Told by the park secretary about the must-see elk herd in the nearby Cataloochee Valley, we headed out first thing in the morning in hopes to see a LOT of these promised elk.
After an 7-hour day of driving and touring the paved and unpaved curvy roads of the Smokies, we did not see any elk, but we did see some beautiful scenery, historical locations, and learned a lot about the area's history.
Here are some of the area highlights:
- Cataloochee Valley: 10 miles of steep curvy roads with beautiful scenery of the Smoky Mountains. Most of this area is unpaved, but the roads were relatively cared for and in good condition. I passed over 3 old one-lane bridges, and saw several old homesteads that were built in the 1800's. Sorry, no elk on our trip, even though we heard they are often seen eating along the roadside.
- Gatlinburg: Drove the narrow northern road up to Gatlinburg. We didn't make the stop here because we had Pica, but we will definitely be back to enjoy the shopping and sites. Some of the super cool things in the area are the sky bridge (via chair lifts) & Anakeesta Mountain Park. The downtown shops are amazing for those who like browsing, and there are tons of food options in the area too.
- Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail: Just outside of Gatlingburg, this one-way car trail is a definite must-do when you're in the area. Several 1800's homesteads remain in the area and are fully open for people to browse through. There are 2 picnic areas near the river, and there are many walking trails ranging from ADA short to strenuous 8 mile trails and more! Many of these trails take you to beautiful waterfalls.
Overall, just get out and see this beautiful nature! The trip through the Smoky Mountain NP was pretty short itself, but you can always add adventures on your trip to fit your dreams.
This trip and MANY more out west were much more educational due to the JUST AHEAD app. This app follows along on your journey, and tells you about the area, the history and what's expected. We just LOVE this app!
Stay Details: Pride Resort, Waynesville, NC
Note: This is a small campground resort that is nestled on the banks of the Pigeon River. It is small, pretty tight together, and have a few small ammenities like a pool (not currently open), putt putt and community center. They have benches beside the water which we really loved
Through Coast to Coast, we can stay here for 3 weeks during non-peak season, so we reserved 3 weeks just before the season began. What a beautiful gem of a place to relax, work on class, and find hike/bike trails in the Uwharrie National Forest. We are also using this location to give some time away from events so our family has the peace of mind that we are not bringing any 'bugs' home to them from our recent larger events.
Sycamore Lodge is absolutely beautiful, and if you are ever in the area, you should definitely plan a stay to this old homestead; now lodge.
Stay Details: Sycamore Lodge Resort. Jackson Springs, NC
* Sycamore Lodge is a membership resort that hosts a slew of ammenities for all ages. Fully stocked general store, membership lodge (with kitchen, laundry, restroom, sitting rooms, piano & library), miniature golf, basketball, horseshoes, shuffleboard, many sitting areas, pavilion, swimming pool, fishing, and much more!
The Grand Design Rally is open to all people that own a Grand Design RV. We signed up for this a few months ago. This would be our first rally, and we were told that they always have the G.D. techs there to fix warranty and recall issues as well as the opportunity to get on a list to fix general issues. They also hold educational seminars and have venders to purchase items.
As soon as we parked, we met up with our neighbors who owned a Solitude. We hit it off right away, and spent the rest of the weekend with them, attending events together, playing games and having dinner. We also met up with several other couples, and made several friends during the rally.
Having the rally at Myrtle Beach was a bonus. They gave us all $60 worth of 'Design Bucks' that we could use for food during the week. The campground was huge with several ammenities, not to mention the absolute beautiful beach!
On our last night, after receiving a tweet that SpaceX was about to launch their rocket with more satelites, we walked to the beach at 11:30pm and set up our chairs & video of the launch. I was able to get a few decent photos, but we were able to watch the rocket throughout most of the sky, when it finally disappeared back at the north horizon. Seeing this even from SC when the launch was in FL was spectacular and very exciting!
Stay Details: Lakewood Family Campground, Myrtle Beach, SC
* This is a huge Christian family campground that hosts large events. They have a swimming pool, lazy river, water slides, putt putt, paddle boats, ice cream, general store, and much more! The conference ammenities offer an amphitheater, a library, information center, and campground integrated events.
Even though the sites were pretty close together, it still allowed decent room for family get-togethers. All sites offer full hookups with immediate access to the beautiful beach.
