Smokey Mountains – The Gauntlet

The drive across country was three days – thousands of self-centered road hogs, countless RV problems and a 35lb puppy – but we survived. Mind you, the weather chose to be uncooperative, shining brightly as we trekked up the trails, to be windy and cloudy once we reached the trails end.

Of course, we planned to be flexible, because that is what Spring is about. The only concrete plan was a trip to Dollywood – enjoying its dozens of rides and shows. The puppy visited the Dollywood kennel. At only 5 months, this was Pagosa’s first trip to a kennel – and he was not pleased. But it was pleasant to have him nearby, and we could visit frequently between rides for walks and hugs. Unfortunately, he was next to a noisy pair of twin French bull-dogs that barked non-stop. It was frustrating for us – and I’m certain caused undue distress in our puppy. But the best option we could find for that day.

Speaking of options – we were disappointed to find that dogs are not welcome in the national parks. This trip was set in stone to a degree, so there were many hikes where the little one was left behind. We left our little one comfortable, but really desired his company. Future trips will be national forests. Our furry child belongs at our side.

Mind you – the hikes were still memorable – though a few were over-run. Rainbow falls had people climbing over every rock and tree. Dangerously ignorant of the environment and others enjoyment, led to altered natural formations, and trash left on the trail. Fortunately, if you wait, the visitors come in waves, and there is a peaceful moment where you can enjoy the majestic scenery.

Speaking of mix bags – Cades Cove is the roadway to Abrams falls. Abrams falls is hard to get the perfect view – but the power of the water flow leads to awe inspiring views from any angle. Sadly, the 20 mph one way road leading to it is frequently abused. Drivers rarely understand what pull-outs are, and the trip is more 5mph than 20. Still, the view is worth the wait.

Of course, the best find was entirely an accident. The fourth night, we learned was an intense wind storm. Gusts expected up to 70mph. This seemed enough to tip our RV, or at the least cause a sleepless night, and we evacuated to a hotel. The only remaining lodging was was at a Double Tree property – which turned out to be at the very top of the mountain. The drive was almost more intimidating than the coming storm. But at destination was a Shangri-La. A dog friendly hotel with food service, work-out room, and an amazing pool. The facilities were outstanding and accommodated our “entire” family. Double Tree hotel in Gatlinberg, TN is without a doubt a place to stay whether or not you are escaping impending doom.

Sadly, that was the end of our trip – KOA Journeys helped us home – where we rested and prepared for the next adventure.