22-30, 2007 Smoky Mountain Camping Trip
June 22-25: Camping at Jellystone Park, Cherokee, NC
We arrived in Cherokee late Friday afternoon and were greeted by
two elk at the welcome center. All I can think about when I see these
horse-size deer is what it would be like to hit one on a motorcycle, or even
a car. We were excited about staying at
Jellystone Park in Cherokee.
They advertised a wooded environment with lots of activities for the kids.
When entering the campground, we drove by crumbling homes with trash and
junk in their yards. Our site had a dumpster on one side and a set of
hand-made pens housing lots of dogs and a cow on the other. The sites
were narrow so our view was of the next camper's sewer hook-up.
Luckily, we were able to move to a site on the river the
next day which was much better. The kids were able to ride their bikes
on the gravel inner roads, and they swam in the pool until we spotted a
little brown floater. It was like the scene from
Caddy Shack with
everyone piling out of the pool. Unfortunately, it wasn't a Babe Ruth
bar, so the pool was closed for the duration of that day. We played
ping pong, caught a crayfish, and fished for trout. It rained (hard)
on Sunday, but it didn't dampen our spirits. Then came the gypsies.
Two or three trucks with 15' trailers loaded to the gills with coolers and
containers. They started moving the big rocks that divided our
campsites and pitched three huge tents next to us. It took them hours
to establish their camp, but they had plenty of booming music to accompany
their efforts. The only positive was that the billowing black smoke
from their 30 or so tiki torches kept the bugs away. Although we had
paid for the fourth night, we packed-up Monday morning and headed for Maggie
Valley and Ghost Town in the Sky. I'd like to point out that
Jellystone did not offer a refund for the last night, and when asked about a
refund, they refused. I'm quite certain that they rented the site that
night, so they made double their money. Perhaps that's how they can make a little
extra cash. I know that a campground has to make a profit, but our
experience with these commercial campgrounds is that the sites are half the
size of what they should be. They try to cram as many sites into their
limited space as possible. Positives- Pool, WiFi, cable TV, good roads
for bike riding, and the river. Negatives- too crowded (we love kids,
but GEES!), poo in the pool,
sites too narrow, and a loud PA system that cranked-up first thing in the
morning blasting kids music all over the campground. We wouldn't
recommend Yogi in the Smokies, but there are attractions locally that we
would recommend. The
Oconaluftee Indian Village and the outdoor play
Hills depicting the events that led to the trail of tears.
Note: While I wouldn't recommend Yogi in the Smokies, I'd
like to point out that we didn't see anything else more appealing.
Perhaps you should visit Cherokee while en route to another camping
An added note: With no cellular access at the campground, pay phones are are
the only method of making a call. We used one for four calls totaling
about 15 minutes. The bill on my credit card was just over $91.00.
American Express worked with me and refused the charge. I called Yogi
about this and they seemed shocked. According to them, they'll be posting signs warning
campers of the excessive costs charged by the phone company/crooks.
June 25-27: Maggie Valley Camping and Ghost Town In The Sky - Maggie
You know, I have passed by
Maggie Valley many times in past
years, but I'd never actually visited. It's really a cool little town.
There are lots of restaurants and things to do (including skiing in the
winter). We stayed in a
quaint little RV Park called
Stone Bridge. Although the sites on
Jonathan Creek are kind of narrow, there was plenty of room behind the
camper for the kids to play. There's a pool and game room, and a very
nice clean laundry. The roads are paved and very level, so the kids
could ride their bikes a lot. My only complaint was that the site was
kind of muddy after the rain, something that could have been remedied with a
few dollars worth of gravel or mulch. Otherwise, we loved
Bridge. The people there are really friendly (there are quite a few
full-timers there). We have already booked two sites on the creek in
October, and it looks like "Super Dave", "Carly Sue", Dianna, and Carson are
joining is for the long weekend.
