The Great Smokey Mountains

In March of 2017 I put my T@G to the test by going off grid in the Great Smokey Mountains.

By this point in the trip Bella finally decided to stop trying to stand on the console.  I think the constant up and down was tiring, but she was still not getting off completely. She still needed to see where we were going.  You know in case she did not approve.

We were staying in North Carolina at the Cataloochee Campground.  My plan was to get the early in the day but there were multiple accidents during our drive through Tennessee so we were later in the day getting into the Smokies.

I was concerned that we would run into rain, but luckily we did not.

Once we got into North Carolina the real journey to the campground began.  It is located at a 2,600 ft elevation and has a limit in length and height for RVs that can stay there.  This is mainly becasue of the road getting to the campground.  It is a 10 mile, narrow, winding road along the side of the mountain that is mostly dirt.  The speed limit is 15 mph but with the T@G that seemed a little fast.

I felt OK pulling the T@G as long as I didn’t get in a rush.  It took 30 minutes to make it the full 10 miles, but that was ok.  I did have to pull over a few times to let people behind me pass.

The biggest problem I had was meeting people who were clearly driving to fast and taking up the whole road.

The campground is definitely worth the drive to get to.  It is a beautiful spot beside a clear stream, surrounded by tall, mature trees.

From the spot I reserved I could hear the water flowing in the stream.

The campsites are designed for tent campers so they all have a nice raised pad to set up a tent and good picnic tables and fire pits.

It was quite cold when we got there and Bella was not a fan.  She preferred to stay inside the camper.

Luckily I packed her a sweater and once she got warmed up I was able to get her outside to walk and explore the campground. We could not go on the hiking trails because it is a bear sanctuary and pets are not allowed on the trails, which is understandable.

There spots that are actually on the water and you can walk right down to the stream.

Other than some walking around the campground we didn’t do too much, just enjoyed the calm and quiet.

I tried to build a fire to cook a hamburger on but my fire building skills were weak.  I didn’t pack any fire starter log because I was anticipating using a grill more than a fire pit.  I did get a fire to start, but 45 minutes later it was still too small to actually cook anything so I gave up and used the stove in the T@G.

Then, of course, after my hamburger is done I walked around to sit at the picnic table and eat and had a huge, roaring fire.  I ended up having to actually pour water on it twice to put it out before bed.  The next time I go off grid I will pack fire start logs and start earlier on the fire.

Overall the T@G worked great off grid.  All the tent campers came by to tell me how jealous they were of my full kitchen and lights.  The porch lights are amazing and you can really see that in a place that truly gets dark.  The inverter I got was able to handle my electric blanket and I turned it on a little before dark in the hopes of keeping the inside from getting too cold. It worked well and between it and the extra blankets I packed, we slept great.

Well, I slept great, Bella would get too hot and get out from under the blanket, then whine a few hours later becasue she would be cold and couldn’t find her way back under it. In the morning it was 64 degrees in the camper, which is not bad for only using an electric blanket as a heat source. The low the night we were there was in the upper 40’s so that helped.

Although the campground does not have water or electricity hook ups, it did have some perks you don’t get from their online information.  They do have restrooms and they are within easy walking distance of all the campsites.  They do not have showers but there is a large washing bin outside the bathrooms you can use for cleaning up.  There are also hand pumps for water located around the campground so you do have access to water, you just have to have something to catch it and store it in. I was concerned about the water and had made sure to fill bottles and my tank before we left Tennessee. With solar panels to charge the battery, I could have easily stayed here multiple days and been comfortable.  In retrospect, I wish I had.

We stayed at the campground right up until checkout and since it was only 3 hours to our next stop, I took the scenic route through the Smokies. I had planned to do some things in Gatlinburg, but that was not possible because the town is not RV friendly at all and there was no place to park.

The driving through the mountains was a slow drive because of the steep inclines, sharp curves and narrow road. The road was in good condition, which helped and the scenery was great so it was a good drive.

We made many stops along the way for lunch, snacks and watching the wildlife. The places we could stop were somewhat limited though because there weren’t a lot of parking lots designed to allow RVs. Having the port a potty in the camper was also good because there was no RV parking at the stops with rest rooms.

We saw many elk and black bears. I could not get any pictures of bears because for some reason they were the one thing Bella decided to howl about. No matter what I did, she would not stop sounding the alarm any time we were close to bears.

It was a great trip and a beautiful area but in the future I will have to plan to spend more time.

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