Sunday, October 19, 2008

Our Day Trip to the Mountains/Clingmans Dome

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Whew…what a day today was. I am completely spent!! I have never sat in so much traffic in all my life and honestly, I don’t care if I ever do it again. Honestly, if we ever come back here, which I am sure we will, it will not be at this time of year. We have been to Gatlinburg twice, once the last week in September and once the first week in October and have NEVER experienced the traffic the way it was today. And I don’t think I have ever been in Antarctica temperatures as we were today either. We slept in this morning and then got up and got ready to go to the Smokey Mountains National Park today. We left the hotel at 11:00 a.m. and stopped at KFC next to our hotel and got some fried chicken, biscuits, cole slaw and potato salad to have for a picnic later when we stopped at this place called Chimney Tops picnic area. It was only a few miles to the picnic area from our hotel. At 2:00 p.m., we finally made it to the picnic area and were able to eat lunch.
There was so much traffic going through town and into the mountains today that it was bumper to bumper for MILES! The Chimney Tops picnic area was lots of fun. It was pretty chilly today, but that didn’t stop the hundreds of people that were out picnicking. LOL!! Shawn and I were what you would call amateur park goers and picnickers. Everyone had their grills going cooking food and trying to stay warm and were having hotdogs and burgers and such, and there sat Shawn and I freezing our heebie geebies off, eating a now cold bucket of chicken after the 3 hour drive to the picnic area. People had blankets to wrap up in and hats and scarfs and we had a jacket. LOL!! How was I supposed to know it was going to be so cold while we were down there. At home, we were having 80 degree temps, so I packed like it was going to be 80 degrees!! Luckily, we both had taken a light jacket with us when we left home. LOL!!! It was still lots of fun and we learned a lot for next time. After lunch and cleaning up so the bears wouldn’t get you, we headed off to our destination…Clingman’s Dome.

We didn’t encounter much traffic the rest of the drive. The scenery was beautiful and the leaves were changing colors. There were quite a few pull-offs along the way that we stopped for pictures at. I was upset with myself that I forgot the new tripod, so we had to improvise with sitting the camera on the hood of the car or depending on others to figure out how to use the new camera (that’s why there are full body shots of us and not just the chest area up. LOL!!)

We finally made it to Clingman’s Dome. Once you climb the top of it, you are over 6,000 ft up, and are at the highest point in Tennessee and the second highest point east of the Mississippi river. I had read online that the temperatures at the top of the dome would be about 10-20 degrees cooler than they were on the ground. Well once again, Shawn and I weren’t prepared for the short, steep ½ mile hike to the top. I heard a few different people say it was 32 degrees at the bottom of the hill, so with the wind blowing, it had to of been -2 degrees at the top. It was FREEZING!!! Just the walk from the car to the bottom to the bathroom area, I thought I was either going to freeze to death, or die of pneumonia from breathing in all that cold air. I warmed up in the bathroom area for a second and then we started up the hill. I couldn’t do it, it was entirely too cold and too steep for me to try to climb. Shawn was like we made it this far, you can’t give up now, but I couldn’t do it. He went ahead and I stayed on the ground waiting for him. He was gone for what felt like forever!! I kept listening to see if anyone said anything about a little short chubby guy in a blue jacket having a heart attack or anything on the way up or at the top. Finally after what seemed like forever, I saw him coming down the hill. He said he didn’t think he was going to make it up and had to stop at the resting benches a time or two and that it was completely FREEZING up there. Once you got up there, you couldn’t see anything cause it was so foggy/smoky – hence the term Smoky Mountains, huh? After all that, I couldn’t wait to get to the car and turn the heat on.

Once in the car, we headed back to town. There wasn’t much traffic until you got about 5 miles close to town and we encountered bumper to bumper traffic for the next two hours. I was tired and was getting aggravated with the traffic that I didn’t want to do anything else. We still had our ticket to ride the space needle for the daytime view, but after the wait in traffic to get there and the $10 that it was going to cost us to park in Gatlinburg, I said forget it and we just left and headed back to Pigeon Forge for dinner. Of course that took us another hour in traffic. We finally made it to the Bullfish Grille and only had about a 30 minute wait to be seated. We had a yummy dinner of baby back ribs, potatoes, broccoli, salad and bread.

After dinner, Shawn wanted to play putt-putt at Hillbilly Golf, which is in Gatlinburg, so we drove back into town. Since it was late, there wasn’t much traffic so that was nice. We played the left side of the course this time. You ride a chair lift up to the top of the mountain and then play putt-putt halfway down the side of the mountain. When you are finished, the chair lift will come get you and take you back to the bottom of the mountain. I think Shawn won the came by 2 strokes or so, but I’m sure he cheated. After that we both wanted a sweet treat so we went to Baskin Robbins again for the $6 banana split. And then back to the hotel for a little R & R.

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