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2007 Fall Vacation / 2011 Trip -
Great Smoky Mountain NP and The Blue Ridge Parkway

Index [Note: My 2011 pictures were put on this page because there weren't enough images to warrant their own page.]

My 2007 Fall Trip was on the way to Disney World.
My 2011 Trip was on the return trip from Dragon*Con.
When I was in Pennsylvania in 2006, there were a lot of places where the trees were turning fall colors. I would have taken more pictures, and found other places of interest, but I was sicker than a dog and was miserable. Even though I forced myself to play tourist, I could have done a better job.

So I had this brilliant idea for my 2007 fall vacation. Go find some fall colors. Simple, yes?

Well, no. Plans couldn't be made until Annual Pass rates were announced by Disney. That happened on August 19. Hard reservations were made for October 21 through the 27th. I'd be back in Chicago by the 29th.

Now, part of this brilliant plan was to go wherever the trees were turning color. If it was Pennsylvania or New York, so be it. Ideally it would be the Blue Ridge Parkway. But I would even go to Tennessee, Mississippi, wherever. No problem for mid-October, right?

Well, no. At the start of October, I start checking websites that track color changes. Well, between the drought and the warm fall, the trees are either turning from green to dead, or they're staying green, not a whole lot of color. By mid-October, things still hadn't changed.

A decision had to be made on where to go, and it's the Blue Ridge Parkway. I hadn't been on the Parkway since 2000. Even if the trees aren't turning color, it'll still be a nice drive, right?

Well, no. It would have been a nice drive, except for the fog. Low clouds, actually, but at 4000 feet, it's fog. Fog so dense that not only could you not see if the trees were turning color, but you couldn't see the trees. Not to mention we didn't even see the sun until we were 10 miles from the mountains. Perfect weather after that.

I want my money back.

Great Smoky Mountain National Park
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Grandfather Mountain
Grandfather Mountain, Blue Ridge Parkway.

Blue Ridge Parkway
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Leaving the parkway, we did a speed run South. Until we came across a pink Quonset hut, with a sign, "The BBQ Man". Naturally, we stopped for lunch. Great food. I don't know if it's still there, but it's worth the stop...

The BBQ Man
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2011 Return Trip from Dragon*Con -- The Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountain NP

Hard to argue with that... Bantam Chef Restaurant, Chesnee, SC
In 2011, after my... interesting... visit to Dragon*Con, we decided to take the long way home via the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, then go up to I-40 to get Jenny back to Peaceful Pastures.

Foolishly following my GPS, rather than look at a real map, we found ourselves looking for food, and happened across the Bantam Chef Restaurant. Right across the street from the local speed trap, who was handing out speeding tickets a couple miles from the North Carolina border.

Good food, great ambience, I'd go back again. But considering where Chesnee, South Carolina is, you really have to want to go there. Just don't speed down US-221...

Bantam Chef Restaurant
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We entered the parkway North of Grandfather Mountain, around the same place I left the Parkway in 2007. As we approached the Parkway, it started raining. Hard. Unbelievably hard.

When I got on the Parkway, I discovered... Fog. Again. Something about this place and me and low hanging water. sigh.

We did stop in at the Parkway Crafts Center (around mile marker 294), where Jenny had to inspect the yarn they had. There was a carriage house there, where Jenny remarked that the rats (it was obvious from the little gifts left all over the place) were probably destroying some expensive carriages. I see hantaviruses, Jenny sees some nice carriages being destroyed. Heh.

Blue Ridge Parkway
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We left the Parkway, and visited the Mountain Farm Museum, where Jenny relived part of her childhood, and of course, closely inspected the horse wagons and carriages.

A quick stop at Mingus Mill, where we found the water turbine had blown out, and we were out of the park.

Great Smoky Mountain National Park
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  • 08/01/2013 - Addition of 2011 pics, completed update to v3.11
  • 08/31/2014 - Update to v3.2