I didn't get busted by the Rangers for camping illegally! I did decide that I would head out as soon as I was up and have breakfast at Metcalf Bottoms - no campsite means no picnic table and I wanted to try again to read and eat breakfast! It wasn't as cold this morning so I thought it would work! Also, I was paranoid about the RV and how she would run, I wanted to test it out as soon as I could.
It was pretty much all downhill to Metcalf Bottoms and the RV was fine! I got there and made coffee, put on my long underwear and gloves and sat down at a picnic table by the river and had a lovely breakfast! I still wasn't able to finish my book, but it was nice to read some of it! After breakfast I got dressed and did the dishes and was ready for the day! At 9:30 I headed out to Gatlinburg - heading to Rainbow Falls, but still worried about the van making it.
The van had no trouble at all getting to Gatlinburg so I ventured out Cherokee Orchard Road to the Rainbow Falls trailhead. This road was very steep and narrow. It was quite the test of whatever is wrong with the van. If I'd known how steep it was I never would have drived up there. But, the van made it, without an issue. It was 10:00 and already most spots were full, I actually got the last good spot for a large vehicle. There was a wide spot in the road and I pulled right in.
The hike to Rainbow Falls was about 5.5 miles round trip - all up going to the falls, all down coming back. It's a very popular hike so the trail was well worn and there were a lot of people, although fewer people than many of the other popular hikes because it's more strenuous! It's obvious why this is a popular hike! The trail mostly follows the rhodedenron lined river and there are lots of views of cascades and small falls. As we climbed higher there were views of the mountains and Gatlinburg!
I was almost to the falls and there was a stream crossing with a waterfall, I thought maybe that was IT, but it was kinda small and I couldn't believe thousands of people would hike up to see that, so I asked a guy nearby and he said that Rainbow Falls had a sign! We dubbed this falls "Close Enough Falls" for folks who were done hiking and wanted to turn back!
Soon , I got to Rainbow Falls...it was huge! I didn't feel like climbing over the rocks to get closer!
I do need to give a big shout out to the three, THREE, people who parked behind me at Rainbow Falls! All three of them parked in a way that left me plenty of room to back up, should I need it, to get out! One fear of mine driving my big van up to a trail head like that is that I will get parked in, these three folks not only didn't park me in, but parked in a way that allowed three cars in the space that might have been taken up by 1 car in another setting! Excellent parking! :-)
After my hike I was trying to navigate through Gatlinburg and I made a wrong turn, but I learned a way to get to a different area of the park without running the tourist trap gauntlet - might be a possiblity for next time! On my detour I found a Food City I could get into so I pulled in & got some lunch and double checked the weather in Abingdon to see if my plan was going to work - it looked good!
Also at Food City, I picked up some bottled water. Turns out un-winterizing my van takes 2/3 of my tank of fresh water?!?? Not sure what happened because the tank was full when I left home! I know 6 of the 30 gallons went into the hot water heater, there's no leak because the water pump would be running. I guess it just needed that much to charge the lines and stuff. Anyway, I was going to put more water in at Cades Cove, but it was cold & I'd have to take the bike off to get the hose out (I suspect my rear tire issues were because of trying to open the van doors without taking the bike off so I'm not doing it anymore), then it was late when I got back, then I was trying to get out of there quick & it was cold again & the bike. I figured I'd be going somewhere with water. Well, Cracker Barrel doesn't have water. So I bought 3 gallons for drinking, coffee & flushing if I need it to conserve what's in the tank for washing & showers. I'm going to drain it when I get home in case it gets cold again so I'd rather not have it full.
It took almost an hour to go the 15 miles from Gatlinburg to I40. That 15 miles is like Redneck Vegas. I don't think there is any other National Park that you have to pass through such an eyesore to get to it. It's really very sad because the park is beautiful! Similar to, but totally different from Shenandoah and the Blue Ridge. The smokies are more rugged and there's more water so it's greener and mossier and has better creeks!
It was 100 miles to Abingdon and Roxy was just fine! She got right up to speed on the interstate and we cruised right along. A few times I thought maybe she was going to lose power, but I think I was being paranoid. I got to Abingdon a little after 5, I didn't want to go right to the Cracker Barrel because I wouldn't have enough to do, so I got fuel and located the trail head (more steep up hills for Roxy...she did fine!), that took until about 6, so I went & parked up at Cracker Barrel.
I went in to check with a manager about spending the night and he was so nice! I knew I should buy something or eat...I decided to eat dinner, I have a ton of food in the van, but sitting at a table was appealing! After dinner I discovered the rocking chairs on the porch, I could sit there and finish my book! I'd wanted to sit outside because it was so nice and I didn't want to open the windows in the van because it was going to let the heat out, if I keep it closed up it stays warmer in here at night!
After I finished my book I curled up in the van and wrote my blog, checked in on Facebook, texted! It was nice to be "home" early!