30. Apr, 2016

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THURSDAY 23-10-08 

Today our hard work paid off and the escape tunnel we’d been digging for the past 48 hours came out on the other side of the wire. After popping down the road for a quart of milk and other bits and pieces we prepared the vehicle and away we went. Goodbye Pigeon Forge, home of ‘Dollywood’ www.dollywood.com , Dolly Parton’s theme park, though Lord knows what the attractions in there are, probably a roller coaster ride around a gigantic pair of pink plastic boobs. 

We were travelling with full tanks of fuel and water but despite the weight made good progress up the often very steep, winding, busy road. We climbed to about 5,000ft before the well deserved downward run. At the peak Newfound Gap was a very popular overlook, and the largest along this road. It was the only one with allocated parking spaces for RV’s (GPS: N35.611072 W83.425364). We pulled in because The Chef had identified on the map that the Appalachian Trail passes across the road at that point as it makes its way from the state of Maine in the north to Springer Mountain in Georgia in the south, a distance of over 2,000 miles, now that’s what you call a hike. We had a short walk along the trail then had lunch in the RV as it was such a nice view up there. 

On arrival at the Smokemont campground Rosina did the necessary paperwork at the Rangers office before we made our way to the pitch. It was a very nice spot in a very nice campground; it was worth enduring an extra day in Pigeon Forge to get a space here. Once we were set up we decided to go for a nice long walk along the nature trail starting at the campground. I was finding it quite frustrating as there were logs and firewood everywhere just waiting to be dragged away and burned. Unfortunately it was all some distance from the campground because I suppose the wanted-to-be-a-Boy-Scout campers had taken all of the suitable firewood in or near the campground during the peak season. I had thought of coming back with my bike and loading it up with logs and wheeling it back until Rosina told me that the rules state bikes aren’t allowed on the trail. 

When we returned to the RV I got out my bike and cycled to the nearby stable which sold bundles of small logs. It broke my heart to pay $9 for three bundles when I’m in a forest full of the stuff. It was very tricky getting it back as the bundles came off the carrier on the back of the bike three times even though I’d used a couple of cheap and nasty bungee straps in an effort to hold them on. 

When I returned I offloaded them and made my way back towards the trail. There was no way I was going to pay for any more logs. I also took a carrier bag and gathered twigs and sticks for kindling. I’d seen a good size log down a steep muddy bank by the river whilst out on our walk, and fairly close to the campground so the next thing I’m struggling to get it up the bank and as it was so heavy guessed it was a chunk of hardwood. Strapped on the back of the folding bike I made my way back to ‘base camp’ and made a start on tonight’s camp fire. I used a few of the ‘tourist logs’ I’d bought at the stables before adding my large freshly gathered freebie. 

Disappointing would be the best way to describe it, sitting around a fire with a large log that just wouldn’t burn properly. In the end I gave up on it and we went in for our evening meal – hotpot cooked last night in the slow cooker at Pigeon Forge, which just requiring reheating in the microwave. 

This evening has been spent indoors with the heating on and Glenn Miller playing on the MP3 player through the RV’s sound system which has speakers in both the cab and lounge. It’s a double album, and it’s been on now for over an hour, nice but mournful, appropriate accompanying music for a wartime air raid. 

Tomorrow is forecast wet; we’ll just have to see what happens. We’ve decided to have a relaxing day indoors if that’s the case. 

LOCATION TONIGHT: Smokemont Campground, 60 Enloe Floyd Bottoms Road, Cherokee, NC 28719 (GPS: N35.556841 W83.311114).