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Today we where up early to spend the day in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Top on my list was to see a bear. Well, I did get to see a momma and 3 cubs, but they where in the thick forest so I couldn’t get a good picture of them. Oh well, I did have plenty of other animal encounters, such as this one right when we got into the park.

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Turkey’s are EVERYWHERE! I swear we didn’t go more then 10 minutes without seeing one all day.

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We did the Cades Cove Scenic Loop. I recommend picking up one of those books at the ranger post for $1 so you know what the buildings are that you are looking at.  We where lucky to see a bunch of deer along the room close enough to take pictures of.

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One hike we did was Laurel Falls, it’s 300 foot elevation climb and 1 1/4 mile hike to the falls with the paved trail so it’s not so bad. The falls are 80 foot high and named for mountain Laurel.

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Next driving loop we did was Roaring Fork. It’s right outside of Gatlinburg and is about 5 miles long. I recommend doing this in the evening so you can see some wild life. Since we where limited on time today we did this about lunch time and it’s a 1 lane road 1 way so you can’t get around someone who wants to go 2 miles an hour the whole time.

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After lunch we drove down towards Clingmans Dome which is the highest peak in the Smokies and third highest mountain east of the Mississippi at 6,643 feet. If you do the hike, I warn you now it’s paved, but it’s super steep! Took us a while to do the .5 mile trail that leads to an observation tower. We even saw some guys who where hiking the Appalachian Trail starting in Georgia and ending in Maine. More power to them I’ll stick to my little .5 miles hikes that’s enough for me! When you’re up at the top you can actually have one foot in Tennessee and one in North Carolina.

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We rested up before hitting our next hike to Mingo Falls. This is totally worth the stop it’s an easy hike .4 miles (mainly stairs), but the falls are 120 feet tall.

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Then we where off to Cataloochee for sunset and a little picnic of peanut butter sandwiches haha. There’s some more historic buildings and this is where the elk are supposed to be. The worst part is the trip getting there. Basically it’s a one way in one way out kind of place. There’s at least 3 miles on gravel road and is 11 miles long to get down to the valley area. We where stuck behind these 2 campers which had a really hard time on the switch back roads. One area took a good 20 minutes for both of them to get around. The trip down to see the elk is worth it. We stalked them in the valley area watching them come out of the wooded area and walk in front of us. It was still at a little of a distance because the stick to the tree line, but still pretty neat.

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Like others we moved our car down the road to watch them walk our way. Well this time they took a turn and headed straight for our car. I’ve never been so freaked out. They are huge! I wouldn’t have been so freaked out if it wasn’t the one elk that had horns starring me down through my window. It was a very cool experience despite my heart racing.

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After our wildlife adventure we drove down to Asheville, for dinner and to check in our room for the night.

I had seen an article in Southern Living about this well known place Tupelo Honey Café that is known for partnering with local farmers and I wanted to give it a shot. We had a long wait, but once we got to our table we where greeted with Tupelo honey and some homemade blueberry jam to use on the biscuits.

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Rosemary Peach Lemonade $2.50 (no refills), I really wanted to like this, but wow there was so much rosemary infused I couldn’t taste anything else. As much as I love to try new things, I didn’t enjoy this. The Margarita $7 (A generous pour of Margaritaville silver tequila, a splash of Cointreau, our house-made signature sour mix) on the other hand was excellent and one of the best we’ve had in a long time.

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We started with the Appalachian Egg Rolls $7.25 (Pulled pork tossed in smoked jalapeno BBQ sauce rolled with braised greens, pickled onions & shredded carrots served with Dijon dippin’ sauce and with a garnish of seasonal greens). They where good, but I had to ask for extra BBQ sauce because I couldn’t taste it. I really liked the sauce the best.

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For dinner we ordered the Stroganoff, Y’all $18.95 (Our Southern riff on classic creamy stroganoff featuring pork tenderloin in our cremini mushroom gravy. Served over Goat Cheese Grits and topped with jalapeno cilantro pesto and sour cream). I was mostly interested in trying the jalapeno cilantro pesto. The dish while looked nasty was good. They had more onions in there then meat, and some of the meat was over cooked and chewy. I loved the mushrooms they where the best part. We also got the  Petite Tender Medallions of Beef $19.95 (A juicy, sliced shoulder tender topped with  gorgonzola butter and a rich bordelaise sauce, it’s one of the most flavorful entrees we’ve ever tasted. Served medium rare with cheesy smashed  cauliflower and a seasonal garnish). Out of the two dishes this one was really good and I have to say the best. To pair we got a Malbec for $7 a glass.

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Princess Anne Hotel B&B $167. My pictures weren’t that great, but I was worn out by this time. They have several different floor plans, but ours had a living room, kitchen area, bathroom and bedroom. This was our first B&B we ever stayed in and I loved it!! The staff is so sweet and I loved the charm of this place. We’re social people, but not the type that likes to be grouped with others and on a schedule, it’s not like that here, they have appetizers and wine in the evening and breakfast in the morning, but you’re not forced to sit with the same people over and over.

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