When we were planning our Tennessee swing through the Volunteer State, we also planned to meet up with James and Janice Kelley of Hendersonville, TN. Our rendezvous location was Townsend, TN, a small town outside the “quiet” entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP). James and Janice stayed in a little cabin at our campground while Barb and I were in the SaraLinda. We met for dinner, caught up a bit and talked about plans, which first included fishing… at least for James, Barb and me.
James, Barb and I met the next morning and headed out to fish the Little River in GSMNP. We met our guide, Chad Williams, at the “Y” in the park where you either go toward Gatlinburg or Cade’s Cove. We had a great day of fishing in the park that’s chronicled in “Little River, Little Fish“. As you can see in the gallery, James had a great day catching beautiful, small native rainbow trout. Afterward, we headed back to the campground to hear how Janice’s day went and to head to dinner at the Trailhead Steak and Trout House in Townsend. Great dinner and lots of fish stories and laughs to share, especially of James’ “river dance” and swimming session. We even got a nice pic of James and Janice outside the restaurant with an old, spooky wagon.
While day one was all about the fishing, day 2 was all about touring GSMNP and the area. We started inside the park, driving up to the Elkmont area which is rich with history, including the Appalachian Clubhouse pictured in the gallery above. In the early 1900’s, the Little River Lumber Company began promoting this area as a resort. A group of nearby civic leaders and businessmen created a clubhouse first as a sportsman’s club which morphed over time into a social club. Its members included the elite of Knoxville. The lumber company not only logged the area around Elkmont and the clubhouse, but also provided train service for members to travel to and from the area.
After we toured the Elkmont area, we slipped just outside the park into Gatlinburg. After having a huge brunch at the Pancake Pantry, which was hopping at 10:45 in the morning, we took a few moments to explore town. We visited some local stores before finding a nice spot for a quick Halloween/Fall pic in “the Village”. Next, we headed up the mountain above town to view the damage done by the fires of a year ago. You could still see the burned out homes, businesses and landscape and were amazed at how the fire jumped and moved about, scorching one spot before jumping over and ignoring others.
We took a different route back into the park, touring Pigeon Forge (TN), home of Dollywood. The whole Gatlinburg / Pigeon Forge area reminded Barb and I of the Lake of the Ozarks area in southern Missouri. As you drove down the main streets of each town, you saw restaurants, theaters, t-shirt shops, mini-golf courses, go-kart tracks, taffy shops, and more. I’m sure both cities are bustling in summer with families, but this was late October and it was an “older” crowd, touring the area and enjoying the fall colors blanketing the mountains.
Our next stop was the Cade’s Cove section of GSMNP, one of the most visited spots in the park. This valley was a thriving community in the early 1800’s with churches, mills and many families residing here. Cade’s Cove contains more historic buildings than any other area of GSMNP. Wildlife were abundant here as well, as we saw numerous turkey, deer and even a small bear jam (although the bear was already out of our sight).
When we got back to Townsend, we grabbed ice cream at the drive-in restaurant next to our campground, sitting out in the sun to keep warm. Janice then led us to the river behind our campground causing James to grab his fly rod once again and yes, catching perhaps the smallest fish of the trip… maybe it was 2 inches long? Maybe. Afterward, we enjoyed dinner at a local Mexican restaurant, which for Tennessee, was actually pretty good.
Our last morning consisted of packing up, getting the SaraLinda ready to roll, and making a drive to the entrance to GSMNP for our obligatory picture in front of the park sign. We had such a great time with James and Janice and are already looking forward to our next adventure with them. This area of Tennessee is one we’ll be returning to visit again… great fishing, beautiful scenery and most importantly, great friends for sharing it all. Thanks James and Janice!