Adventure in the Smokies

Hello there everyone!

It’s been forever since my last update. What can I say? My vacation took it out of me! Plus, I am one of those people who can’t blog while on vacation. I enjoy every moment of it. 🙂

Here I am now, back on the grind again after days of much needed rest. I am so ready and excited to share my adventure trip with you all. 🙂

That’s right. I was on an adventure trip the past few days. And if you follow me on Instagram, you probably know this by now. I went on an adventure in beautiful Gatlinburg, Tennessee!

It was actually my second time coming back to Gatlinburg. My first time was in Fall 2011. It was then when I first experienced FALL season in the US. We had nothing like that where I grew up (Philippines) and that sight of foliage was just magical and amazing to me!

Ja on the RUN

Coming back again to Gatlinburg brought back all the memories I had during my last trip. This place was still just as wonderful as I remembered it to be.

*** Warning: There’ll be a lot of photos in this post! I think you’d appreciate that more rather than bore you with my endless words. 🙂

Hubby and I took a road trip Friday afternoon to Tennessee. The drive from Ohio to Tennessee passing through Kentucky, is one of the most beautiful drives I’ve done in the country.

Ja on the RUN

There is nothing more enjoyable than taking a drive into the hills and beautiful scenery along the way.

Ja on the RUN

We arrived Gatlinburg late at night, checked-in our hotel, and went to sleep right away.

We got up early the next day, grabbed our complimentary breakfast at the hotel and hit the road and headed to Cades Cove.

Cades Cove on Saturday mornings permits only bike riders and hikers to use the road. Hubby and I brought our bikes with us because this was one thing that we were really looking forward to doing.

On this visit, hubby and I accomplished several firsts – one of them was riding our bicycles around Cades Cove, and also the day I conquered my fear and rode my bike with clipless shoes/pedals for the very first time.

Ja on the RUN

This is one of the things that’s hindering me from signing up for a triathlon – I fear being clipped into the bike. I struggled for a bit, fell a few times but slowly getting used to it.

Ja on the RUN

Other than actually walking it, cycling the loop road is absolutely the best way to see the Cove. We toured this place last year driving our car, and not having to sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic this time offers a completely different experience as well as a different perspective of Cades Cove. You can ride at your own pace and enjoy the peace, quiet and tranquility of this place.

Ja on the RUN

It’s an 11-mile closed loop and of course, we allowed ourselves to stop to enjoy the scenery. 🙂

Ja on the RUN

Ja on the RUN

Ja on the RUN

The landscape was just beautiful!  You can barely see it in the picture below but you can see the “smoke” in the background between the trees and the mountains. Beautiful!

Ja on the RUN

It took us 2 1/2 hours to cycle this loop including the occasional stops. We headed back to our car and back to our hotel for a nice cold shower.

We checked out of our hotel after freshening up. My aunt and her family were arriving in the afternoon. We met up with them and moved into their awesome cabin! 🙂

While waiting for them to arrive, we headed out to Pigeon Forge first to grab a late lunch and toured the place for a bit.

We ate lunch here – Bullfish. We didn’t know people could actually see us from inside as we made fun of this bull. LOL! 🙂 We just realized when we got inside. Ooops. LOL!

Ja on the RUN

Ja on the RUN

My husband said that Pigeon Forge reminds him quite bit of Las Vegas. The place has lots of shows, mostly stand-up comedies and live magic shows, along with museums, hotels and lots of shops. As you drive down the main strip, you’ll see lots of fun things to do – lots of miniature golf, race cars, amusement parks, indoor sky diving, outlet shops, etc.

Ja on the RUN

Ja on the RUN

Ja on the RUN

This “upside-down house” intrigued me the most. Apparently, it’s a science museum for kids.

Ja on the RUN

After a good few hours of wandering around Pigeon Forge, we received a text from my aunt that they finally arrived. And off we went to meet them at the cabin. 🙂

Ja on the RUN

It’s a lovely and beautiful log cabin, very well decorated with gorgeous view of the mountains from the deck.

Ja on the RUN

Ja on the RUN

The living area is comfortable with leather seating and cozy mountain cabin decor – nice! 🙂

Ja on the RUN

The best part – the hot tub! My cousin and I enjoyed this one too much! 🙂

Ja on the RUN

Pool table 🙂

Ja on the RUN

First time to actually learn how to play. I can finally kick my husband’s butt on the pool table. LOL! 🙂

Ja on the RUN

After some relaxing and catching up, we decided to do a little hiking before the sun went down. There are so many trails to choose from but we decided to hit up a short one – Clingman’s Dome.

Ja on the RUN

At the entrance of the trail, a lot of kids were climbing up this mountain of huge stones. If you are a kid at heart, which I am, you won’t be able to resist the urge to climb too. It’s like calling for everyone (young and old) just begging to be summited for a claim at being King of the Mountain!

Ja on the RUN

The walk to the dome may only be a half mile one way, but it’s very steep. At 6,643 feet, Clingman’s Dome is the highest point in Tennessee. This could be a strenuous climb for some plus the altitude which makes it even harder to catch your breath, it’s all worth the hike though. Once you reach the dome, it gives you an awesome panoramic view of the mountains which are gorgeous!