We didn't post much for April because we had a good amount of down time at Myrtle Beach. Mark gave the truck a break job and tune-up, so she's ready to cross the mountains. The rig got a cleaning overhaul and some new carpets & kitchen upgrades.
God has really Blessed us at Briarcliffe with the friendship of an older couple. Mark dug right in and helped work on their tv. They ended up going to Best Buy together the next day and buying a new one. WOW, the difference in the new 43" 4k TV compared to their old 17" tube TV was an amazing transformation, and made Richard VERY happy! We spent most of the day teaching them how to use the new technology, including email! It was almost like adopting parents, and they told us they were going to adopt us as their kids. Ok! :-) They are even going to take a 2 hour drive to the next place we're staying (their home park), so visit with us for the day. :-)
Through our converstaions at the parks, we have decided to get involved with ROAM, a Christian RV ministry that is 'there where you need them". Like the SOWERS ministry we joined, ROAM also helps camps with needed projects, but they are also involved with disaster relief, which is something we both have a passion for being involved in. Stay tuned on more details with this.
- As many know, Myrtle Beach is a HUGE beach party destination. Since we don't party, it ended up being pretty boring. However, there is a LOT of tourist attractions around if you'd like to catch some dinner shows, aquariums, Ripley's museums and parks. We saw Dolly Parton's Pirates Voyage, and it was spectacular!
- For bike riding enthusiasts, Myrtle Beach was not the destination to go. There were very few bike trails, and most of those were mostly on main road sidewalks. There were no trails paralelling the ocean.
- For dog owners. Myrtle Beach is a dog-owners paradise. From October-April, dogs are allowed on all the beaches, so you AND your pooch can enjoy the awesome beach and beautiful sunrises. From May - September, dogs are only allowed on the beach before 9am and after 5pm.
Stay Details: Briarcliffe RV Resort - Myrtle Beach, SC
* This park is part of the Coast to Coast resort parks that we joined last year. It was a good destination, being it was close to the beach, close to stores, and had some amenities for visitors. The park also accepted some mail delivery for us, which was really nice. We enjoyed walking to the pond just about every night and sitting with the ducks.
From FL to Myrtle Beach, had to find an overnight stay. After almost 7 hours of driving, we stopped at this precious little gem. MUCH better than a truck stop, don't you think?? :-)
Before leaving in the morning, we walked 3 miles on the trails (listed below), then rode our bikes about 12 miles on the other trails. We saw over 20 alligators, numerous birds (herons and Anhingas), a lot of frogs and unfortunately, numerous deer flies that drove us nuts. However, surprisingly we did not encounter many mosquitos here during this visit.
Stay Details: Santee Coastal Reserve, McClellanville, SC
* This is a small FREE campground in a beautiful reserve which lies inside the Francis Marion National Forest. The campground is total dry camping, meaning there is no bathrooms, water or garbage for people. You have to be totally self-contained. There are about 8 sites that are First Come, First Serve, and there were 3 left when we arrived. There were several beautiful trails in the area, a boardwalk over the marsh, and the possibility of seeing quite a few different animals. We walked the Marshland Trail, the rode our bikes on the Cape Trail and Eldorado Trail.
* The Eldorado Trail leads to the ruins of the Eldorado Plantation which was build in 1797, was hit with a canon ball during the Civil War, then ended up burning to the ground years later. It was a very interesting piece of history.
Our final stay at Bee's Resort this year was with our friends Bill & Marilou.. After being together since California, we have met up several times during our travels, and will now be parting ways for a while. It was a bittersweet stay, as we really enjoyed spending time with them, but we also had to say our "See Ya Later's".
A visit to Silver Springs did not disappoint. It is the world's largest fresh water springs, and several movies were shot here, including the original "Tarzan" movie series and "I Spy" just to name a few. We would highly recommend a visit here. They have glass bottom boat tours, kayak rentals, and many trails you can bike and hike. We finished the visit with a surprise view of the Starlink launch which was 90 miles away!
Stay Details: Bee's Resort; Clermont, FL
* This time, they allowed us to stay in a regular campsite which was very pretty and across from our friends. Bee's is a nice resort, with a swimming pool that was open (and warm), a walking trail and shuffleboard.
Maria reserved this campground for the last 2 days on her spring break. It had 50a and water at all sites, was mostly waterfront sites, and absolutely beautiful!
The next day, Maria's friend gave her tickets to Seaworld for all of us, so we enjoyed the day there! It was extremely busy, but we all had a great time.
