Attractions, Great Smoky Mountains, Hiking, Parks

Chilhowe Lake

Chilhowee is a small, 1,747-acre, cool water reservoir located within Blount and Monroe Counties in east Tennessee along U.S. Highway 129.  The dam was completed in 1957 and impounds the Little Tennessee River.

Chilhowee Lake is located a solid 40 miles south of Knoxville, Tennessee, and it is perhaps one of the least-known and most remote places to enjoy a day in Tennessee. If you’re seeking a quiet region for a peaceful kayaking trip or hike, then this may be your spot.

Much of the reservoir is bordered by the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and the Cherokee National Forest.  The reservoir was created after the impounding of the Little Tennessee River in 1957. The primary game fish are Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass, trout, Yellow Perch, Walleye, crappie, and Rock Bass. Trout are stocked on an annual basis and thrive in the cool clear water.  Yellow Perch are abundant, and many anglers target this species.

The lake Provides a natural boundary between the Cherokee National Forest and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The man-made reservoir is shallow and a mere 10 miles in its entirety, narrow and twisting.

It will probably take about an hour and a half from any one of our Great Smoky Vacations cabins to get to Chilhowee.

Great Smoky Mountains, photos

Kiss the Clouds New Front Deck

We are very excited to be building a deck on the front of our cabin Kiss the Clouds. The front of the cabin gets a lot of sun and driving rain. And, it takes a beating. We thought that putting a double deck out front like the rear deck and a roof over it, it would protect the front of the cabin.

We started our deck build in late October. The weather and scenery were breathtaking. The above picture is taken from the side of our cabin looking out the back. The back of the cabin is mostly wooded. Not many homes to see out there. I feel like I am on top of the world when I sit out on the back deck. The back deck is shaded most of the day. So, it is nice in the summer because it doesn’t get too hot.

And, the project begins. It was a huge undertaking. And, we hit many roadblocks. But, we were determined to push on. Our first task was to break up the pavement, dig down deep and make concrete pads for the huge posts to rest on.

It was time to frame in the bottom deck. Every evening, we had to bring in all of the tools and nails and equipment. It took a long time to set up each morning. Bill and I thought this was something we could do to help. We don’t have much experience with this kind of thing. Bill was a banker, and I am a CPA. So, we don’t work with our hands.

Then it was time to lay the deck boards on the bottom deck. Bill and I were able to get the deck boards down ourselves. We had a shortage of help and we wanted to do all we could to get this project going.

The huge posts were extremely hard to maneuver. They are very heavy. The lower deck boards were painted and in the sun all day but still were tacky after a couple of days. The upper deck was framed, and it started to look like a deck. The 2x4s are just there for safety.

We changed out the log look railings on the back deck with black aluminum railings and put those log look rails on the front. It ended up being a lot more work trying to get the railings from the back deck to fit on the front deck. The steps were a lot more difficult than I ever imagined they would be.

We hit many setbacks. We had people getting sick. We had wood on backorder. We had the windows order lost and it took 4 months to get in. So, we didn’t get done in November like we had planned. Then, every time we set aside some time to work on it, it rained.

We tried again in January. But, we had issues with getting people to help. I can’t imagine building a whole entire house. We had enough issues with a deck build.

We allotted two weeks in February and framed in the roof.

The 2x4s could be removed and the bottom railings were painted.

Finally got the tongue and groove on the roof rafters and you can see the opening cut out for the French Doors. Bill got the little supports in the corners on the big posts on the bottom deck. At this point, I think the bottom deck is almost done. How exciting to be getting things done after all of this time.

It has been hard work, but I think my husband has enjoyed working with our handyman on this project. He says the more he works with him, the more respect he has for the old man.

The painting may need to wait until this summer. It seems to take a long time to dry and you are supposed to paint when it is warmer.

The windows and French Doors still need to be installed. And, the roof needs to be shingled. We may opt for a metal roof. Roofers are trying to talk us out of the metal roof. But, it sounds like there are options for shingles that can withstand high winds. It gets very windy up there sometimes. It is very nice sitting out on the back deck in the summer because it is shaded and there normally is a nice breeze.

