Blue Ridge Parkway & Smoky Mountains

Last year we were disappointed when our cruise to Cuba was effectively cancelled by the government‘s inconsistent foreign policy. In December, we booked our travel for this year. Our plans involved an eastern Caribbean cruise on the Celebrity Summit in March. And in August we were booked on a Danube river cruise from Bucharest, Romania to Vienna, Austria on the Amadeus Silver II. We would have transited ten countries across eastern Europe. We were so excited about these trips. However, 2020 had it’s own plans.

COVID-19 happened and a couple weeks before our March trip, the cruise industry suspended all operations thereby cancelling our eastern Caribbean cruise. We rebooked on a cruise with roughly the same itinerary on Royal Caribbean Enchantment of the Seas in November. Surely the pandemic would be over by then, right? Well, by July our Danube river cruise was cancelled and earlier in October our rebooked Caribbean cruise was also cancelled. There is no end in sight and I am starting to think we’ll never leave the country again.

Anyway, we decided our 2020 vacation consolation prize would be to take a road trip through the Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Kara’s mom lives near the Smokies in Rockford, so we could visit her before and after our road trip. Here is how it went:

  • 10/14 – Smyrna to Rockford
  • 10/15 – Abrams Falls Trail: We started our vacation by hiking the Abrams Falls Trail in the Smokies. I hiked this trail about 25 years ago, except then we were backpacking and continued past the falls to the Abrams Creek campground. Today we simply hiked to the falls and back.
  • 10/16 – Blue Ridge Parkway to Asheville: In the morning, we drove from Rockford through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park down to Cherokee, NC. After lunch, we drove on the Blue Ridge Parkway from the southern terminus up to Asheville, NC. We were in the clouds for most of the time above 5,000 feet. The foliage was starting to turn and would become more colorful throughout the trip.
  • 10/17 – Biltmore: We spent the day at the Biltmore. In the morning, we took the guided rooftop tour. After lunch, we explored the grounds surrounding the mansion. And in the late afternoon, we took the self-guided tour of the mansion.
  • 10/18 – Blue Ridge Parkway to Boone: Today we continued up the Blue Ridge Parkway, driving between Asheville and Boone, NC. Along the way we visited the summit of Mount Mitchell, which is the highest point east of the Mississippi river. And in the afternoon we stopped to make a short hike to Linville Falls.
  • 10/19 – Boone to Rockford: We started today by visiting Grandfather Mountain, where there is a mile-high swinging bridge. After enjoying the views there, we traveled the backroads west back into Tennessee and made a short stop at the David Crockett Birthplace state park. Before returning to Rockford, we visited the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site in Greeneville, TN.
  • 10/20 – Rockford to Smyrna

It wasn’t either of the vacations we originally wanted, but we still enjoyed ourselves. Anyway, I’ll post the link to the pictures once I’ve finished processing them.

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