Once Overland Expo East came to a close on Sunday, my wife and I had 850 miles to cover on our way home to Michigan. We had a good time at the Expo despite the comical amount of mud created by constant rainfall. Back we’d travel through the beautiful Smokey Mountains. We arrived in Hendersonville two days prior in the dark of night so we really didn’t enjoy the landscape. Just the windshield wipers and tail lights in front of us. With a couple of sunny days in the forecast, we were ready to take another crack at it. Additionally, a key decision was made to locate AirBnB overnight accommodations as we meandered on our northerly course. It was just too cold to be sleeping in a tent this time of year without warmer sleeping bags.
Overland Expo East Part 3:
Just 25 miles outside of Ashville was our first stop, Chimney Rock. This 535 million-year-old towering monolith has been a focal point in the Western North Carolina Mountains for more than a century. Although it’s a touristy spot, it’s still worth an hour of your time if in the area. There were a lot of people and cars on site and we soon found out why. The sweeping 75-mile panoramic views of Lake Lure and Hickory Nut Gorge are breathtaking. The stairs are well maintained but for those in need of assistance, there is an elevator built into the mountain.
A little further out of our way is the Roaring Fork Motor Trail. Our route to the trail directed us straight through downtown Gatlinburg. That place is a tourist zoo, especially on a weekend. Certainly not what we were looking for but it lay directly in our path to the next side trip. The Roaring Fork Motor Trail. This 5.5 mile narrow roadway winds through old-growth forest and past a number of well-preserved log cabins, grist mills, and other historic buildings. It forces you to slow down and take in the beautiful surroundings. The Motor Trail is also the access road to the Grotto Falls trailhead. One of the several falls we ended up hiking too.
After a beautiful hike to the falls, we needed to get back on the road and point the Tundra north. Unfortunately, the days are so short this time of year so I’m glad we maximized our time in the Smokey Mountains. As the sun began to set, we put Dollywood in our rearview mirror and pushed up into Kentucky. While I was driving, Brandie was searching AirBnB for something out of the ordinary. Possibilities included a treehouse, a yurt and a few other interesting options. What we settled on was a tiny home just 30 minutes from the freeway in Frankfort Kentucky. In total darkness, we pulled into what looked like Ted Kaczynski’s Unibomber cabin. What we found was pure Kentucky charm and a very unique and cozy place to bed down for the night.
The next day was less eventful as we pushed through Ohio and Michigan. Bottom line, we needed to get home. But we had plenty of time to reflect on the trip. As cliche as it may sound, we realized that most of the highlights came from the journey itself and not necessarily the destination. As we become better Overlanders, we will strive to explore the nooks and crannies of our country while traveling. Meet new people, eat different regional foods (and beverages). And take in the sights and sounds. But most importantly, spend time together. Our daily lives are often too busy for trips like this. Spending a few days together (without kids) recharged our batteries and I’ve already started planning our next Overland adventure.