Ja on the RUN

Ja on the RUN

Ja on the RUN

Ja on the RUN

Of course I couldn’t resist doing my not-so-perfect yoga pose (Natarajasana) on top of these majestic view. 🙂 Had to be done!

Ja on the RUN

On our way back to our cabin, we made few stop overs driving down the mountains.

Ja on the RUN

We stopped by Newfound Gap Overlook. This gap marks the Tennessee-North Carolina state line. This spot offers beautiful views of both states as well as access to the famed Appalachian Trail.

Ja on the RUN

Ja on the RUN

1972.0-mile hike all the way up to Maine! Wow!
Would you consider doing a hiking adventure like that?

Ja on the Run

Then we were back to the cabin, had dinner, some relaxing, and end of day one. Off to bed to rest up for day two!

For the next day’s adventure, we chose a scenic and a popular trail – Alum Cave Bluff Trail. It’s popular because it’s a short hike (a 4.4-mile roudtrip hike with a total of 1125 feet elevation gain) and rewards hikers with extraordinary views once you reach the “cave”.

Ja on the RUN

Ja on the RUN

The trail ascends easily along Alum Cave Creek for the first 1.3 miles. This cool, happy, crystal-clear creek was a nice treat as you hike beside it and of course made us have a few stop overs to take pictures. 🙂

Ja on the RUN

Ja on the RUN

Ja on the RUN

Ja on the RUN

Ja on the RUN

There were few narrow foot bridges that we had to cross.

IMG_2618

Ja on the RUN

The trail leaves the creek through the Arch Rock. We had to climb up carved steps to a higher trail.

Ja on the RUN

Ja on the RUN

Ascending from Arch Rock towards the Alum Cave Bluffs, the trail gets steeper and the sights get better and better. Further along the trail is Inspiration Point, a rock outcropping that offers beautiful views of the mountains. 🙂 

Ja on the RUN

I actually found a good spot to take in the views from the rock outcroppings, so we stopped for a while and ate our snacks. 🙂

Ja on the RUN

One of the things I really enjoy doing when I hike up mountains is to take a break somewhere along the way with a beautiful view like this 🙂

Ja on the RUN

Ja on the RUN

Here’s a short video clip my husband took going to Inspiration Point.

After a few minutes of spending time here, we continued to climb more steps carved into the rocks to the Alum Cave. We were now 2.2 miles above the trailhead with an elevation of 4,950 feet. The trail got steeper, verrry steep! After climbing up more which I felt like an eternity (I admit, I did a little whining in my head, lol!), I heard voices and they weren’t inside my head. 🙂 ! That’s when I knew that we were close to our destination (finally!). Another steep, rocky path with a cable hand-hold, and we were here!

Ja on the RUN

Alum Cave is not really a cave, but a concave cliff about 80 feet high. This is actually a wonderful spot to sit for a while, enjoy the view and maybe have a bite to eat before moving up to continue the trail to Mount LeConte or head back down.

Ja on the RUN

Below is pic of me showing the view from the top of the “cave”.  One wrong move here and I’d plummet to a painful death. Nope, that’s not how I envisioned myself dying. Not a great way to die. LOL!

Ja on the RUN

After a few good minutes of stay resting on this beautiful yet terrifying cave, we then decided to head our way back down. We’d love to do this trail again next time and try to continue the trail up to Mount Le Conte. Doing so means gaining another 1500 ft in under a mile. So, maybe next time. 🙂

After our hike, we headed back to our cabin, freshened up, ate lunch, rested for a bit and sat in the hot tub forever. I wish we had a hot tub at home!

In the afternoon, we decided to head out again and do more walking. We walked down along Gatlinburg strip. In this strip are mostly restaurants and stores. Here are some of the stuff we saw.

Ja on the RUN

I wanted to see some BEARS along the trails but after seeing this at a t-shirt shop, I kinda changed my mind. 🙂 Uhh, no, no more bears please. I don’t want to test my motivation this way. LOL!

Ja on the RUN

After wandering around the strip, we had dinner at a barbecue place somewhere in the area and called it a day. 🙂 It was definitely an unforgettable day.

On Monday, since my husband and I had to head back to Ohio late afternoon that day, we decided to hike one last short trail. I am a sucker for waterfalls. We found a trail online that will lead to one that was only a couple of miles (only 2.6 miles back and forth) and sounded perfect – Grotto Falls!

It was raining that morning but that didn’t stop us from heading out to the trail.

Ja on the RUN

The hike up to the falls was punctuated with some small creeks and tiny falls.

Ja on the RUN

There is some really great scenery along the trail, very plush and green.

Ja on the RUN

We saw some tree scratches from bears which was an evidence that bears had been on the trail.

Ja on the RUN

We also saw a few salamanders!

Ja on the RUN

At about 1.2 miles, we knew we were close to the falls because we started to hear the sounds of roaring water and as we turned the corner the beautiful cascade of Grotto Falls came into view.

