Category Archives: Kentucky/Tennessee Road Trip

Day 7 – Country Music

We grabbed breakfast down the road from the hotel. I felt like I had to get chicken and waffles at some point in our time down south. It was delicious. After breakfast we headed off to the Country Music Hall of Fame. The building was huge. Admission to the museum costed $25. The museum seemed to be targeted at a bit of an older crowd (what did I expect?). I didn’t know a whole lot about a good chunk of the musicians and artists recognized in the hall. But it was still really interesting.

Country Music Hall of Fame

Country Music Hall of Fame

I enjoyed learning about those who I was a bit more familiar with, like the Kenny Rodgers exhibit, which was brand new. The last section of the museum was all about today’s artists. We felt much more at home at this point. The museum had all sorts of artifacts, from the dress Carrie Underwood wore when she won American Idol, to Elvis Presley’s gold Cadillac, to handwritten song lyrics from Eric Church and Taylor Swift. It was a pretty cool experience for anybody who is interested in country music. Once we were done at the museum we checked the radar, since we’d heard a big storm was coming through. The storm was approaching very quickly so it was time to find a tavern. We stopped at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville and listened to some very talented female musicians. We were glad we found shelter when we did because the storm hit hard and fast. There were very strong wind gusts and a crazy amount of rain. Then the tornado sirens started going off. About and hour and a half later, the storm had passed and we walked to Rippy’s to grab a bite. We listened to three gentlemen who took turns playing music for us. We ended the night at Center Stage. This was a wide open bar with lots of room to dance. The band was a bit more rock than country which made it a super fun place to be. We really enjoyed our short lived time in Nashville. Tomorrow it’s back to Green Bay.

Music City

Music City

Enjoying Live Music

Enjoying Live Music

Round Trip

Full Road Trip Map

Advertisements

Day 6 – Music City

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Gatlinburg to Nashville

We got up early and grabbed some breakfast at a place called Camp Breakfast. It was a huge place that serves giant portions of breakfast food all day long. The menu was inside a real newspaper. Lacey and I split a country fried steak skillet and couldn’t finish all the sides that came with it.

Camp Breakfast

Camp Breakfast

We got all filled up and then it was off to Nashville. It was about a 4 hour drive but it was super easy. We checked into our hotel and had our first experience with valet parking. This hotel is definitely way too nice for us. It’s right downtown so it worked out perfectly. Once we got unloaded we went out to explore the town a bit. It was a beautiful afternoon. Our hotel was right up the road from the capital building. As we wondered throughout town, we found a pedestrian bridge which crossed a river that split the city in two. On the far side was the Tennessee Titan’s football stadium, which looked like it was still under construction (it wasn’t). We got halfway across the pedestrian walking bridge and it looked like rain, so we headed back to the hotel. Right as we got back it started to downpour. The rain lasted about an hour and cleared up just as we were ready to head out for the evening. We grabbed dinner and drinks at Honky Tonk Central. Then went to the Tin Roof and ended the night at Tootsies. All of the bars had live bands which we really enjoyed. None of them had cover charges, and they were all just a few blocks from our hotel, wins all around. Not only did all of the musicians sound awesome, but they would take requests if you tipped them, and they would do their best to play that song. If they didn’t know a song that you requested they would look it up on their smartphones and do their best. It was really impressive.

Nashville

Nashville

Day 5 – Last Day in the Mountains

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

Today may have been my favorite day in the mountains. We started off with the Alum Cave Trail. It was a beautiful 2.5 mile hike that had everything you could ask for. We hiked along a river for about a mile before starting our incline which went through a cool little tunnel.

Morning View Along the River

Morning View Along the River

Once we really got up in the elevation, we had some spectacular views of the Smoky Mountains. About 10 minutes from a nice lookout spot spot was the Alum Cave. It was a really cool site to see, though it wasn’t technically a cave. We took our time getting down because we had nothing else planned for the day. When we got back to the lookout spot that we liked so much, we decided it would be a great lunch spot. We ate lunch and enjoyed the views.

Alum Cave

Alum Cave

Enjoying the sites on our way to Alum Cave

Beautiful Sites Near Alum Cave

We finished the 5 mile round trip hike and decided to drive the Newfoundland Gap. The gap connects Tennessee to North Carolina and has some amazing views along the way.

Newfoundland Gap

Newfoundland Gap

We enjoyed the 33 mile ride before heading up to Clingman’s Dome one more time. Yesterday wasn’t as clear as today, so we thought we might get some better views. We couldn’t have been more correct. We drove down the mountain and had enough time for one last hike.

Beautiful View of the Smoky Mountains

Beautiful View of the Smoky Mountains

The destination, Laurel Falls. After hiking 40+ miles over a four day span, this two mile round trip, paved hike seemed like the perfect way to finish the trip. The falls were beautiful, as advertised.

