The second stop on Mayleen and Mable’s Southern Sojourn was camping in Great Smoky Mountain National Park in Tennessee. It was around this time that we started wailing along to ‘Wagon Wheel’ by Old Crow Medicine Show and developing our Southern Belle accents.
I tried to visit the Smoky Mountains a few years before. At the time, they were dealing with some forest fires and my asthmatic lungs couldn’t handle all the…smoke. This time, conditions were perfect.
By now, my sister and I had spent at least 24 hours in the woods. We were feeling refreshed, energized, and in love with all things nature. I have to be honest and say that driving through Pigeon Forge, Tennessee with that mindset will throw you through a loop.
Down the entire stretch of road leading to the park were some insane looking attractions. Crazy museums with odd-shaped buildings, restaurants, billboards between every single one… it looked like insanity.
Don’t get me wrong, I love an interesting museum. It may have just been the place and time and the frame of mind that we were in, but we found this mostly upsetting. Here we were going to spend time in this absolutely gorgeous wilderness and it felt like everything was trying to keep us from it.
We ignored the call and drove straight through to the park.
Camping in Great Smoky Mountain National Park
Amanda and I parked at our site and walked down to the visitor’s center to check in. I knew that black bears would be an issue (maybe the one thing I read about before hand). What I didn’t know was that we would be lectured for twenty minutes and then asked to sign a waiver that we were lectured and if we get ripped to shreds, it’s not their fault. They showed us a water cooler ripped to shreds and told us that it only held water. We shouldn’t use scented soaps, brush our teeth, or even bring water to bed with us.
I feel like my above tone is condescending. No, I’m not mad they did this. I’m thankful! It’s so much better to be safe than sorry!
However, you guys may know from this post that I have SEVERE anxiety. I didn’t sleep a fucking wink that night.
We took a long hike (with me paranoid about being stalked by bears), cooled down and skipped rocks in a gorgeous stream, and then walked back to camp for some dinner and beer.
This national park is beyond gorgeous. I was so happy that I got to go and experience its beauty. Would I go again? In a heartbeat. Would I camp in a tent? Probably not.
Thankfully, Ian and I are prepping for van life.
We settled into our tent, looking for some good rest before a big day of driving. Every time I thought I might doze off, I would hear something just outside the tent that would get my adrenaline pumping. I was frozen, terrified that I was about to be eaten.
Needless to say, nothing happened. Anxiety is like that, though.
My sister woke just before dawn and I begged her to just get up so we could leave. We packed the car with flashlights and left the Smoky Mountains before the sun even came up.
We were headed for Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Planning a road trip through Tennessee? Check out my Tennessee Road Trip Pinterest Board!