Stay Details: Trimble Park, Mt. Dora, FL
* This campground is an absolute beautiful campground that has mostly large waterfront sites, and a beautiful serene environment. The bath house was clean, and the playground was small yet very nice. It was a little tight getting around with a bigger rig, but we made it with no problem. We will definitely stay longer next time we come here.
During our stay at Long Pine Key, we met up with Maria, Steve & the kids. It was great to see them after a year of traveling!
After resting and working on her camper for a day, we visited Wooten's Airboat tours. We bought the package which included the airboat ride, swamp buggy ride andgator park. The airboat ride was phenomenal!! Buggy ride.. Not so much. It was still fun being all together though.
The next day we all went to Key West. Visited John Pennekamp State Park and took a kayak tour and small hike. Mark had to work on his class halfway to Key West, so we found good cell signal, and the kids went on their way. They went shopping in downtown, then we met up again to get our pictures taken at the Southernmost Buoy.
We visited the beach, the kids swam in the ocean, and we found a spectacular sunset! After that we satisfied our hunger at a Mexican Restaurant.
Stay Details: Long Pine Key Campground; Homestead, FL:
* This is a beautiful campground nestled inside the Everglades State Park. The sites are dry camping only (no hookups), and are spaced pretty far apart. The kids parked oposite of us, and we were close enough to comfortably share the picnic table and refrigerator. We were also right next to the bath-house, so it was convenient for everyone.
* We walked the Anhinga Trail in the morning, and we saw a large alligator, and many Anhinga's along the way. It was a nice short trail for the kids.
* The only problem we had was some other campers were screaming at eat other until 2am, but the rangers were quick to take care of the problem in the morning.
We set up this location a month ago, knowing it was within 30 minutes of our friends from MI. To our surprise when mapping it, it was only 4 miles from their home! So, we set up camp for a few nights, and visited with Jeff & Kathy for 3 days! What an awesome time we had together, and so great to see people we know from MI. :-)
We visited Shell City, browsed the venders, enjoyed the animals at the zoo, and played miniature golf. Jeff won! :-). In the evening, they even introduced us to a Bingo extravaganza! What a beautiful blessed day together!
The last day, we drove to Sanibel Island to enjoy the beach and special treats.
Stay Details: Racer's Retreat (North For Myers, FL)
* This was a Boondocker's Welcome location, so it was a free stay with an elderly couple that are very involved with racing cars. There were 5 other RVers in their back yard with us. They have a gated entry so we were secure, and also had some electric and water available for those who need it. They are well loved and very nice to their visitors. We would highly recommend a stay with them if you're traveling by.
During our 2-week stay at Bee's Resort, we were able to get in some sightseeing, truck maintenance, and quality friend-time. The friends we met in CA (Bill & Marilou) were scheduled to be with us here, but they were delayed due to truck issues. They came in later, and we really enjoyed seeing them again! In the meantime, we made friends with the people who were next to us: Tom & Eleanore, who serenaded us with his guitar and singing; Carl & Ruthie who also have a Reflection, quickly became friends; and Dub & his wife who we helped back in and get parked; and finally Robert & Kim, needed help with a severe septic problem as we were walking through the park. They were all wonderful people, and we were very blessed to have met them.
Deciding to visit a Disney park, reservations and tickets were required. We were hoping for Hollywood Studios, but they were booked through to April 22nd, so we went to Animal Kingdom instead. I must say, we do not have the desire to return any time soon. Maybe it's just us getting older, but we also don't think it's worth the expense.
We really enjoyed our visit to Tampa, Fort DeSoto in St. Petersburg, and our bike riding around the island and shores. We've been wanting to visit LazyDays RV for a long time, and it was amazing. This is a HUGE place, a LOT of RVs, and very nice staff.
During our stay, we also had time to upgrade our furniture, and get some spark plugs changed on the truck.
Stay Details: Bee's Resort, Clermont FL.
* This resort has very tight sites, and we were placed into the overflow area in the front by the road. After a walk around the park, we realized this was actually better than many other sites, except that we were under an acorn tree which rained small nuts on our roof for the next 2 weeks. It wasn't too bad, and we still had full hookups. Just know that most of the people at this park are seasonal, so you will feel like an outsider at first. However, just making an appearance helped alleviate some of that, and we made several friends in no time. Their restaurant is closed down, and the people working the front counters are not very nice. Just smile and be nice to them and they will loosen up. This resort also accepts mail for you. GO AMAZON!