Laurel Falls

Laurel Falls

We were exhausted so we grabbed a quick dinner and now it’s bedtime. I almost forgot, we saw a bunch of black bears in broad daylight today! Before we got to the Laurel Falls trail head, we saw a bunch of cars pulled over on the side of the road, so naturally we decided to see what all the fuss was about. Everybody was looking at a momma bear and her two cubs. On our way back down the from the falls, same scenario, a mama and her two cubs. We tried to snap a few photos then got back into the car to get back to our hotel. Less than a mile down the road, 3 more bears. It was really a cool sight to see, 9 bears in total.

Baby Black Bear

Baby Black Bear

A few notes as we reflect on our hiking:

  • We met lots of people from Wisconsin
  • We loved our hiking boots. They were sturdy, and waterproof, and very comfortable.
    •  We witnessed all sorts of foot attire. Everything from tennis shoes, to flip flops, to loafers.
  • Water was our best friend.
  • For the future we will always make a plan. The first day we strayed from our plan and barely got back before dark.
  • The final thought, we enjoyed the hike we did today because we were in absolutely no rush. Taking our time was the best thing we could have done. It really helped us appreciate everything and take it all in.

Day 4 – Don’t Go Chasin’ Waterfalls

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

We made a plan last night to do a few hikes, all of which ended at waterfalls. We had heard about a very difficult, but awesome hike called Rainbow Falls. We hopped in the car and headed that way. The parking area at the Rainbow Falls trail head was full so we pulled the car up a bit and found a spot to park on the side of the road directly between two trail heads. We planned on doing both, so we figured this was perfect. We started off on a trail and eventually came to a “T” with a sign that told us Rainbow Falls was to the right and Grotto Falls to the left. Unsure of which to start with, I made the decision, that, after a long and challenging day yesterday, our motto today was “when in doubt, take the downhill route”. The trail to Grotto Falls happened to be downhill at that very moment, so that’s the direction we headed. The first half mile of the trail was along a road which was a bummer. Eventually we got up high enough where we were away from the road and could enjoy nature’s beauty. It was a pretty steady uphill hike, not overly strenuous though. At the top was a beautiful waterfall in which you could walk behind.

Grotto Falls

Grotto Falls

This ended up being our lunch spot which was really cool. We snapped some photos and headed back down. I had a much easier time going down than I did going up, funny how that works. Round trip, this hike took us 3 and a half hours to go a little more than 7.5 miles. We went to the car to grab a snack. When we had originally planned out our day, we thought we wanted to see Grotto and Rainbow Falls. At this point in the day, we changed plans a little bit. We decided all of our hikes didn’t need to revolve around waterfalls and we’d heard good things about another spot called Chimney Tops. We decided to check it out. We drove over to the trail head and got ready to go. This was definitely the most strenuous hike we’ve done yet. It was a two mile hike, basically straight up. I had to stop for water and to catch my breath a number of times, but once we got to the top it was well worth it.

View From Chimney Tops

View From Chimney Tops

In order to get to the summit, we had to scale the side of a very steep mountain for about 200 yards.

Chimney Tops Summit

Chimney Tops Summit

This was a bit terrifying. We made it about halfway up the final climb before deciding to turn around. There were plenty of others who got to the same point we did and turned back. There was a nice young man who worked in the park and offered to guide us up to the top. We were both extremely sore, tired and hesitant to go any further so we politely declined his offer and began heading down, not before taking in some breathtaking views.

Halfway Up Chimney Tops

Halfway Up Chimney Tops

Because of the slope, the trek down was no walk in the park, but we made it. We got back to the car with just enough to to catch the sunset at Clingman’s Dome, the highest point in Smoky Mountain National Park. It was a 45 minute drive followed by a half mile hike to the top. It was worth every minute. We could see all the way to North Carolina. We took in some absolutely stunning views. It was chilly at the top though, 42 degrees, while my car said 59 degrees an hour after dark once we were back at our hotel. We grabbed a six pack and some ice cream to celebrate our second successful day in the mountains. Cheers!

Sunset at Clingman's Dome

Sunset at Clingman’s Dome

Day 3 – Humans, Turkeys and Bears, Oh My!

Monday, March 30th, 2015

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

An 80%  chance of rain had us a bit worried about how our first day in the Smoky Mountains would be. The rain stopped by 8:30 a.m. and it was blue skies the rest of the day. We grabbed a bite to eat at the ‘continental breakfast’. All they had to choose from was a few muffins and doughnuts. Oh well. We got ready for the day by getting the backpack packed before we headed to the visitors center to get some maps and try to create a plan for the day. We decided to drive an hour and a half to get to Cade’s Cove. There as a scenic driving route which ended up leading to a few hiking trails. We’d heard good things about an awesome waterfall called Abram’s Falls. A little after 1 p.m. we set out to check it out.

