I have talked to several married couples that sadly state that they have never taken a honey moon. Until September of 2012 that was also true for my wife and I. It was our 7th year anniversary and my 3rd time overseas. I was coming home on leave on the 1st of September and our anniversary was on the 2nd. I wanted to take her some place that she would enjoy, would be memorable, and that would give us plenty of time alone. At first we considered the beach but after much juggling of the idea we decided that the mountains would give us the privacy we wanted and still allow us to have a good time with attractions in the area. As John Muir once said “The Mountains are calling and I must go”.
We ended up deciding to rent a cabin in Bryson, NC for 6 nights. We found a really nice cabin that we could afford to rent for the full week and reserved it. Before we left I called to make sure that the reservation was still good. Here was our first possible kink but turned out quite nicely. The cabin rental company asked if I had a 4-wheel drive vehicle. Once they found out that I did not, they told me it was not possible to access the cabin without it. Most people’s hearts would have sunk into the muddy ground. Mine did not. Instead I was instantly enraged. I did not so much explain as much as told the company of how they had possibly ruined my honey moon, 7th year anniversary, and my one time out of the year I get to spend with my wife all because they ‘forgot’ to mention the 4-wheel drive necessity when I originally reserved the cabin. I don’t know if she felt bad for us or if she was genuinely scared but not only did she change the reservation to another cabin she also upgraded us to a much nicer cabin for no extra charge. Not only was my honey moon still on track but it was also improved.
Our first experience on our trip was a very pleasant one. We knew that our cabin had been upgraded and had seen pictures on the company’s website but I don’t think one can fully appreciate the beauty of a cabin without experiencing it first-hand. The interior was what I had suspected it to be but the exterior was a whole other story. The cabin was sitting high on a hill all by itself. We had a neighbor on either side of us but the woods were so thick that we couldn’t even see them, let alone be seen by them. Privacy was at a maximum. But it wasn’t just the privacy that we enjoyed. The sight of the towering trees that surrounded us matched with the view of mountain tops over the tree line from our front porch was unmatched by anything we had ever seen before. The only down side was the drive way. I didn’t mind it as much as my wife. I guess you can classify it as scary. It was extremely steep and felt as if we would topple backwards as we climbed it with our Ford Explorer. Other than that our first day was wonderful and I was instantly hooked on returning.
We had a lot on our plate as I had planned out each individual day to ensure we spent our time efficiently and effectively. Overall we ended up trout fishing, waterfall hunting, visiting Ripley’s Aquarium in Gatlinburg Tennessee, visiting Cherokee North Carolina, and taking scenic drives through the Smoky Mountains.
Ripley’s Aquarium in Gatlinburg was scheduled for the next day and we had to drive through the mountains to reach it from where we were staying at. We made several stops along the way to view the rushing water that followed the road we were on. At some points the water was some-what calm and others the water was rushing over stones and slamming into the water below allowing it to give off a mist that could even catch a gold fish’s attention. The aquarium was a lot nicer than what I was expecting. There was quite a bit to look at. Probably the most enjoyable was the shark tunnel. You hop on a conveyor belt and it slowly takes you into a huge tunnel that runs through the main aquarium that holds sharks. Some were small and others were huge. I was able to catch a few pictures of ‘Jaws’ swimming directly over the tunnel with his mouth open and teeth bared. I’m pretty sure he was posing for my camera but then again maybe all of us below him looked pretty tasty. I am going to assume it was both.
The fishing was a lot of fun. It was out of a small pond stocked with plenty of trout. So much that it was impossible to not catch fish. After catching a few fish and a short conversation with the individual operating the trout farm we found out that from there we could access a trail that led not only into the Smoky Mountains but also to a 65ft natural water fall. I am not going to go into detail about this one because the end result was not pleasant. To make a long story short during the walk our cell phone died, we had no water, we walked for over an hour up hill, had no hiking boots, and found no water fall. It was almost night fall when we finally made it back to our vehicle. Our first attempt at waterfall hunting had been thwarted.
Our next trip was a lot more fun. We went to Cherokee which is an Indian Reservation. It was time for some fire water and gambling. Ok neither of those happened. I just thought it sounded cool. Instead we drove around Cherokee, which is actually a pretty small town, and shopped at a few gift shops. We also heard about a thing called bear hunting that could be done here. Not bear hunting in the sense that most of you are probably thinking. There were giant bears spread throughout the town. Each of them had a different story to tell with the authentic Indian paintings they displayed. We stopped at the town hall and picked up a map that would show us where each bear was. We embarked on our ‘bear hunting’ journey and took pictures of as many as we could find. Unfortunately some of the bears had been taken down for repairs due to vandalism and damage the received.
The Great Bear Hunt!
Another part of this trip that was quite enjoyable was the find of our first waterfall. By word of mouth we found out about a 120ft water fall called Mingo Falls not far from Cherokee. We were able to make it there just before the sun went down. After a very long climb up some man made steps and a short 5 minute walk on a weathered dirt trail we came upon a well-constructed and sturdy wooden bridge. Once out on the bridge you can see the waterfall just up the stream less than 50ft away. It was probably the best one we had found on our trip. Unfortunately when my wife took a picture of me standing on the bridge the light on the camera made it look as if I was photo shopped into the photo. We need a new camera…
The Waterfalls & Biltmore Shots
After all this we simply drove through the mountains a few more times throughout our remaining days taking in, enjoying and fully appreciating the beauty the Smoky Mountains have to offer. We did find, on our last trip through, that hidden in little nooks throughout the mountain were small waterfalls running down the side of the mountains and also that a very short drive from where we stayed at, just inside the national park, were 3 water falls all bunched together. Each one was within about a 10-15 minute walk. Viewing waterfalls was on the top of the list for me and I was very glad I was able to catch these guys before we left. These 3 water falls were called Juney Wank Falls, Tom Branch Falls, and Indian Creek Falls. Probably the best one of these three was Indian Creek Falls. It is a very wide and cascading waterfall with heavy rushing water. Overall all three were a wonderful sight and a very easy hike.
The Final Word
At the end of our trip we had concluded that we were 100% sold on the mountains. If you’re looking for a party town then go to the beach. If you’re looking for somewhere that is quiet and peaceful yet has plenty of attractions to get you out into nature then I would recommend taking a trip to the Smoky Mountains any day of the week.