The weather cooperated and my husband was able to get the rails painted. The French door is in. But, most of the windows will have to wait until we have an opening between bookings again.

The main level lower front deck is mostly done (above picture). The upper-level front deck is usable (Pictured below). However, still a lot of small things that needs to be done to it.

There is a nice view from the front deck (pictured above). However, the best view is still from the back deck (below picture). Here is a picture we took of the sunrise one morning. Definitely worth getting up for.

That is the progress so far. It’s been a little slow going. We just can’t seem to get it done within the time we allotted. Then, we have to wait until we get another span of time that we can work on it again. We hope to have everything completed soon. Thanks for bearing with us while we take on this project.

Took a week and got the windows in on the front of the cabin. Painted the trim around the French Doors. Had new roof put on.

Above is the view across the court from the new front top deck. Below is the view of a sunrise in March from the back deck. The back deck has black aluminum railings.

Just a few more finishing touches and it will all be done. We will have the entire cabin stained in May. Below is an example of why they call them the Smokies.

Above is the latest picture we have. It’s been a long project. A few finishing touches and we will be ready to enjoy sunsets from the new front deck.

Attractions, Great Smoky Mountains

Cherohala Skyway

43-mile National Scenic Byway from Tellico Plains, Tennessee, to Robbinsville

Looking for ridge after ridge of forested mountainside with sweeping mountain views as far as the eyes can see; abundant and unobstructed scenic overlooks around every corner; world class hiking trails, refreshing waterfalls and scenic overlooks; a road featured as one of Discovery Channel’s Top 10 Motorcycle Rides in North America Some call it the “best kept secret.” We call it The Cherohala Skyway – experience it for yourself.

The Cherohala Skyway was completed in the fall of 1996 after planning and construction for some thirty-four years. It was North Carolina’s most expensive scenic highway carrying a price tag of $100,000,000. It winds up and over 5,400 foot mountains for 18 miles in North Carolina and descends another 23 miles into the deeply forested back country of Tennessee. The road crosses through the Cherokee and Nantahala National Forests thus the name “Chero…hala”. The Skyway is becoming well known in motorcycling and sportscar circles for it’s long, sweeping corners, scenic views and cool summer breezes.

This road enthusiast’s dream connects Robbinsville, North Carolina with Tellico Plains, Tennessee. It can be desolate at night and extremely dangerous in the winter months. There are no facilities other than a couple of restrooms for the entire 41 miles so make sure you have enough gas to make the crossing. There is little evidence of civilization from views that rival or surpass any from the Blue Ridge Parkway.

It will take you about 2 hours to get to the Cherohalo Visitors Center from one of our Great Smoky Vacations cabins.

Cherohala Skyway Visitor Center

The Cherohala Skyway Visitor Center in Tellico Plains is a “must stop” before starting up the Skyway. Stop by for free maps, Skyway driving conditions and local area souvenirs and gifts. Picnic tables and spotless restrooms are available. Our friendly staff will welcome you with important Skyway and area information!

The Cherohala Skyway Visitor Center is a product of a grant from the National Scenic Byway program. The visitor center was opened in September 2003.

Attractions, Cars, Great Smoky Mountains, Parks

Tail of the Dragon

Take a walk on the wilder side with The Tail of the Dragon. Designated US 129, the road is bordered by the Great Smoky Mountains and the Cherokee National Forest with no intersecting roads or driveways to hamper your travel. This amazing road is bookended by Chilhowee Lake and Fontana Lake.

This infamous Smoky Mountains, TN road is popular with bikers and sports car drivers and for good reason.

If you’re seeking adventure, this route is for you – there are 318 curves on this 11-mile stretch where The Dragon tests your driving abilities. It’s best to be cautious as the turns are tight, but the Tail of the Dragon is guaranteed to be the ride of your life. Remember to yield to those who are ready to drive a bit faster than you. The road has many pull offs where you can take a break and take in the scenery.

Some curves have names like Copperhead Corner, Hog Pen Bend, Wheelie Hell, Sunset Corner, Gravity Cavity, and Brake or Bust Bend.