Abram's Falls

Abram’s Falls

The waterfall was awesome. Most people see the waterfall then turn around and make the 2.5 mile trip back. We wanted to make a loop and see a bit more than we already had, so we continued on. We noticed a trail on our map that would be an additional 5 miles but looped back around to the car park. It sounded like the perfect distance, so we took off. We didn’t get too far before coming across a river. In order to complete Rabbit Creek Trail (and get back to the car) we’d have to wade through the rapid river that was at least knee deep. The ranger suggested a different route which was a 9+ mile loop. Feeling very eager to explore, we decided we were up for the challenge. At 2:30 p.m. we said goodbye to him and continued on. Brian's Kentucky.Tennessee Pictures 355We witnessed some unbelievable sites all day long. The Cooper Road and Hatcher Road Trail were pretty strenuous at times. Lots of ups and downs. We basically zig-zagged from mountain peak to mountain peak which, besides exhausting, was really neat. We had some in depth conversations about black bears because we were warned that they can be a common site in the Smoky Mountains. Brian's Kentucky.Tennessee Pictures 375Just when we were commenting on how quiet it was and how little wildlife we’d been seeing, a couple of turkeys scared Lacey half to death. We continued on, up and down, up and down. We saw a family about 8 p.m., which was the first human interaction we’d come across since running into the ranger about 5 and a half hours prior. We really felt like we were a part of nature. It was starting to near dark and the signs on the trails became slightly misleading. We ended up finding the nearest road and walked along the road back to the car. After hiking well over 15 miles, sitting in the car without a heavy backpack on felt great. It was just about dark when we left the lot for our hour and a half drive back. Along the way, we pulled up next to a parked car with their window rolled down. I was worried they were having car issues, until she pointed out 3 black bears in the field in front of us. We watched them safely from our car for a few minutes before continuing the winding drive home. I don’t think either of us will have a problem falling asleep tonight. IMG_2729

Day 2 – Underground Exploration

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

Louisville to Mammoth Cave to Gatlinburg

We had to get on the road pretty early today. First, I made the executive decision that we drive by Churchill Downs. We snapped a few photos and then were on our way.

Churchill Downs

Churchill Downs

We had a few cave tours set up at Mammoth Cave National Park which was about two hours away. It was a very winding, scenic drive. As we approached the park, we got to a road that ended “under water” so we had to take a mini ferry across which was a unique experience. We parked the car at the visitors center and got ready for the Historic Cave Tour.

Mammoth Cave National Park

Mammoth Cave National Park

We entered the cave at the only natural entrance in the park. It was  a very humbling experience being inside the cave. We learned a lot about who explored the cave and how the first tours were given by slaves. We learned that Native Americans used the cave to gather minerals as a right of passage into manhood. It was crazy just how big some of the spaces were, like one called “Bottomless Pit”. And equally crazy how narrow some of the passages were, such as “Fat Man’s Misery”.

Mammoth Caves

Bottomless Pit

We covered about two miles in two hours and were as low as 310 feet below the Earth’s surface. When the tour was complete we made some sandwiches at the car before doing a little above ground exploration. We hiked a quick one mile trail along the Green River, which was adequately named. It was then time for our second tour of the day. This one was called “Domes and Dripstones”.

Stalactites and Stalagmites

Stalactites and Stalagmites

On this tour we experienced a different section of the cave and saw a lot of unique rock formations. We learned more about the geology of the cave and how it was 100% by water. This tour had a lot of steep steps. At the end we saw stalagmites and stalactites which were really cool. I was glad we did two tours because we got to see and learn about two different sections of the longest cave in the world. After leaving the cave we had to walk across a sponge like surface to clean our boots in order to prevent the spread of white nose, a disease very harmful to bats. We finished getting cleaned up and it was back to the road again. We had a four hour drive to Gatlinburg, TN. We stopped halfway for dinner and to catch a little basketball. I had fried gator, and Lace had brisket, both delicious. Two hours later and we were driving through the ridiculously twisty Gatlinburg. The main strip was littered with flashing lights and tourist attractions. There were multiple Hollywood Wax Museums. I was very surprised at this, definitely not what I had expected. We checked into our hotel and are now ready for bed after a long, but fun day.

Day 1 – Road Trip Begins

Saturday, March 28th, 2015

Green Bay to Louisville

Road Trippin’

We got a bit of a later start than we had originally planned. Lacey and I are taking advantage of her spring break and road tripping to Kentucky and Tennessee. Today was not too exciting so I will keep this short and sweet. We left Green Bay at 6 a.m. en route to Louisville, KY. We stopped for food at some sketchy chicken place that I can’t even remember the name of. The food was good but the place was pretty dirty. Oh well. After 8 hours of driving (not nearly as boring as I anticipated due to the wonderful company) we were checked into out hotel. We had a big Elite 8 basketball game between Wisconsin and Arizona to watch so we headed to find a tavern. We settled on a spot called “Hoops”. Along the way we drove past the University of Louisville, which had a beautiful campus, and Churchill Downs, site of the Kentucky Derby. We got to the tavern and grabbed a table. Good thing we played the early game because the place filled up rather quickly with Kentucky Wildcat fans. We were the only two people in the place cheering for the Badgers. In fact, we were the only people even paying attention to the game at all it seemed. The Kentucky fans seemed very arrogant. We discussed at length, how much we liked southern accents and how polite it made people seem. The Badgers pulled it out in the end so we went home happy. We went back to the hotel and watched the Notre Dame and Kentucky game before falling asleep. It wouldn’t be long before we were annoyingly awaken. The walls of the hotel were pretty thin, if you know what I mean…