After the last bits of packing, we had coffee with Rick and Roxanne, gave Sprocket a bath, and hit the road. We headed up the Foothills Parkway towards Great Smoky Mountain National Park. When we stopped for gas in Townsend we were pleasantly surprised to find out that the park roads through Cades Cove were not closed for repaving as we had thought.
Having plenty of time to kill before arriving at Chris’s house in North Carolina, I convinced Forrest to drive the 11 mile loop road. I really enjoyed seeing the old cabins and fields. The Cable Mill grist mill was really cool–they still actually make corn meal there and sell it in the gift shop. After we (finally?) got out of Cades Cove we took the winding road up the river to the main entrance at Gatlinburg. We decided to check out Gatlinburg before heading up the mountain. Gatlinburg is a tourist trap to end all tourist traps–but it’s kind of a sight to see. We grabbed a loaf of bread and some chocolate milk and headed for the hills.
The road to Newfound Gap (5,084′) was pretty unremarkable. The view from the top was pretty but my visit to that parking lot was made by the older couple who walked up to congratulate us on keeping our Cherokee in such nice shape. We did cross into North Carolina though, another new state for me! Cruising down the other side of the mountain, we found the entrance to the 469 mile Blue Ridge Parkway. We cruised along the parkway and stopped to hike Waterrock Knob and pick up a map at it’s visitors center. After that, we kept on rolling up towards Mt. Pisgah.
The parkway was closed due to a rock slide just north of Mt. Pisgah, so we took North Carolina 151 out towards Asheville. In Asheville, we found some internet and decided to hit up the Wedge Brewing Co. It was this fantastically funky brewery with some pretty darn good beer. We had their Iron Rail IPA and Payne’s Pale Ale. Both were quite good and we enjoyed hanging out on the patio and making friends with the locals!
After our beers we headed back towards the parkway and camped out just north of US 70.