I went for a quick trip with some girlfriends this past weekend. We had a blast and of course time flew too fast and I can't wait to go back. :)
I got into the area about 1pm on Friday. My friends were coming up from Georgia, and they weren't due in until about 4pm, so I had some time to kill. I took the Gatlinburg Bypass (which felt nearly deserted), stopped at the overlooks and got some great pictures of the gorgeous fall colors. Simply stunning. Then I proceeded to Sugarlands to walk to Cataract Falls. Very easy short walk along a creek. Perfect for small kids, elderly, and I think you can take pets on this trail. The falls were moving nicely. Saw several warbler species of birds on this trail, as well as about 10 other species. Walked back, and then headed into town.
I stopped at the Sugarlands Winery to buy a few bottles of wine. I was talking to the guy pouring, and he was nice enough to give me 4 stamped cards for the Rocky Top Wine Trail, one for me and 3 for my friends. Go to 3 wineries and get 3 stamps, and you get a free wine glass. Go to all 5, and get the wine glass AND either a tshirt or tumbler glass. After that, I went to our condo. We stayed at a privately owned townhouse in Gatlinburg Village (Light #6, on Baskins Creek Rd) yet again. I just can't beat the location and price (easy walking distance to the Parkway too, no crazy uphill walks). It's always suited my needs. I relaxed for another hour or so, read a book on the screened in balcony until my Georgia friends arrived.
After they arrived, we hung out, sampled the wine, and then headed to the Parkway for shopping and dinner. We stopped at Davy Crockett's Whiskey Distillery to sample. Oh my. It was tasty. All except for the Moonshine. I don't like it when the air smells like burning. One of my friends bought a bottle of the "Christmas in a bottle," which is a cream liqueor whiskey flavored with cinnamon. Oh my. It was quite heavenly. I'm kicking myself for not buying a bottle of my own. I will have to see if they ship. We then stopped at Gigi's for some tiny cheesecakes to get the taste of the moonshine out. Gigi's is always good. We had dessert before dinner, but my mom wasn't there, so it was ok. ;) We headed to dinner at Smoky Mountain Brewery because we had a beer lover with us. The hostess told us the wait for 4 was only about 25 minutes, which ended up being closer to an hour. When you have a hungry pregnant woman in your party, waiting for longer than expected is not a good thing (not me, my friend). We finally were seated, and our server was awesome (Julio, I think his name was?). Pretzels and beer cheese tasted better than I remembered. Burgers were good, beer was better. We then headed back to our condo and called it a night (after some more Christmas in a bottle).
We slept in for a little bit on Saturday. Got up, and headed to find a place that didn't have a super long wait (pregnant friend, remember?). The line for Pancake Pantry was out the door and so far into The Village that I couldn't see the end. Log Cabin had a similar line outside. We ended up at Flapjacks on the main Parkway, where we only waited for about 10 minutes. They had a little gift shop which was nice for browsing. Our server wasn't the friendliest and she forgot a coffee, but she was decent. All food was hot and good and served quickly. It's a decent backup breakfast location.
We then headed up into the National park. One of our friends had never been there. We stopped at the Chimney Tops trailhead, got some pictures of the river and the gorgeous color. Then we headed up to Newfound Gap. The tree color up there was already done for, and the temp was about 25 degrees colder. We got rained, hailed, and snowed on. We walked up the AT a little bit, took some pictures. Then we headed back down the mountain.
Stopped at the condo, then headed up to Pigeon Forge. We stopped for desserts at the Happy Days diner next to the Comedy Barn. It was ok, but if I have any say, I won't go back. Then we decided it was time for more wine. We hit up Mountain Valley, HIllside, and Apple Barn Winery all in the span of about 2 hours. Sooooo much wine, sooooo little time. Between Sugarland on Friday, MV and Hillside, I bought 5 bottles. I wasn't too much of a fan of the Apple wines. We had the BEST wine pourers at MV and Hillside. We got our free wine glasses at HIllside.
Then we went to The Christmas Place. Ornaments were buy 3, get 1 free (equal or lesser value). If you don't use your noggin, you can really get hosed on the "deal." I had 4 $2 ornaments I wanted to get, 4 $3 ornaments, and 4 $6 for a total of 12 ornaments. Now, if I had them all rung up together like the cashier wanted me to, I would have only gotten three of the $2 ornaments for "free" for a savings of $6. I insisted she ring the 3 sets up separately though (which took more time and effort on her part, but the check out line was not busy and had no wait). Which in turn, saved me a total of $11. Worth it, IMO. But I'm a budgeter.
It was pushing 8:30pm by the time we left. We opted for dinner at the PF Alamo steakhouse. No wait at that time of night. Server was great, food was good and served fairly quickly. I would definitely go back there. We decided to call it an early night since we wanted to get up early to go do Roaring Fork with the hopes of seeing a bear.
We were on the road about 7:45 or so Sunday morning. Didn't see any bear, but did see some deer (just does, no bucks) and turkeys. We were at the Trillium Gap trailhead at about 8:30 and were one of 5 cars. We passed 3 people on the way up. Grotto Falls were flowing nice and we got some great pictures. On our way down, we passed a bazillion people and the parking lot was overflowing. It always pays to get on the trails early!
We finished RFMNT and headed back to the townhouse to get packed up and checked out. We were famished. We ended up at the Red Rooster in PF for brunch. It was ok, I doubt I go back. Nothing special, but there was no wait. We ended our trip at Eagle Creek Winery in Kodak on our way back to I-40 so we could get our free tumblers/tshirts. I'm not a fan of honey wines, but their apricot wine wasn't too bad.
Some random observations:
I've never seen so many people blatantly disregard the National Park rules in regards to dogs on the trails. The rule is there for a reason. AT, Chimney Tops, and Trillium Gap to Grotto Falls ALL were full of dogs. I can understand that little bit of the AT, because it's so near the Newfound Gap parking lot, BUT.... yeah. If you can't keep your dog at home or at a kennel, then you don't get to hike with it. You are not special, and the rules still apply to you.
If someone is pouring you a "Free" sample of alcohol, give them a tip. Even if you don't want to buy their alcohol, not leaving a couple bucks is rude. I witnessed so many people at the wineries and Davy Crockett's tasting but then not leaving a tip. Even if there is no "tip jar" $2 on the counter is still appreciated by the server.
Pancake Pantry by far has the best pancakes in the area. I really missed not eating there this trip. I still want to try Log Cabin though! Red Rooster and Flapjacks just really didn't compare.Edited: 04 November 2013, 15:32