Because of rainy conditions here in eastern Tennessee, we decided to stay an extra couple of days. It is pretty here and we don't like traveling in the rain, so why not stay put? We planned to spend that rainy time working since we had spent three of the last five days exploring and visiting with friends. But the rain was finished earlier than expected, so we took off Thursday afternoon to make one more drive. It was a treat because we thought we had done all the sight-seeing we would be able to do. We were glad to be wrong.
We drove through an area of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park we had not yet explored: Cades Cove. It was about 25 driving miles from our RV campsite (Trey clocked it at 24.1 miles), but Google told us it would take well over an hour to get there. That gives you an idea of how slow of a drive this would be.
Before entering Cades Cove, we drove Laurel Creed Road - a twisty road following a stream. The previous rainstorms had taken many of the leaves, but it was still a beautiful ride.
We called this part the Golden Tunnel.
We stopped once or twice to enjoy the scenery. You can see the number of leaves on the sides of the creek bank in this picture.
And a shot of the scooter on one of our roadside stops.
Once we arrived in Cades Cove, traffic significantly increased. Our speed was consistently between 5-10 mph. While we enjoy going slowly and watching the scenery, the scooter takes constant maneuvering at speeds less than 10 mph. That part was kind of a drag.
One of the slowdowns was for a good reason: Bears!
Seriously cool bears! A mother and her two cubs were in a field on the left side of the road. You can see them here walking directly toward us. They were about 100 yards away and we would have been nervous, but there was a park ranger on a bicycle just ahead of us and we figured we were faster than him. :) The momma bear was trying to cross the road, but there were too many cars and she kept turning her cubs back to the field. All the while, she was getting closer and closer to us. Finally, the ranger stopped traffic just two cars ahead of us and the little family crossed over. It was quite an event and everyone was thrilled to see a bear family so close. Susan was especially thrilled.
After momma and the boys ran off into the woods, we continued on our journey around the loop. There were many beautiful views and we stopped a few times to look around.
Cades Cove was formally a mountain valley village with 600+ people living in it before the national park came along. We visited many old structures representing that era along the loop. Here is the old mill where we saw corn being ground.
This was one of a few churches and cemeteries along the route.
Because of the heavy and slow traffic, the last 5 miles of the loop took us almost an hour. Way... too... slow. Once we finished the 11 mile loop, we retraced our steps back home.
This was our last ride here (for real). We pack up and leave tomorrow morning.