Exploring Tennessee before returning to Georgia

We left off the last travel blog as we were heading south after enjoying the WV/VA area. We made haste and stayed one night at Stony Fork campground in VA (again) as we made our way to Tennessee (TN). Our first stop in TN was Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Instituted in 1934, it’s the most visited park in the US national system (11 million annually). There is a long history in this area involving Native Americans and Southern Appalachian culture. Sadly, many longtime residents were forced to relocate before they established the park. 

This park is huge, so we didn’t try to see all of it. It covers over 800 square miles of the Southern Appalachian Mountains. There are two entry points in TN at Gatlinburg and Townsend and one in Cherokee, NC. The highest point in the park is 6,643 feet and the lowest point is 870 feet, with up to 50,000 different types of plants and animals. We were lucky enough to see two black bears during our stay. One caused Jason to slam on his bike brakes as it was in the middle of the road. We waited until he left the path before continuing. That made our hearts race and gave us our adrenaline rush for the day.


We entered the Smokies through Townsend and camped in the Cades Cove section. The most popular part of this area is an 11-mile, one-way loop with scenic views of tall mountains, low valleys, and magnificent meadows. There is also a lot of history and some of the original churches and homesteads. You can take a break from the loop to walk through the structures and enjoy some hiking trails. As it turns out, one day a week, the loop is closed to cars so that bikes and walkers can enjoy it with less worry. Since we were there for one week, we were able to take advantage of this benefit. However, we still have regular bikes and we felt that the many electric bikes were just as aggressive as the cars. Even so, it was a beautiful bike ride.

Next, we headed farther west to Nashville. We didn’t go downtown but instead visited longtime friends who live on the outskirts in Smyrna, TN. We spent the weekend playing the tourist. We went to the local farmers market and snacked at a nearby eatery. Later, we had a sunset picnic dinner to live jazz music at Arrington Vineyards, co-owned by country singer Kix Brooks. It’s a cool venue with multiple stages for a variety of musical acts happening simultaneously. Besides that, we were able to spend some quality time with our friends, soak in their hot tub, catch up on laundry, and relax in a home setting, which can be a treat after many weeks in the RV.

Our last stop in TN was right near the GA border. We stayed at the Lookout Mountain Chattanooga West KOA in Trenton, GA, and explored the area. We enjoyed going to the Chattanooga Aquarium and seeing the downtown. The other days we spent in nature visiting Cloudland Canyon State Park in GA, located on the western edge of Lookout Mountain. It has a disc golf course and thousand-foot-deep canyons. It was fun to hike along the top and bottom of the rim.

The Lookout Mountain area straddles the states of GA and TN, and a favorite tourist stop there is Rock City. Jason had visited as a child, but I had never seen it. It exceeded my expectations and lived up to Jason’s memories. It’s now a well-known attraction in the south, but it started as a backyard project of Frieda and Garnet Carter and was first opened to the public in 1932. They transformed their “backyard” into an enchanted park. They landscaped with plants, trees, art, and creative designs around unique geological structures to create a memorable setting. Over the years, they continued to add new features, including the whimsical Fairyland Caverns. This underground section houses many gnomes and fairies alongside recreated scenes from popular fairytales.

After entering the gate, you follow beautifully designed paths through gardens and rocks, which culminate in a waterfall at Lovers Leap under a cliffside area where you can relax and enjoy the view. Along the way, you pass by many unusual rock formations with humorous names like Mushroom Rock, Needle’s Eye, and Fat Man’s Squeeze. At the main overlook, the view is so far and wide that you can see seven states.

The Carters were an innovative couple. Besides creating Rock City, they invented miniature golf on the property and started a national craze with the Tom Thumb golf.

They also thought outside the box when they first hired Clark Byers to paint ads on countryside barns with the iconic phrase “See Rock City.” Over three decades, he painted some 900 barns in 19 states.

After Lookout Mountain, we made our way to Ellijay by way of a picnic at Carters Lake. That night, we had a tasty seafood dinner with someone special. Then we headed to Marietta, GA, for a brief stay before heading north again for the late fall.

P.S.  On a different note, I will be hosting a free virtual event to celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8th from 12-1 pm EST.  The event will share highlights from my new book The Purple Parachute: A Woman’s Guide to Navigating the Winds of Career Change and ways to apply its wisdom to your career. Please click here to register for the event (registration is required to access the link).