Friday evening, my husband asked if I would be interested in going out to Cades Cove on Saturday. He texted my son and daughter-in-law to see if they’d like to go, and they said yes.
Cades Cove is a valley in the Great Smokey Mountain National Park. A one-way road forms an eleven-mile loop around the valley, and several historic buildings are placed at intervals around the loop.
The drive up was gorgeous as we got closer to Cades Cove, with the beauitful fall foliage and a stream rippling over rocks alongside the road.
Jim and I drove up separately from Jason and Mittu, and there was some misunderstanding about where we were to meet. There’s no cell phone service in the area, so we had no way to contact each other. We knew they were behind us a bit, so we weren’t worried when they didn’t show up right away. As more time passed, however, we became concerned that either something happened, or we were in two different places. Jim took off on foot to check a couple of places he thought they might be (walking because he didn’t think he’d be able to get out of one area without following the 11-mile loop). I stayed put in case they came to where we had parked and prayed much that we’d all find each other. Finally Jason and Mittu spotted Jim walking as they were driving around trying to find us.
So we were delayed setting off by about an hour. We drove to the picnic area to eat the lunch we had packed. The picnic area was very nice, with flat walkways between tables and easy access to restrooms. There was a little stream on both sides of the picnic area.
Watching Timothy brought back memories of camping when the kids were younger. There’s something about a stick, rocks, and running water that can keep a little boy fascinated for hours.
At one point Timothy asked, “Are we camping?” He was excited at the prospect, because Granddad has often talked about things we’ll do when we go camping. We told him it was kind of like camping, except the sleeping in a tent part.
Jim has been collecting lot of camping equipment over several birthdays, Christmases, etc. He brought stuff to make coffee on the grills at the park. As it was a very chilly day, that cup of coffee was one of the best I’d had! It really helped take the chill off.
Then we all piled in our van and set off on the loop, following a string of other cars.
Fall is one of the most popular times to go. And we soon saw why: the scenery was gorgeous. We took scores of photos. Here are just a few:
One of the first buildings we stopped at was a Primitive Baptist Church, which had a cemetery in the back.
Some of the headstones in the cemetery are so old and worn you can hardly read them, but there are a few recent ones. This one was distinctive . . .
We didn’t stop at the next church, but we saw a random family there taking wedding photos. We wondered if they got married there, or came up afterwards, or if they just wanted a bridal shoot there.
About halfway through the loop is a collection of buildings, including a still-working 150-year old grist mill, a blacksmith shop (closed when we were there),a smokehouse, corn crib, barn, and house (and restrooms!)
Timothy thought the water wheel on the mill was “cool” and “awesome.”
In this area, there’s also a little store where Tim tried out ranger gear.
There are eighteen places one can stop. Some of them are trails that lead to waterfalls and such. Other building were log cabins, with a couple of other churches. We ended up only stopping at those two I mentioned, because it was getting late.
It’s possible to see wildlife in the area, from chipmunks, foxes, raccoons, deer, and bears. We only saw one crow, besides the horses that are available to ride. Probably the time of day we were there (afternoon), the cold, and the busyness all contributed to wildlife keeping their distance. There were strict warnings everywhere to stay at least 50 feet away from wildlife and not to feed them and to clean up any scraps of food so they wouldn’t be attracted.
Over and over through the afternoon, Timothy kept saying it “was such a good day” and “the best day ever.” And I’d have to agree.
I don’t travel well, for a number of reasons, so even short road trips can be problematic. When Jim asked me about going, and I found out it was about an hour away, and it could take 2-4 hours to go around the loop—I was sort of dreading it. But I knew if I asked him to go somewhere I wanted to go, he likely would, even if he wasn’t all that interested. So I wanted to be able to go because he wanted to and for the family outing. I was a bit panicky the night before, but that day God gave me a great calm and helped everything to go well. We’re already talking about trying going back some time. On the drive up and back we also saw other places we’d like to come back and visit some time.
I looked through the booklet about the area while we were there, and I’ve enjoyed reading more about the history of it since.
I’m only sorry it took us so long to go out there! A friend had told me about it a few years ago, but I don’t think I quite understood what it was. I’d highly recommend it if you are in the area and have a few hours. You could spend all day there if you wanted to stop at several of the buildings. But you could probably drive through in a couple of hours if you made no stops. There are also a couple of exits if you don’t want to go through the whole loop. And it’s free!
Have you ever been to Cade’s Cove?