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  • Writer's pictureMiranda

It was Fall Y'all in the Smoky Mountains

Updated: Dec 1, 2021

As I was writing this post in my head, I usually draft these in my head at least a half dozen times before actually typing, Chuck and I are kayaking a small lake at our KOA campground near Asheville, NC.

We spent the last two weeks exploring the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and surrounding areas from both the west and east. When we arrived it was peak color, bright yellows, reds and golds welcomed us to the mountains. Now, only the oaks are holding their leaves and the air is crisp at night. Perfect fall days are what we experienced...

On the west side of the mountains we stayed in Pigeon Forge, TN. The kids were bubbling with excitement as we drove through this commercialized area filled with attractions lining both sides of the highway for miles. Our campsite was only a block off the main drag, but the flowing stream and grassy bank were quite tranquil.

Each day started with school in the morning and some recess (tennis or basketball at the campground) while I worked. Then off to explore the mountains. Valley drives along Cades Cove Loop Road and Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail , picnic lunches, a hike to Grotto Falls, and time in Gatlinburg, TN, filled our days.

Folk art is a big part of the Smoky Mountains. We were all captivated watching potters, blacksmiths, and glass blowers practicing their craft at a few different places we visited.

The kids also got to take in some attractions too, including an alpine slide and trampoline park. We all attended an encore presentation of the Listening Room at their new Pigeon Forge location since it was a favorite in Nashville.

We took a rare break from cooking at the camper and ate at The Melting Pot, I have always wanted to go to the one in the Cities, followed by the Crazy Mason Milkshake Bar for dessert. If you ever get the chance to visit one of their six locations it is totally worth it! The milkshakes were topped with full size cookies, pie, waffles, and other ridiculous treats.

After five days in Pigeon Forge, we journeyed through the mountain pass to spend the next 10 days at a KOA in Asheville, NC. The first day we dedicated to R&R as the campground was swarming with other kids to hang out with. Basketball, gaga ball, ping pong, football, groundies (lava monster), poly-pong (4-way ping pong), and bike riding filled the kids' entire day. They even took in a motorcycle parade that passed by the campground. The only time they came back to the camper was when they were hungry or to show us all the candy they got at the parade!

Chuck and I spent the day moving campsites from a spot in the back 40 near a field for storage, to a great site on the lake with a few trees to hang our hammock. The spot was rated for a camper just a little shorter than ours, but we made it work. Our best site yet!

The days had been foggy when we were on the west side of the Smokies, so we took advantage of a beautiful sunny day to drive two hours to the peak of the Smoky Mountains from the east. Clingman's Dome has a concrete lookout tower that provides a 360 degree view of the entire mountain range. While there, we did a hike that included part of the Appalachian Trail and actually saw snow in the woods in a few spots.

The following day we ventured to Chimney Rock State Park. The exposed rock is unique among the surrounding tree covered mountains. We took an elevator 26 stories to the attraction most come to see at this state park - a plaque and American Flag atop Chimney Rock. Then we proceeded on a 3.8 mile hike gaining another 900 feet of elevation along the "Exclamation" and "Skyline" trails to the top of the falls. Unfortunately, when we got to the falls, all you can see is the actual top, not the falls itself. But the hike was beautiful with many great views. We rewarded ourselves with ice cream after in Chimney Rock Village, a small town at the base of the mountain.

The evenings have been dropping into the 30's with frost forming on our bike seats and car, but our furnace has been running great. The days have been sunny warming into the 50-60s, even a couple hitting 70.

We changed things up a bit from God's creation to a man-made wonder. Our family had the privilege of visiting the Biltmore House, 250-room estate built from 1889-1895 by George Vanderbilt, for an evening Candlelight Christmas Tour. The decor, candles and fireplaces crackling were all true to the era in which it was built and first enjoyed by the Vanderbilt's family and friends. Surprising things we learned and saw during the audio tour of the home...

  • 65 fireplaces (Mallory)

  • Mr & Mrs Vanderbilt had separate large bedrooms (Miranda)

  • architecture and building techniques used at the time (Chuck)

  • bowling alley in the basement (Kate)

  • swimming pool in the house (Ben)

Our evening tour didn't start until 9:15pm. By the time we drove back to the campground Kate was sound asleep. It has been a long time since Chuck needed to carry one of our kids into their bed.

The following day we returned to the Biltmore Estate to enjoy the acres of bike trails, gardens, fields, and amenities on the property. After that, a stop at one of Asheville's Farmers Markets for fresh veggies, baked breads and pastries. Then, we walked through the galleries of the local artists in the Art District.

The Blue Ridge Parkway was just a few miles from our campsite as well, so the following day we ventured 60 miles along the narrow winding road, stopping for hikes at Craggy Gardens and Mount Mitchell - the highest point east of the Mississippi. It was definitely past peak color and most of the leaves, except the oaks, had dropped. The rolling mountain landscape was a mix of grays and browns with green pine trees, but still displayed a beauty unique to this part of the country.

We have perfected many of the meals at the RV, most of which are cooked over a fire or on the Blackstone Flat Top Grill: french toast, blueberry pancakes, bacon, smash burgers, chicken fajitas, steak with chimichurri sauce, all kinds of grilled sandwiches, and hot dogs/brats with chili and cheese, Our camper neighbors from Wisconsin shared homemade peppermint brownies, which was a treat as we don't really bake on the road.

Some things have been less than perfect, as well. I tried to make a crock pot of wild rice soup, but had to settle for brown rice. Chuck went to two stores with no luck. Wild rice could not be found in North Carolina. I also managed to test our smoke detector making bagels one morning. It was actually a relief to see how little smoke it takes to set it off. This was just a day or two after Ben had to make a fire escape plan for class. It was a pretty simple plan, given that home is a 26-foot RV with really just one main door.

On our two-month anniversary (November 10) of being on the road, there was an intense discussion about budgeting amongst our children. Both Ben and Mallory had worked summer jobs and saved quite a bit to spend on our adventure. Kate had much less money, being only nine. Although before we left, she did put her baking skills to work with her friend Ellie and sold goodies to the neighbors to earn some extra spending money. The kids realized the pace of their spending, often times on junk food, needed to slow down to last another seven months. They agreed on monthly, then weekly spending limits. Penalties involved paying each other if they went over. Ben will be most challenged by this. Kate is planning on some penalty money to come her way. A few days after this, they all agreed the rules wouldn't start until December because we were headed to the Outer Banks and they all had things in mind they wanted to buy! More to come on how the budgeting works out.

We spent the last two days relaxing at the campground in Asheville fishing, kayaking, playing ping pong and poly-pong, biking, and teaching Mom how to play gaga ball. Then we packed up and headed east across North Carolina to the OBX (Outer Banks).


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Carol Nagy
Carol Nagy
Nov 30, 2021

I do not know why I am on the verge of tears. Rock on!


Nov 28, 2021

So glad you are all doing well and your adventures look amazing! Can’t wait to see you guys when you make your way back home🥰


Sharon Konen-Bulinski
Sharon Konen-Bulinski
Nov 28, 2021

Very interesting blog, keep them coming. What a true adventure for your family! Troy and Christi's mom, Sharon


Nov 28, 2021

I love reading about your adventures and seeing the great pictures.


Nov 28, 2021

Amazing Adventure! May God continue to protect your family Enjoy and have a Blessed Merry Christmas 😊

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