Smokies in January (Day 1)

After having to work much later last night than anticipated, Justine and I finally struck out from home on Wednesday around 10am. We’re on our way to the Smokies at the beginning of January during the first cold snap of the year; once we joined I-26 near Saluda nc I see snow lurking in the shadows and the further we went into the mountains icicles began to show up on the road sides as thick as dogwood trunks. The temps were supposed to rise from a high of 31 up to the mid 50s and the plan was to camp for at least one to two nights at the Koa campground in Townsend. Unlike the national parks campgrounds, Koa had electric hookups so we planned on bringing a heater or two if it was needed and then staying in the park for the rest of the trip.

I’m used to getting to the Smokies from the south via Cherokee; Cades cove however was the focal point of this trip on the north-west corner of the park. So instead, for the first time in my memory, I approached the park from the north and honestly was disgusted. Driving through the rows of attractions, dinner shows, miniature golf courses, and outlet stores, it stood for everything i was trying to get away from on this trip. I wanted to go hike to old farmsteads and cabins, watch deer in Cades Cove, and if possible find the elk hiding somewhere near Cataloochee valley. The dichotomy of someone wanting to go see the same things I did and then go the Hatfield and McCoys comedy dinner just don’t seem possible. But, in this matter I’ll truthfully admit, I’m very closed-minded and probably not right. This urban sprawl I find so horrible also provides jobs and economic security to thousands of people; and for the people who don’t like it like myself, all we have to do is drive a little farther and it all falls away.

It’s after 4pm by the time we arrive at Koa and I realize I made the right choice is choosing to stay here the first night so that at least I wouldn’t have to set up the tents in the dark. As I went to go into the campground office to pay up, I realized the door was locked and no one was around. From the top of the hill a golf cart with a gentleman in a Koa jacket ( a good sign that he was who we were looking for) came rumbling down to meet us. He looked slightly bewildered and asked if we needed some help; when I asked if we could pay for a tent site with an electric hookup his eyes bulged from his head. “Wait. You’re going to stay in a tent?”
“That’s the plan. If your tent sites don’t have electric hookups well take an rv site instead if that’s ok.”
He hemmed and hawed a little and said he needed to double-check something with his boss but said that he would give us an rv site for the price of a tent site. A silent “Score!” was said in my head and I thanked him. He went to go find his boss but said he would return shortly to finish the sign up process. Very happily I waited for him and when he returned his boss crackled over the walkie-talkie. “Its going to go down to 17 tonight. I’m afraid if anyone stays in a tent they’re going to freeze to death; offer them a 1 room cabin for the same price as a Tent site and give them a heater too. We don’t have anybody staying there so if they want to do this for the next few days that’s fine”

So, for $30, we got a cabin with beds and electricity. We setup quickly and then took pictures of the frozen branches sitting in the water. Ravioli was for dinner and between the two of us and the freezing weather we devoured a family size can. Settling in for the night I was thankful for the cabin; we wouldn’t have died in a tent, but things were so comfortable with the cabin. Wanting to catch up on sleep we turned in around 8:30pm so we could wake up early for the sunrise


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