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And now for the (cue drum rolling…) last vacation post… ta da! :)

After Charleston, we headed to Tennessee. I’ve been to Nashville and Pigeon Forge before, so I wanted to visit a different Tennessee city on the way back home to Kansas City. It was between Memphis and Knoxville. Knoxville won out only because it wasn’t out of the way. I hope to visit Memphis one day though!

Our first stop after the 7-hour drive was dinner. We went to The Tomato Head, a downtown pizza and sandwich place a coworker recommended to us. I continued to be a little adventurous with my food and ordered the fresh spinach and black bean pizza that had andouille sausage, tomato, roasted garlic, and roasted onion on it. David got the lamb sausage and sun-dried tomato pizza with herbed tomato, black olives, and capers.

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It was good to try something new, but it wasn’t my favorite pizza. Something with pesto would have hit the spot better. I loved where the restaurant was located, though. It was in an area called Market Square. Market Square had a variety of restaurants, bars, and ice cream places all in a square (you could have figured that, huh?) with the entire center paved in concrete, making it the perfect hangout spot for University of Tennessee students. David and I ended the evening by walking around downtown to explore and to take a picture of the Tennessee sign.

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David woke me up early the next morning, yet again. There was no sleeping in on this vacation! We packed so much into each day (as you’ve read) and this day was no different. We were off to hike in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so it didn’t take too much convincing to get me up. ;)

We had originally wanted to hike a 7.3-mile out-and-back trail to the Ramsay Cascades, but after talking with one of the rangers in the visitor’s center, we changed our mind. Because it was a clear day, she suggested that we go to a view point called Charlie’s Bunion instead of seeing a waterfall. After filling our water bottles with clean, didn’t-have-to-be-filtered water we drove up to the trail start point.

The leaves hadn’t started changing much like I was hoping, but the scenery was beautiful nonetheless.

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Look at that road! It looks so tiny.

Look at that road! It looks so tiny.

GSMNP_5 GSMNP_6The hike out to Charlie’s Bunion was 4 miles and then 4 miles back. Eight miles seemed totally doable since we’d done a couple 10-mile treks on the backpacking trip.

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David ready to tackle the trail.

While we were on the backpacking trip, we learned that we should always bring food and water with us and to bring a map. Because David was so excited to get out there, we didn’t bring a map. Yeah… not the brightest idea. Once we had traveled 2 miles, David had a feeling we weren’t going the correct direction. We hadn’t seen any signs for Charlie’s Bunion, so we turned back around and walked a quarter mile or so and asked a couple hiking our original way if Charlie’s Bunion was indeed that way. They said it was. Hooray! We weren’t lost after all! But still, always bring a map, kids. I feel like we totally used that couple. We asked for directions and then hightailed it in front of them. Oops. Then again, I’m sure they wouldn’t have wanted to chat with us the whole way there.

It was nice to hike at a pace where I felt comfortable stopping to compose my photos and play around with my camera settings. On the backpacking trip, I felt like I had to hurry with my pictures to make sure I didn’t fall behind with the group.

This is one of my favorite pictures I took on the trip.

This is one of my favorite pictures I took on the trip.

GSMNP_8 GSMNP_9Before we made it to Charlie’s Bunion, we found a shelter along the trail that AT hikers use. It was quite the shelter.

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It had enough room for people to sleep on the bottom and the top platform. It also offered a space for hikers to build a fire.

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Next to a water bottle and some medical supplies there was a notebook that contained hand-written messages from hikers. Some were hiking the AT. Some were just passing through to Charlie’s Bunion. I enjoyed reading all the entries.

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My favorite one was: Enjoy the outdoors, live simply, appreciate your life. It’s a small message I hope to live by from now on.

There was also a privy and a cable system near by. I was impressed with the cable system. Because black bears are active in the park, hikers have to hang any food they may have. This pulley system made the task a lot easier.

GSMNP_11After a fun detour, we got back on the trail. We thought the views on the way to Charlie’s Bunion were breathtaking, but talking to people walking back from it, it sounds like we hadn’t seen anything yet.

Once we got there, we totally understood what they meant. It. was. incredible. There are really no words to describe just how stunning this view was.

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You could see nothing but trees and mountains for at least 180 degrees around you. And if you looked close enough, you could see the town of Pigeon Forge below like it was a speck.

These pictures will give you a better perspective.

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David was WAY braver than I was. There were two rocks you could sit on to take in the view. He had no problem climbing over to the second rock and standing on top of it. I on the other hand had to sit on the first rock closest to the trail for awhile to get my bearings. I eventually got up the nerve to make my way to the second rock, but I didn’t stay there for long.

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My heart was pounding like crazy. Somehow in addition to claustrophobia, I’m somehow afraid of heights now. Not cool, body. I have no idea when that fear came about. Before and after this picture, I was continually asking David, “Did you get a good picture?” or “Did you get the mountains in the background?” so I could get off that darn rock!

Taking in the view, I felt on top of the world. It was the perfect way to end our vacation.

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After we pulled ourselves away from the amazing view, we started the 4-mile trek back to the car.

Our trip would not be complete without another AT picture.

Our trip would not be complete without another AT picture.

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I'm guessing this is another monarch caterpillar.

I’m guessing this is another monarch caterpillar.

Once we made it back to the parking lot, I took the opportunity to be in two places at once.

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We headed back to Knoxville to grab dinner and then crash. I promised David he could have barbecue while we were in Tennessee. We ended up at Dead End BBQ.

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He had the barbecue brisket and chicken with fried okra and the red, while, and bleu slaw. He said it was good, but he wouldn’t go out of his way to eat it again. Because I’m not a big barbecue fan, I had a chicken sandwich with fried okra. The fried okra was the best part of the meal.

All in all, I would highly recommend a visit to Great Smoky Mountains National Park to anyone and everyone. However, I don’t think I could really recommend much more than that. Whenever David and I get back to the park, we plan on staying on the North Carolina side instead of Tennessee.

David and I had such a good trip. It was fun to look back on the memories and the pictures as I typed up these blog posts. This is my final fall vacation recap post, but you can check out the previous ones below.

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