Tennessee, Where We've Been

Great Smoky Mountains, Dollywood, & Stampede

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Great Smoky Mountains

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is probably one of the most beautiful places we have seen so far on our trip. The leaves were just passing their peak while we were there in October.

There are several drivable loops inside the park and while they are separate, they’re unique. Cade’s Cove consists of an open meadow against a back drop of tree covered mountains. Nestled into the lower hillsides are outcroppings for historic cabins.

The animals roam free in Cade’s Cove. As I was driving along the loop, I spotted free roaming horses, bears, and coyotes. There’s a sign along the fence that states that the horses may kick or bite, but they came up to us and let us stroke their long noses. 

The setting sun really showed off this horses’s coat. He was very friendly and was one of the ones who didn’t mind the attention. 

All throughout the Great Smokies, small river waterfalls like this one could be found as the water made its way down into the valley.

This coyote was found wandering the parking lot at the visitor’s center. At one point he turned to look at me and headed straight for me, but he soon lost interest and continued his wandering. Not finding what he was looking for, he eventually decided it was time to go.

The whole area is filled with sights like this–the sun peeking through the beautiful autumn leaves.

I ended up doing the loop twice as the first time around I was looking for good spots to shoot when the sun set. This was one of them. While everyone else was looking at the bear on the other side of the road, this view caught my eye. On the second loop, I was able to pull over to the side of the road and grab this shot just as the sun was setting. 

This small waterfall area was in a second section of the park known as Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. It is a one way drive through a narrow and steep hillside with few pullouts. I was hesitant to take the truck in there, but after a review of the map on google, I decided to try it. It was tight, but we were able to make the turns just fine. I wouldn’t do it with anything larger than our truck though as some of those turns were close.

Jaden actually made this stack of rocks and asked me to take a picture of it. I think he did a pretty good job stacking them.

This is a third section called Clingman’s Dome–the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains at an elevation of 6,643 feet. From the observation tower, you can see all the mountain peaks in the area in a 360 degree direction. 

It’s also a great place to see the sunset.




It seems that Dolly Parton is synonymous with Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The city is a tourist destination with Dolly’s picture and namesake on many of the buildings.

Dollywood, in particular, a theme park built around the iconic country star, is one of those attractions.

There are fast, rickety wooden roller coasters, looping steel coasters that glide along the tracks, coasters that shoot you out of the loading station faster than you can blink, and even backwards coasters that keep you guessing.

The park was decorated for harvest time when we were there.  

Dollywood stood out to me as a theme park that is different from the rest. 

For example, at Disneyland, you would often read shirts that read, “Most Expensive Day Ever” or something about Mickey or an icon of Disney. However, at Dollywood, you did find a few about Dolly or the park’s name in general, but most of what we saw were Christian shirts. 

This idea was further supported by the chapel with gospel singers that were on premesis.

That was my first real understanding that we were in the great American Bible Belt.

While we were waiting for the big rides’s lines to die down, we hopped onto a few of the kids rides midday.

Most of the decorations were not scary Halloween ones, but center around pumpkins and harvest time. That was a much appreciated change.

All in all, I’d say Dollywood is probably one of the best theme parks we’ve been to. Not only for its rides, but its family friendly and Christian oriented nature.


Since Pigeon Forge is a tourist town, we decided we would do one of the tourist attractions that makes it famous. We decided to go to Dolly Parton’s Stampede. 

The Stampede is a live action dinner show showcasing different teams on each side of the auditorium that cheer for their team in competitions on the stadium floor.

They’re very patriotic and overall entertaining. The food was — o.k. 

I’m not sure it was worth the price of admission, but we can mark it off the list as doing at least one of the touristy things in town.



Waldens Creek Campground

Waldens Creeks Campground is a smaller RV park with about 20-30 sites. They had our site number waiting for us outside the office upon arrival. We were in site 1, with a small side yard and a fence in between us and our neighbor. Check-in was the next day since the office was closed when we arrived.

It was relatively quiet, except for the occasional road noise behind the campground.

The utilities all worked fine except for when the temperature dipped to below freezing. We disconnected our hose that night and, as expected, the faucet froze. One night during our stay someone had come in at night, hit one of the spigots, causing a massive spill of water until someone noticed it early in the morning and we were out of water for a few hours. Not the campground’s fault, but they fixed it fairly quickly.

There’s propane located just down the street for a good price.

We got 85 down/13 up on Starlink. 4 bars on the Verizon phones and 5 bars with the cell antenna (44/41). AT&T was 5 bars with the cell antenna (25/25). The campground also offered WiFi which gave us a decent connection at (50/20).