With no telling how long till we return to this part of the county, we decided to make one last visit to Smoky Mountain National Park. Winter storm Octavia had just snowed over much of the area but most of the roads were still open and we looked forward to seeing some frozen mountain scenes.
We took the south entrance through Cherokee, NC for the first time, having usually started in Gatlinburg in the past. The road was windy but clear, most of it lined with walls of frozen melt off and hanging ice spikes 7 feet tall. The park was surprisingly busy and at times we found it hard to find a place to pull off, but when we did we had a great time just walking around the forest near the road or enjoying the views at the overlooks. The sky was so crisp and clear you could see rows of peaks for miles and miles. The forest itself was rather dark but still quite colorful and very much alive.
The road to Clingmans Dome was closed so we parked the truck and walked up the road with Sherlock. The only place in the park that dogs are allowed is roads and campgrounds, and since most the trails in the park were either frozen or muddy at the time, it worked out well. Winter really does seem to be the best time to bring your dog to hike, all winter we’ve been taking her up closed roads in the park without much issue (aside from some solid ice). We ran into several people also walking the road, some with sleds and ski pants, though they may have been a little hopeful about the amount of snow, they still seemed to be having a good time.
After our lazy drive through the mountains we stopped off in Gatlinburg for lunch of a veggie burger and beer at the Smoky Mountain Brewery. Unfortunately Saturday in Gatlinburg can be crazy, and holidays even worse; There was a 30 minute wait to be seated. We don’t often wait but they text you when your table is available, which is much better than standing around waiting, so we had a chance to walk around town and listen to a bluegrass band outside the Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine store without paying for parking, and only had our feet stepped on a couple times by the hoards of tourists in town for Valentine’s Day. No better gift for the one you love than a half gallon of moonshine!*
*subject to preference.