We got a bit of a late start again this morning, but we were all pretty tired, so I’m glad we slept in. Once we got up and around, we ate a quick breakfast and loaded the car. Josh says: Tired is an understatement. We were up until 3 launching a really cool family project.
We headed for the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and I busted out my Greatest Drive iPhone app that I downloaded yesterday. It helps you find the most scenic stretches of road all over the United States. We decided to test it out this morning.
The first scenic route we took was the Roaring Fork Motor Trail. It was a gorgeous 10 mile loop right outside Gatlinburg. My nerves got tested a bit during some of the crazier twists and turns, but we made it out safe and sound. The coonskin hat and hillbilly teeth we bought came in handy here. Really ridiculously cheesy props + kids = fun times!
After we made the loop, we headed on to US-441 South into the heart of the mountains. If you’ve never been to the Great Smoky Mountains, it’s hard to explain it exactly. US-441 winds up the mountains, tree lined almost the entire way. The trees are tall, so tall! And every now and then, the trees give way to a beautiful valley with views of the mountains. As you cross the tallest peaks of the mountains, you cross over into North Carolina.
Of course, they’re called the Great Smokies for a reason. At the top of the tallest mountains, you can see a dense fog. I’m not sure if it’s there all the time or not. But it’s absolutely breathtaking. There’s something about being so immersed in nature (with no cell phone service!), that’s so amazing. Josh says: I like to run up random places, close my eyes, take a deep breath and soak all the beauty in. It’s not every day I get to visit places as beautiful as the Great Smokies.
We spent a couple hours driving through the Great Smokies and stopped in Cherokee at a fudge store. You know we love our homemade chocolates!! We perused a couple gift shops looking for something in particular, but never found it. (Maybe we’ll find it tomorrow. Yes, even more cheesy items.) Outside Cherokee, we hopped on US-19 South toward Chattanooga.
We continued driving and passed through the Nantahala National Forest. After driving through the tall tall trees for awhile and listening to whiny kids, we decided to take a break in Andrews, North Carolina for some fun at the rest stop. I got out our sidewalk chalk and we drew a picture of our family visiting the Smoky Mountains. Then we played a quick game of tunnel tag before jumping back in the car. On days like today that have lots of driving, it’s best to come equipped with random super fun kid activities to help “burn off some of that energy.”
After tunnel tag, we drove through the Cherokee National Forest. At some point, we pulled off on the side of the road by Parksville Lake and took some fun pictures using the stick-on googly eyes I bought before our trip. Then we grabbed a quick dinner and headed to our hotel in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which (of course!) I booked using my Priceline Negotiator app.
Tomorrow, we’re headed to the Tennessee Aquarium and Ruby Falls, then off to Birmingham, Alabama.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park – 5 stars – We drove through and didn’t actually do any trails or camping or anything. But it was a gorgeous drive! And surprisingly, there was no fee to get into the park. There were a few windy roads that made me nervous, but for the most part, it was smooth sailing.
Nantahala National Forest – 5 stars – I love driving through national forests… maybe it’s because back home we have lots of flat land with nothing for miles…
Fairfield Inn & Suites, Chattanooga, Tennessee – 4.5 stars – This is probably the nicest hotel we’ve stayed in during this trip. I really wanted to get a room at the Chatanooga Choo Choo, but all the train car rooms were already booked :(. The Fairfield was nice and clean with a microwave, mini fridge, free wifi, 2 beds, and breakfast in the morning.
Things I learned today:
1. There are a lot of tunnels on US-441 and the kids like the tunnels.
2. The temperature range from the top of the mountain to the bottom was 18 degrees! There was snow on the ground at the top and frost on the trees!
3. There are quite a few churches in the mountains. And EVERY one of them is a Baptist church. Hmmm…
4. You drive for hours and see nothing but mountains, trees, some kitschy souvenir stores, and a KFC. Then all of a sudden, there’s a Wal-Mart right there as if you’ve never left the city.
5. Even though I have a Master’s Degree, I apparently struggle with properly reading a map. I seriously thought we were in Tennessee the whole time today, until I took another look at the map! I’m going to blame it on lack of sleep 😉 Josh Says: I told her we were in North Carolina but she didn’t believe me. She still didn’t believe me when I pointed out the welcome to Tennessee sign we passed while leaving North Caroline.
6. Between daylight savings time and switching time zones multiple times, we are pretty much totally confused on what time it is. We thought we were back to Central Standard Time because all the clocks in the hotel room were an hour earlier. Turns out they haven’t adjusted for DST, but we are still on Eastern Standard Time. I guess we’ll have to wait till tomorrow to get that hour back!
7. Kids love cheesy props.
8. Not many things are as refreshing as breathing the fresh air of the Great Smoky Mountains.
9. Although we love nature. We are not nature photographers by any means. To us, the people make the pictures way more special.
Favorite quotes/conversations:
Ava “What’s your favorite color Lia?”
Lia “green.”
Ava “My favorite color is ALL the colors!”
Max “My favorite color is rainbow.”
Josh “My favorite color is when you guys go to sleep.”
Lia “Pee is loud. Poop is quiet.”
Max “Can Jesus walk on water?”
Me “Yes.”
Ava “See! I told you I was right.”
Max “Ava, that means Jesus can swim too.”
Me “Look at that house up in the mountains!”
Max “I want to live there!”
Playing mommy monster game at a hotel in Gatlinburg, TN.Mom holding daughter in the air and laughing.Boy wearing a coonskin hat in a cabin.Girl weith a coonskin hat and hillbilly teeth.Toddler with coonskin hat and hillbilly teeth in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.Woman wearing silly props in Tennessee.Man wearing silly hat and teeth in the great smoky mountains.Cabin in the woods of the Great Smoky Mountains.Water in creek at Great Smoky Mountain National Park in Tennessee.Girl with chocolate on hands from a Twix bar.The Great Smoky Mountains in the fog.Pine trees at the Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina.Kids drawing with sidewalk chalk.Kids chalk drawing the Great Smoky Mountains at a random rest stop.The Solars were here Great Smoky Mountains chalk drawing.Tunnel tag at a rest stop in North Carolina.Mom tossing toddler in the air.Girl being silly.Kids playing tunnel tag on a road trip.Tag, you're it, fun at a roadside park.Beautiful Cherokee forest trees.Boy throwing rocks into Parksville Lake in Tennessee.Girl with googly eyes on her face.Mom with wiggle eyes stuck to her face.Dad having fun with googly stick on eyes.Boy making silly face with five eyes.Boy messing around with silly angry eyes.Toddler with stick on eyes.Lots of eyes staring at you.Girl standing by a lake.


  • I love your buck teeth photo the best, Jenny! LOL! And the blog wouldn’t be complete without a shoeless Lia picture. 🙂

  • I just love keeping up with my wonderful niece’s and nephew. Don’t ever stop putting your pictures on for me to see. I also love watching the family grow and the love you have for each other and the kids. Love ya all a lot, Aunt Dee

  • Lmao… outloud, even!!! Ava and those teeth! Oh my, and no-one could look as good as you do in a coonskin cap and hillbilly teeth. The googley eyes were great fun. OmG, really omG!! The beauty of the little falls just took my breath away. Gorgeous, georgeous, whatever, I just loved it.

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