Ja on the RUN

It was fun walking around and behind the falls and discovering different rocks to climb and get new views – that means more great photo opportunities,

Ja on the RUN

The distinct feature of this Grotto Falls is that it’s the only waterfall in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that you can actually walk behind.

Ja on the RUN

Ja on the RUN

Ja on the RUN

Ja on the RUN

Ja on the RUN

And what I liked about this falls is that you can actually dip your feet and body in the shallow pool of water. I wanted to get wet under the falls but I changed my mind the moment I dipped my feet into the water. The water was freezing cold!

Ja on the RUN

Ja on the RUN

Ja on the RUN

Ja on the RUN

If you continue to hike this trail up, it goes on up to Mount LeConte. It would be nice to see more of this trail but, maybe next time! At least we’ve seen halfway and it was beautiful! I consider this trail to be one of those I need to see again. 🙂

The trail is all uphill on the way to the waterfalls which makes walking back very easy.

We got to the car and ready to head back again to the cabin. That was one nice short hike! 🙂

As we were driving down out to the main road, my uncle’s mini van was making weird squeaking noise when stepping on the breaks. It seemed like the van was having a hard time going down the steep road with a heavy load. It’s about 2 miles to the main road, so my husband, my aunt and I decided to hop off the van and just run the downhill road and meet them down to the main highway.

Running down this road was fun. It’s all downhill! 🙂 We stopped several times to take pictures and enjoy what was around us.

Ja on the RUN

Running this road is not really advisable since this is part of the main road where cars pass to go down to the main highway. It’s hilly and narrow winding road and drivers of cars coming down might not see you, so DO NOT DO THIS

At 0.7 miles to the main highway my anxiety shot through the roof and freaked me out a bit, so I hopped into the van leaving my husband and my aunt continue their run.

Not only did we hike the the appalachians, but we also ran it! LOL! But seriously do NOT copy us and run that road. We just had to do it due to car problems.

My aunt and her family stayed for a few more days but for me and my husband, that’s the end of our awesome adventure.  As always, Gatlinburg provided us a wonderful time filled with memories of great adventures and scenery. Hubby and I already have some things in mind for next time we go back!

We plan on doing this hiking adventures every year. We heard Utah is a great place too to do this! So, let’s see! (wink* wink*)

Do you like adventures? Do you have hiking plans this summer?
What places do you go for hiking? Any recommendations for places to go hiking? 🙂

Xoxo,
J-OTR

Other places to legally stalk me:
> My blog’s facebook page: Ja-ontheRUN Blog
> Check out my silly photo adventures on Instagram: @ja_ontherun

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21 thoughts on “Adventure in the Smokies

  1. Beth @ Running with the Sunrise

    Gorgeous photos! I used to live in upstate South Carolina and these photos are totally making me miss living in the foothills. Looks like you had a great vacay! Definitely consider hiking parts of the AT if you’re interested. I did a small section in New Hampshire and the final stretch in Maine and it was a lot of fun. Breathtaking views!

    Reply
  2. rebacox

    What a great vacation. I’ve been to Gatlinburg before it is a pretty cute town. I love all of your hiking pictures. Maybe I need to plan a vacation back there next year 🙂

    Reply
  3. Christine

    What gorgeous photos and what a beautiful part of the country!! I want to spend more time exploring Tennessee and North Carolina. So beautiful. Looks like you had a great trip!

    Reply
  4. Brittany

    You definitely did the right thing by not blogging on vacation!! I am so glad you had a great time and WOW you guys did so much!! WHAT A BLAST!! I am now craving a serious outdoor adventure!

    Reply
  5. BrittsRunningStyle

    I missed your posts all week! Love the recap of your vacation! The falls look beautiful. I want to visit there. You did so much hiking too. Loved this post and all your nature pics. I want a hot tub too!

    Reply
  6. Tink

    Looks like a great time, I’ve never been and now you’re making me want to go! Love the picture of your husband gripping the fish from the statue!

    Reply
  7. Amy Lauren

    I love your pictures and it looks like you had a wonderful and very active trip! I know there are tons of trails and places to hike up there but I never have, our last trip was during winter (right after Christmas), so it was too cold and wet to do anything like that, unfortunately. To me Pigeon Forge reminds me of Myrtle Beach, we have that Wonderworks upside down museum there as well. When we stayed, Clay and I walked on the strip a lot and we went out to eat and shopped and went to Dollywood for the Christmas festivities. I’d love to go back, on another vacation, but I don’t think he really liked it (my hubs is weird like that).

    Reply
  8. belle ens

    Ja, I LOVE this post!! I love hiking as well, even though I’m SO out of shape that for now I can only do *mild* incline terrain heheheh. Dust and I have gone on a few mini hikes since we got back to Vanc. We take a bit longer than others on the trail though cos I take photos of absolutely EVERYTHING hahahah 🙂 Thanks for sharing your adventure trip! View’s breathtaking and the drive really was beautiful 🙂

    Reply
    1. Lita meina

      Nice ….bring us there too…..hhehe so for me to evade shopping a lot. I did not see malls . Yap kidding aside would love t
      To see the place n expeience thr run, walk, bike etc…..

      Reply

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