Even at low speeds, the blind curves, narrow roads, and weather conditions add up to create a lot of risks in any vehicle. While adrenaline junkies celebrate besting the Tail of the Dragon, many regret trying. Between 2000 and 2017, 37 deaths were recorded there.

There’s a tree at the Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort known as the “Tree of Shame.” Motorcyclists hang parts of their wrecked vehicles there as a warning to others. 

Of course, The Dragon is more than just a winding adventure. There’s plenty to behold with the scenery, too.

The nearby Cherohala Skyway is quickly becoming a destination too, with its remote 60 miles of breathtaking scenic mountain highway. The area also has other incredible roads like the Moonshiner 28Foothills ParkwaySmoky Mountain LoopDevils TriangleBlue Ridge ParkwayThe Gambler NC209Diamondback 226, Devil’s StaircaseSix Gap North GeorgiaThe Snake US421 and many Great Forest Service Dual Sport and Jeep Roads.

This road encompasses everything you’ve ever seen about scenic drives through America. It’s mother nature at her finest.

It’s in the Deals Gap mountain pass outside the Smoky Mountains. It will take you about 2 miles to get to the Tail of the Dragon from one of our Great Smoky Vacations cabins.

Bryson City, Great Smoky Mountains, Hiking, Parks, photos, Staying Active

Deep Creek Hiking Trail

The Deep Creek Loop Trail, which is located just outside of Bryson City, North Carolina, is a moderately difficult, 4.6 mile roundtrip hike with rewarding water views, plentiful wildflowers, and peaceful river sounds.

This loop hike takes you past three great waterfalls. Approximately 0.8 miles into the trail, turn right onto the Indian Creek Trail – this marks the beginning of the trail loop.

The first waterfall on the hike is Tom Branch Falls, an easy 1/4 mile from the parking area. The path is nice and wide. You will even find benches next to the water.

Approximately 0.8 miles into the trail, turn right onto the Indian Creek Trail – this marks the beginning of the trail loop. One-tenth of a mile after this junction, you will see a small trail on your left side – this trail leads down to a beautiful 45-foot waterfall and is well worth the jaunt. You take a slight detour off your trail to head uphill and then downhill to be at the base of the falls. This is very near the put-in point for any tubing. After rejoining the main Deep Creek Trail, it hits the horse trail and heads uphill. There are also a few bridges to cross. Continue hiking over a footbridge and past the Rhododendron-rich Indian River Valley on your right. Around 1.4 miles, you will reach a junction in the trail – continue straight ahead (one mile to the right is the Thomas Divide). When you get to the 1.7-mile point, there is an intersection with the Deep Creek Loop – turn left to stay on the loop and ascend 350 feet over the next half-mile.

Next, you will reach the Sunkota Ridge junction at around the 2.2 mile mark – to stay on the loop trail, continue straight ahead. This is the highpoint in the Deep Creek Loop trail and it is downhill or flat hiking from here! At approximately 2.9 miles, you will reach the Deep Creek Trail again – turn left. Now, you will continue across a footbridge.

The trail culminates in the Juney Whank falls. It’s a quick downhill walk from there to the parking lot. You can just sit on the bench, built into the bridge with Juney Whank falls running beneath us.

Directions to Trailhead:
From Gatlinburg, drive into the National Park on the main Parkway. When you pass the Sugarlands Visitor Center on your right, take note of your mileage and continue 32.1 miles through the National Park. Once you reach the intersection of Route 441 and Route 19 in Cherokee, turn right on Route 19 and continue for 10 miles to Bryson City. Turn right onto Everett and continue for 0.2 miles to Bryson Street. Turn right onto Bryson Street and continue for 0.2 miles. Take your third left, which is Ramseur Street. Make your second right, which is Deep Creek Road. Continue on Deep Creek Road for 2.8 miles to the Deep Creek Loop trailhead (you will enter park 0.5 miles prior to arriving at the trailhead).

It will take you about 2 hours to get to the trail from one of our Great Smoky Vacations cabins. So, plan on making a day of it.