after we left. We back tracked, but it was no use. We couldn't find it. She resigned herself to take pictures with her phone. Then she found it… in the car. It had slipped out of her pocket when she got back in the car.
We saw a few wild turkeys, twice. At one of the overlooks a lady was yelling that she saw a bear, but by the time I got to her and she pointed it out, it had climbed down the tree and had disappeared unto the woods, so we only saw a lady—who saw a bear.
We were nearly to Cherokee when we decided we would not have time to see the falls and get back before it was late. With me just recovering, it seemed prudent to not over do it. We turned around and decided to see that falls on Thursday when it is supposed to be sunny. It will be a beautiful drive on a sunny day, and we won't be rushed if we have packed a lunch and plan to take the entire day.
We backtracked out of the park and arrived back to Gatlinburg at about 5 PM, and to our cabin in Cosby by 6 PM. We had spaghetti for supper. It was fast to make and hit the spot. We went to bed at nine. We were so tired.
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
I had a rough night. Slept in half-hour intervals with quite a bit of pain. I hoped the day would go well and tonight would be better. We were up and fixing breakfast at 6 AM. We fixed our lunches because we planned to be away all day. We hoped to take in three falls, short hikes between them.
We drove the Foothills Parkway again and it was a beautiful drive, even in the light rain, which would continue all day. We took pictures from the overlooks. It was barely light. Then we drove on I-40 around the national park into North Carolina. It was gorgeous, but you can't take too many good photos from the Interstate going 60 miles per hour.
Once we got off the interstate, we stopped and got a coffee and hot chocolate, and rain ponchos, then continued on our way through absolutely beautiful country. The Blue Ridge Parkway through the Cherokee Reservation was spectacular. With the help of Siri we made it to the trailhead for the waterfall trail. It was a beautiful area. We ate the lunch we packed first in the car since it was raining, so we wouldn't have food with us to entice bears. Although we would have loved to see a bear, we didn't want to have one trying to get our lunch—or us for lunch.
Our hike, like one might expect, did not turn out as envisioned. We were not as ambitious as we had thought we’d be. We saw only one waterfall, The Juney Whanks Falls, which was nice, but on our way to another we ran out of energy and headed back.
We saw three deer and thought we wouldn't get a good shot of them, but then one of them walked back up close to the trail and posed for us.
When we got back to the little town of Bryson City, we had ice cream and bought some orange rind candy at at Chocolatier. Fortified by our sweets, we started back toward 1-40 and Cosby, with time enough for photo ops. We got back while it was still light. It is so much easier to weave your way back to our cabin in the light. It's a wonder we made it the first night in the dark. We may not have without a little help.
For supper we made spoon bread and a big green salad. The meal was fantastic. After we ate, we cleaned up the kitchen, took baths, and played Word Chums on our iPads.
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
After a breakfast of pumpkin bread and banana bread, we made sandwiches for lunch and headed down toward Gatlinburg and points west. At 9:18 AM, we saw the sun for the first time since before we left Oklahoma. Yay!
The drive to Cades Cove along the Little River Road and Laurel Creek Road was beautiful. We had our picnic lunch at the most wonderful picnic area along the river. We then took the Cades Cove Loop. It was a very slow go as we followed the car ahead of us. After about 6 miles we saw the holdup. A mother black bear and two cubs were at the side of the road. We didn't get a very good picture because the warden was there shooing people along. But we saw our bears.
We decided to take Forge Creek Road to escape the loop, and saw a bunch of wild turkey, who were not afraid of the car, and were just feeding at the side of the road in the rain. Did I mention it was raining? The sun did come out a few times during the morning, but then it rained again.
We had to turn around and go back because the road just stopped. It was a pretty drive back, however. We really liked the river that paralleled the road most of the way. There were lots of rapids and mini waterfalls.
We stopped for coffee and hot chocolate in Gatlinburg on our way home. It was about 4:30 PM when we got back to our cabin at The Garden of Eden.
We walked around the grounds to take pictures before going back to the cabin. For a while, we sat on the back porch overlooking the creek and looked at the pictures on our cameras we took today.
Around 5 PM we made a salad, heated up the tortilla soup and spoon bread and had our supper. It was still really good. We took it easy in the evening because I needed plenty of rest if I was going to make it tomorrow. I hadn't done too well in the afternoon.
Thursday, October 29, 2015
We were up and on our way by 8 AM. It was just beginning to get light in our woods. We drove to Gatlinburg and then down in the park again, to see Mingo Falls on the other side of the national park. When we got to the park we saw turkeys right away, our tenth time to see them.
Thanks to my phone GPS and signage we found Mingo Falls. The .4 miles on the map for the hike to the falls, was mostly wooden and dirt steps, then over mud and rocks to the little bridge that looks up to the falls. It was not an easy climb for two ladies over 70. The hike was really worth it, though. The falls were wonderful.
We saw on the map the Blue Ridge Parkway and decided to go that way home, since it was new territory. We were now at 14 turkey sightings and counting.
We saw some pretty color on the first part of the parkway, but most of it was shrouded in fog and clouds, so we got very few photographs.
We headed back up I-40 to the Foothills Parkway and at least there we saw some colors, even though there was still no sun. The weatherman had promised sun on Thursday, but it didn't come out until after 3 in the afternoon, and then only part of the time.
We had some ice cream at one of the shops on the highway, then headed for the Foothill Parkway again, figuring that was our only chance to get foliage shots in the sun for our whole trip. We did get some shots in the sun—finally.
We got back to the cabin about 4:30 PM and straightened up the car and packed some of the stuff we weren't going to need again. We made chicken spaghetti for supper, and went to bed around nine.
Friday, October 30, 2015
We woke around 7 the next morning, and to use up some of the groceries, had breakfast of eggs and toast and leftover spoon bread. We didn't get away until about 8:30 AM.
In Monterey, Tennessee we stopped for gas and coffee and had a snack of banana bread and cream cheese. Carol Jackson had made the banana bread for us to snack on. We'd been eating it with our breakfasts. We stopped for lunch at Rochelle's Bar-None-BBQ on the highway near Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, and had an excellent lunch. I had barbecue chicken and Chris had pulled pork. For dessert we had pecan cobbler with ice cream, also excellent. We tried to figure how it was made and discussed it for miles. Then we found what we think is the recipe online. We saved it and may make it very soon. It is really a simple recipe.
We got to the Quality Inn in Memphis about 4:30, and stayed all evening. They had a refrigerator and microwave, so we heated up the last of the tortilla soup. We also had Banana bread and cream cheese, and listened to the news of all the rain Texas was getting. We hadn't watched the news all week.
We were up at 5:30 AM and got ready and packed, then had a continental breakfast at the Inn at 6:00. It was raining, of course, when we got on the road, and it didn't get light until 7:30. Chris was getting really used to driving in the rain. We filled up in Hazen, Arkansas and got a coffee and hot chocolate. It was still raining. Our last stop was for lunch at the Cowboy Cafe at Weleetka, Oklahoma. They served us a huge meal and we had to take part of it home. We got home about 3:30 PM.
It had been a beautiful trip, marred only by my health problems.