Hiccupy Road Trip

Well all, we have returned from our weeklong camping adventure. We here at Camp Granola like flexibility on our journeys so we plan our adventures only in a cursory sense. And while our plans (again I use the term loosely) were to spend most of our time at Cumberland Gap, we ended up splitting the trip. We opted for a few nights at Cumberland Gap, one night in Asheville, and another two in the Smoky Mountains near Bryson City, NC. So before I go into the tales of the journey, I thought I’d give you an overview so you have a framework for the upcoming posts.

Getting out of Dodge…

The exit from SGCH went off with only a few hiccups. Anyone with kids knows that getting them out of the house is like herding cats…even when they want to go and are invested in the forthcoming adventure. (Anyone out there with parenting tips on how to get everyone going the same direction with less frustration is welcome to sound in here by the way.)

The destination
Better late than never. Camp Granola finally made it to Cumberland Gap NHP.

We managed to get the car packed and put the roll in our granola only about an hour later than I’d been pushing for. Let’s call that hiccup number one. Hiccup number two was realizing I’d forgotten my driving route crib notes on the kitchen counter but decided to go from memory. Let’s just say that wasn’t a smart move…the old gray matter, she ain’t what she used to be.

The third little hiccup came about an hour from home when I realized I’d forgotten to change out Blubaru’s carpet floor mats for the all-weather rubber ones. Knowing we were heading into a good bit of rain and the associated camping mud, I had to let out a groan of disappointment in my memory.

Somewhere in North Carolina…

Remember the route notes lying abandoned on the kitchen counter? Here’s where that became a true hiccup. See, I’d run out of time to address my ailing Garmin car GPS so I left it behind. With some uncertainty, I had Jester fire up the navigation on his Android but a little too late. Late, as in after I passed a road sign and said “I think that was the turn I needed.” But that was no matter in my vacation-intoxicated, go-with-the-flow attitude. I had enough of a mental map to know we would still arrive at our destination via this alternate route, although a little later, so I opted to keep moving forward rather than redirect. Like I said, going with the flow.

Bryson City, NC
Nestled in the Smokies, Bryson City is quite a sightly place.

Had I really thought this through though, it would have dawned on me that I was taking us directly into the heart of darkness. Yes folks, I mean I took us through the anti-granola tourist meccas that are Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, TN. Now, as a kid, I thought Gatlinburg was the bomb. Fast forward a few decades years and obviously my perspective has changed. (And quiet down Mom, I can hear you laughing from here…)

On a side note, Jester and I couldn’t help but notice the parallels between Gatlinburg and Helen, GA…another bizarre vortex of tourism just north of us. We decided Gatlinburg was Helen’s big sister…and she wasn’t pretty. As a matter of fact, she was downright scary and possibly on steroids. And no sooner had we escaped Gatlinburg than we found ourselves in Pigeon Forge which reminded us of International Drive outside of Disney World. And that’s not a good thing.

And now back to our regularly scheduled road trip…kind of.

Having made it through our detour, we got back on track and managed to actually get to Cumberland Gap with enough time to set up camp and make dinner, although we were a bit rushed by the impending nightfall. At least the weather gave us a break by waiting to unleash the rain until after we were settled in. That could have been a very uncomfortable hiccup.

Deep Creek Fly Fishers
Deep Creek, just north of Bryson City, NC.

We spent three very nice nights at Cumberland Gap National Historic Park before we decided we should take some time to swing through Asheville, NC. And to throw in the hiccup-that-should-have-been, I lost the car keys on our way out of Cumberland Gap but, being the mom that I am, had an extra set on hand. Ha, take that hiccups!

Anyhoo, in spite of the almost-hiccup, we headed to Asheville, only to find out the campground we had in mind was a total dud so we moved on. But here’s another hiccup that could have been nasty…we didn’t manage to find another suitable campground in the area…and it was getting pretty late to be setting up camp….and we needed dinner. Can you say hotel? I knew you could. This is where we insert the leaving George’s toothbrush at the hotel hiccup.

On the road again…

After a quick inspection of Asheville, which is all sorts of groovy, we headed off to the Great Smoky Mountains for a couple of nights. We chose the Deep Creek campground near Bryson City, NC and found it blissfully uncrowded. We got saddled with a some more rain but you’ll see how that worked out a bit later in the chronicles. And this is where we realize a delayed hiccup in that we somehow left George’s camp pillow behind in Virginia…two days earlier.

At Deep Creek, we realized dogs weren’t allowed on trails (probably because of bears) so we couldn’t all go hiking together. That’s a bummer hiccup but we took the opportunity to get some very rare one-on-one time with the boys. Gotta make lemonade right? So we did and it was yummy. Cured the hiccups too.

That’s the pocket guide to the basic anatomy of our wanderings this time around. Lots of little hiccups. Nothing trip-devastating but definitely a lot more than usual. In between all the hiccups there was lots of good stuff of course, and that is what’s coming up on Val in Real Life.

What have been some of your travel hiccups?

And now for your moment of green…

Bryson City Happiness
Love getting past the hiccups to enjoy the unexpected fruits of wandering.


  1. I love loosely planned trips. Serendipity has a way of showing her face in the margins. And if you keep a good attitude (which I don’t always do) and are willing to roll with the punches (which I don’t always do either) it makes for great traveling. If your family was all able to keep it together through this crazy tale…. I admire you!

    1. I try to plan a skeleton of a trip and let the other things fall into place. I don’t like getting locked into stuff that we may not enjoy and I like being able to explore the unexpected discoveries.

      We weathered the hiccups fairly well, not perfectly by any means though. We were wound up very tightly going into this trip so I thought we handled them pretty well considering. Lots of “Good Grief” Charlie Brown moments that’s for sure.

  2. I think if we ever get the Great Family Trek thing together we are heading out this way. I can see it now. 20 families hiking for 2 weeks straight and then crashing Gatlinburg. We would probably just turn around and head right back into the woods, then again, maybe not.

    Can’t wait to visit this area.

    1. Justin, looks like Val has already scouted the area for the big event!

      1. I’m sure you’ll need me to scout some more right? Pretty please?

    2. It’s a fabulous area. There’s certainly lots of manufactured fun to be had in the Gatlinburg/Cherokee/Pigeon Forge stretch but also lots of awesome outdoor goodness. The Smokies are wonderful. I’m heading up that way (solo!) for a workshop at Tremont in a couple of weeks…that area has lot of potential for the Great Family Hike.

      I’m up for unloading 20 hiking families on Gatlinburg though. That could be fun!

  3. Sure! Let’s get together for a homebrew sometime (my place or yours), and we’ll tell you all you want to know. You’ll be happy to know that when we found the watering hole, I immediately told Val that I’d have to come back up here with you.

  4. OK, I really need all of your beta on the Deep Creek Campground. The picture of the fly fishers did it for me, along with the knowledge of your discovery of a cool watering hole nearby.

    1. Yep, we were thinking you would like it there. You need to check out Family Trek and Great Family Escape (other commenters here…) GFE is trying to get a mega-family hiking event together for next year. You might come in handy for that given your experience. *hint, hint, nudge, nudge*

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