As we know, travel is limited these days. This has been hard for me, because with the uncertainty, I have not purchased any future flights- the best incentive to push forward sometimes. I was feeling the travel itch, so I figured I’d look somewhere “local.” Why not? The U.S. has some stunning landscapes just like other parts of the world.
We also didn’t want to leave our dog behind again. He doesn’t whine about it, but he gets the run every time he sees Mr. Lumberjack and I pack. Man, we got a rude welcome coming home from that Morocco trip. We decided this would be the test to see if Loki can handle long car rides.
On Friday morning, we packed the car and Loki pulled us (literally yanked me) to the car when he realized that he was coming too. I think he has abandonment issues. Mr. Lumberjack drove the whole way, even though I offered multiple times to drive. Sigh…men! In total, the trip was supposed to take 9 hours from Chicago to Gatlinburg, but it ended up being 10 hours due to an accident.
We get to Gatlinburg around 6 PM. Like most tourist towns, Gatlinburg has one main road with a lot of souvenir shops, arcades, restaurants, etc. It reminded me a little bit of Wisconsin Dells. Well, it was packed. Also, I would like to point out very few people wore masks. That part didn’t matter yet, because we were making our way to the hotel.
We stayed at The Park Vista- by the Double Tree Hotel. For the town, I believe it was the highest point we could have lodged. I asked for mountainside view and it was beautiful to wake up to that in the morning. It ended being cheaper to purchase two king size beds versus one king size bed, so Loki got his own bed.
The next morning we took Loki downtown. We woke up fairly early, so barely anyone else was out. Mr. Lumberjack needed his morning coffee and donuts. I recommend you try Donut Friar.
We then drove to look for the Gatlinburg Trail, which was near where we originally parked. Parking is a b****; it’ll be $10 every time you park in the town. Since we stay on top of the hill, it’s of course physically easier to drive. The Smoky Mountains only has two dog-friendly trails. Gatlinburg is one of them.
Loki had a ball. Sometimes I couldn’t tell if he was smiling or panting, but he marked his territory on everything. We let him dip his feet in the river and this guy couldn’t get enough. He kept dunking his head in there. It made me happy to see him so happy.
Afterwards, we headed to the hotel to take a break. Loki passed out. We left him to sleep and headed to another trail, Rainbow Falls (5 miles) with a little more grade. We didn’t make it all the way to the top, because the sun was going down. However, we must have hiked for 4.5 miles and we paid for it the next day.
On the final day, we stopped by a park near the hotel to let Loki run free. There wasn’t much to entertain the guy, so we drove an hour to the second dog-friendly trail, Oconaftee Trail (North Carolina). It’s a flat trail that runs along another river. I’d say this trail was boring, but it’s still worth heading out there. On the way, there are so many beautiful mountain views; We stopped multiple times to take some photos.
Late at night, we left Loki in the hotel again to buy T-shirts, Moonshine and Tennessee Whiskey. I always thought Moonshine is this strong nasty alcohol, but I love it. There is so much flavor packed in a shot. Amaretto is the best one we sampled. We made the horrible decision to walk down from our hotel. Going down was a breeze, but marching up the hill nearly killed me.
The next day, we woke up and left at 4 AM EST. It was a rough car ride for us and Loki, who could not fall asleep in the car. We took fewer breaks too, in order to arrive to Chicago by noon. Poor Loki. He loved the destination but not the journey.
In total, we traveled for 4 days and two of them were driving days. I think two days is more than enough. I focused more on trails because that is what I like. However, if you like the arcades, Ripley Believe It or Not, candy shops, along with the trails you might want to spend at least 3 days.
We obviously enjoyed the trip, but more importantly, our dog did too. I think there will be many more road trips with this little guy. While we were there, we took extra caution to avoid people and/or wear masks. In my next post, I’ll list out some of the steps we took to minimize our risk. Until then…