On the way to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, we planned on making a stop to see Halie. Halie is a little girl our family used to foster that moved to Tennessee. We were so excited to go and pick her up and hang out with her for a bit. We hung out at her house, caught up on her big middle school life, and showed her that we still love her just as much as we did when she was in Oregon. We ended up taking her to a donut shop that was in the top 25 donut shops in America to go to where she was able to FaceTime back to Oregon and see most of our family back home. Now this donut shops had absolutely amazing donuts-Like nothing we have ever had before!! Halie got a chocolate cupcake, we both got a free donut because it was our first time to the donut shop, and we didn’t stop there. Their donuts were.. Let’s just say our mouths are watering writing this right now.. Yes, they were that good. We ended up getting three more donuts and a huge cinnamon roll. If anyone is ever in Cookeville, Tennessee, or anywhere close to it, you have to stop at Ralph’s Donuts. They are amazing!!
After dropping Halie back off at her place, we continued the drive to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. When we arrived in the park we took the scenic/historic drive through Cades Cove. Here we got to watch some wildlife in the fields, enjoy the sun going down, and had scenery that reminded us a lot of Oregon.
We then made our way out of the park through the cute little town of Gatlinburg and found a Walmart to sleep at for the night just outside of Gatlinburg. The Gatlinburg area of Tennessee was a bit like a theme park. There were tons of activities such as, mini golf, go-cart racing, Ripley’s Believe It or Not museums, diners, shops, Dollywood, just loads of entertainment.. definitely a place we want to go back to as we explore the Great Smoky Mountains again.
We got up fairly early and started ourselves off with some breakfast in an old campground. We were able to snag a site that had a gorgeous view of the creek and nobody around us. It was the perfect morning after being in a house for a few days!! We then gathered our things and began a hike up the Alum Cave Trail. This led to a really cool rock overhang with a beautiful mountainous view around us.
We enjoyed hanging out at the cave for a bit then got on the road to head to Clingman’s Dome. CCC workers originally built Clingman’s Dome during the Depression. Since then, the tower has been rebuilt to a much bigger cement structure instead of the wood structure that it originally was. On this hike, we passed by the Appalachian Trail where we were able to be in two different states at once!! To one side of the trail is Tennessee, and to the other side is North Carolina.. we had a fun time trying to take pictures of this!!
From Clingman’s Dome we headed for a short waterfall hike that we thought would be super easy. In our national park book, it said the hike was only .4 miles to the waterfall. After a lot of hiking that day, we figured we could end the day with a nice simple .4 hike to Mingo Falls. Little did we know, the book failed to mention that this short .4-mile hike was .2 miles of straight stairs!! 150 stairs later, yes we counted each individual one, we made it to this miraculous waterfall completely out of breath! Was every one of those 150 stairs worth it? Yes, no doubt!! Did we write in our book that there were 150 stairs for next time.. you bet!! J
By the time we finished at the waterfall we were both ready for dinner. We made our way out of the national park and found a nice picnic area to heat up our soup and veggies and then were on the road again to Shenandoah National Park.