Today is the day that we are driving the Tail of the Dragon and doing all kinds of things in North Carolina. I didn't get us up and moving as soon as I wanted to so we ran out of daylight before we could even get to Cherokee for the things there so we will be making another trip back there. I already had a day planned to go to Cataloochee Valley so we'll already be in the area so it worked out well.
We couldn't of asked for a better day to do this drive. The weather was beautiful and there was lots of sunshine and bright skies! We've definitely been blessed with great weather so far and I think it's only going to get better as the week goes on!
We started our drive out driving through Townsend and then getting on the Foothills Parkway. The higher we got up in elevation, the more the trees were changing their colors. Such amazing views along the pull-offs!
Once we got on the Tail of the Dragon, there was no picture taking from me, however we did get our picture taken by a couple of the photographers on the road. There was one time when we went by one of them that Shawn actually was hanging out the window some. I'm not sure if it didn't turn out or not, but I can't find that one on their website. When he did that, I thought I was going to pee my pants from laughing so hard! He's so funny!
Driving the Tail of the Dragon was definitely alot more fun than I thought it would be. I'm ready to drive it again! HAHA! We didn't really encounter much traffic at all while on it. I don't think I had anyone in front of me that I could tell, and there was only one truck behind me and he kept his distance. We did encounter one idiot going the opposite direction squeal tires around the corner as we approached and then heard him again on the next corner after we had already passed him.
We stopped at Deal's Gap to check that out, take pictures, and get my smashed penny. We both also got t-shirts.
Ol' Stace tamed that dragon!
The Tree of Shame is really interesting to look at too! It's made with all parts of cars and bikes that bit the dust driving the Tail of the Dragon. I'm thankful no parts of my car will be making that tree!
When I read about the Tail of the Dragon a few years ago, I wanted to drive it, but never did. Shawn definitely didn't want to either! Then earlier this year, my Uncle Dave was telling me that he and Becky drove it on their motorcycle and was telling me about it, so I knew for sure that I wanted to drive it this trip. I'm so glad we did.
After leaving the Tail of the Dragon we headed towards Fontana Dam. We took Highway 28, which is also called Moonshiner 28, another popular curvy road. On the way there we stopped at a pull off with lake access.
Once we arrived at Fontana Dam, we drove by the marina, stopped at a scenic picnic pull off, and then visited the visitor center and walked out on the dam. Such amazing views and scenery!
Part of the Appalachian Trail runs through the Great Smoky Mountains and we've seen the trail paths before up at Clingman's Dome and the Newfound Gap parking area. Part of the trail also runs through the Fontana Dam area. Shawn and I both find it really interesting and I'm always fascinated when I see people hiking on it. When we were at the dam, we saw a group of people who were all geared up with their backpacks and hiking poles.
Our next stop after leaving the dam, was at the Nantahala Outdoor Center area and to have lunch at the River's End Restaurant. You can read more about all there is to do and see at NOC at the link I provided. When planning the trip I really only planned on eating lunch here, but there is alot of activities and things to do that go on here. It's really a neat place!
We choose outside seating and had an amazing view of the river's gorge and the mountains.
For appetizers Shawn had the crab cakes, and I had the white chicken chili. Both were really yummy!
And then for our meals, I had the Appalachian chicken philly, and Shawn had the Bull Sluice burger and both meals came with fries. Everything was really yummy! I would definitely recommend this restaurant if you were in the area!
The NOC is a popular place for kayaking and kayaking training and I watched this guy for quite a few minutes in this spot maneuvering back and forth against the rapids and through the training courses they have there.
We were running out of daylight hours and still had a stop in Bryson City before we even made it to Cherokee. I definitely planned more activities for us then the daylight hours could hold. In Bryson City I planned on us driving the Road to Nowhere and then going to the Deep Creek area to walk a couple waterfall trails, but we were only able to drive the Road to Nowhere.
You can read all about the Road to Nowhere here, but in quick it's a road that ends at the end of the tunnel, with unbroken promises from the government of finishing the road to the residents of Swain County.
I had planned on walking all the way through the tunnel, but I definitely creeped myself out once we were in it. Once you get in the tunnel, it's really a long walk to the end even though it didn't look like it. And it was dark! Even with our flashlights, it was dark. And windy! There was only a slight breeze outside, but the wind that came through the tunnel was crazy. It was a bit spooky. There were other cars parked there, but no one in sight. I know they were on hiking trails and exploring, but I didn't want to take my chances and end up a victim in a Wrong Turn type movie! HAHA!! We only walked about half way through and then turned around and came out.
This picture was taken with the flash on, but without the camera flash...
But without the flash, this is what it really looked like inside...
That $8.99 selfie stick I bought earlier in the summer has definitely came in handy and has gotten a workout this vacation! HAHA! I'm pulling it out all the time. And it's so funny to see other people use them too!
I guess someone is starting a shoe tree? ;)
By the time we got back into the town at Bryson City, it was already dark, which resulted in an almost 2 hour drive back to our motel in the dark mountain roads of Cherokee, through the Newfound Gap area, and up into Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. It's definitely different driving those roads in the dark versus the daylight. There is so much you have to watch out for...deer, bear, turkey's, elk, falling rock, and running off the side of the mountain. Obviously you have to watch out for all of that in the daylight too, but it's so much different at night.
Right around the Newfound Gap area, we came upon one of those little RV's you can rent who was going so slow. I think at one point they might of reached top speeds of 25 mph. I know you need to go slow on those roads, but it was seriously ridiculous how slow that thing was going. Me, and I'm sure all of the other cars behind us were really hoping he would pull over at one of the dozens of pull offs along the way to let people go around, but they didn't. The guy behind me was even more impatient than I was. He kept flashing his lights, honking his horn, and doing a little Nascar swerve in both lanes. Shawn and I both found it amusing thus making the drive that more interesting. The driver of the RV didn't have a care in the world that he was backing up traffic, and every time the guy behind me honked his horn or flashed his lights, I pumped the brake on my car a little bit harder. I'm sure irritating him more. HAHA!
We took the Gatlinburg bypass around and I was able to find the pull offs alot easier this time. We stopped at both so I could try to get a picture of the city lit up at night. This is about as good as I could get as I kept spooking myself out there in the dark. It was pitch black and you can hear so much stuff in the woods. I didn't want to get eaten by a bear! HAHA!
It was probably close to 10 before we got back to our hotel room. And we were both exhausted! Off to bed for some sleep before we begin the next day's adventures!