Day 218 – Bryson City
Sunday started with a cold, crisp morning, so we bundled up and walked a few short blocks to the main street through downtown Bryson City. We visited a few shops and got an up-close look at the Great Smoky Mountain Railway train that was preparing to leave the station. On the way back to the hotel, we grabbed a to-go lunch so we could fuel up for an afternoon hike. The weather was much warmer by then, so we had a very pleasant hike on the Deep Creek trail, just inside the boundaries of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We saw several nice waterfalls and took in some nice views of the surrounding mountains.
Day 219 – Bryson City to Gatlinburg
As usual, Monday started off with work from the hotel and conference calls. Then we packed up the van and took the main road north through the heart of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We stopped on the way up for lunch in the van, then continued on to enjoy some beautiful views and a fair amount of snow. Shorty after leaving the park, we arrived at our destination for the next two night, Gatlinburg, TN.
Day 220 – Gatlinburg
Tuesday morning was another cold one, so we worked from the campground, a very nice place with treehouse cabins and retro campers. After lunch, we took the trolley downtown to walk around. We were amazed at how much was going on and how busy it was. Gatlinburg is like a small, southern Las Vegas without the casinos. There are all kinds of crazy attractions, restaurants and shops lining the street. It was a little overwhelming but we had fun for a few hours.
Day 221 – Gatlinburg to Asheville
After some work Wednesday morning, we got back on the road and headed south back into North Carolina, this time to Asheville. On arrival, we found a laundry for Tracey to use while Michael took RC for an oil change and tire rotation.
Next, we headed downtown to explore the heart of Asheville. It is a very cool town, with a lot of independent shops and restaurants in the downtown area. We spent a couple of hours checking things out, then it was time to head to the hotel for dinner and some rest.
Day 222 – Asheville
Thanksgiving! Michael worked a bit in the morning, then it was time for our reservation to visit the Biltmore Estate, the largest private residence in the United States and the crown jewel of Gilded Age mansions. The house was decorated for Christmas, which made it even more charming. We spent over an hour inside the huge house and still only saw less than half of it. Next we hiked for a while around the grounds surrounding the house, then hopped back in the van to drive a few miles to the small village on the estate. It had a farm with animals, as well as shops, a winery, a few restaurants and even hotels. It was a beautiful estate and a great place to spend the holiday.
Day 223 – Asheville to Union
On our way out of Asheville on Friday, we decided it was time for some southern BBQ so we ate lunch at 12 Bones BBQ. It was delicious. Then it was on to our next stop, to get in some work and watch the Blazers game.
Day 224 – Union to Columbia
Saturday morning we continued down the road to Columbia, the capital of South Carolina. We drove through the downtown area to find a few cool art installations we had read about, then drove by the stadium to see the hoopla around the big USC vs. Clemson rivalry game happening later that night. Next up, we visited Congaree National Park, the 18th national park we have visited on this trip. The park is the newest national park, and protects a large stand of old-growth, bottomland forest. We went for a nice 5-mile hike that started and finished along the main boardwalk trail, with an extra loop around Weston Lake.
After the hike, we moved another hour down the road to our to Pointsett State Park to check into campsite and relax.