Our first stop in Maggie Valley was
Ghost Town in the Sky. The theme park, which
has been around for over 45 years, has been closed for several years pending
sale. This year it has reopened with a fresh coat of paint and a new
crew. Some of the rides have not opened yet, but those that were open
were very nice and clean. The shows such as the gunfight on main
street, and the Silver Dollar Saloon are very well done. The music was
great at the Red Dog Saloon, and everyone enjoyed the Indian dance and
blow-gun demonstrations. Unfortunately, it started raining hard that
afternoon, so the chair-lift closed and they had to shuttle everyone (and I
mean everyone) down the mountain in passenger vans. I heard someone
say they had six vans, but I'd say it was closer to two. It took two
hours to get out, and we were some of the last to leave. We saw Ghost
Town as a real Ghost Town. Positives, fun kiddie rides, clean, fresh,
professional shows, great view, good prices (once in the park).
Negatives- Not all rides opened, bad transportation/evacuation plans,
charged full price although some rides were unavailable. It is a bit
pricey, especially with four kids. I believe it cost us around
$140.00. Fortunately, we got a rain check and are planning to go back
in October. Hopefully they will have opened the rest of the rides by
then. Even with the negatives, we'd still recommend Ghost Town in the
Note to Ghost Town management: Don't advertise your
"thrilling roller coaster" before it's open, and you should make it clear that
not all attractions and rides are opened at the base of the mountain before
you take the customer's money. You've got a good thing, don't spoil
June 25- Biltmore House/Estate, Asheville, NC
While camping in Maggie Valley, we took a day
trip to Asheville to visit the Biltmore Estate. We spent over seven
hours exploring the house (we plugged it as a castle to the kids), gardens,
farm, and winery. I followed the advice of the lady that sold me the
tickets, and played a game of I-Spy as we toured the house. I'd find
some object in a painting, engraving, or sculpture, then have the kids try
to find it. It kept them entertained enough to make the house tour
much more enjoyable. Once again, it decided to rain on us, but we
didn't care, we just kept on going. At the farm, the kids got to pet
some of the animals and saw a chicken lay an egg. The attendants let
the kids collect the eggs, and as you can see from one of the pictures
below, John Micah had a little accident ( I believe that boy could
break an anvil). On the way out of town we stopped and visited Dianne,
a good friend and co-teacher of Rebecca's that was visiting her mother in
the hospital. By the end of the day, we were tired and ready to head
back to camp. We did, however, stop at the
Maggie Valley Rock Shop to browse and do a little gem
grubbing. When we got back to camp, the kids rode their bikes and watched a movie before
calling it a day.
June 27: Sheffield Ruby and Sapphire Mine- Franklin, NC -
On Wednesday we went gem grubbing
at the Sheffield Mine in
Franklin North Carolina. Mother Goose and Aint 'Net met us there.
Although we had very little luck, we really enjoyed ourselves. Aint
'Net found a tiny ruby, and the kids found lots of other semi-
precious stones in the enriched buckets, but otherwise, it was a bust.
One thing that makes the Sheffield Mine unique is the rubies and sapphires
found there are actually from that location. The dirt you screen is
dug from that site, and it is possible to find a real valuable stone, what
they call "honkers". Although the visit was a little pricy with the number of kids we have
($10 for adults, $8 for the kids), I'd recommend this activity to others because the kids enjoyed playing in
the mud very much. Take a change of clothes!
Vogel State Park - Blairsville, GA & Helen, GA - June
Park in an awesome
place! We were very lucky to get a big creek-side spot this week because
many people reserve spots a year in advance for the 4th of July festivities.
The site was very nice an clean. The park has a lake with a beach and
peddle boats, a miniature golf course, and falls that you can hike to.
There is also a CCC museum where you can see how the young men that built
this and many other parks across the country lived and worked (for a dollar
a day). The only negative is that the laundry room is way too small
with too few washers and old dryers that do not work well. Also, there
is no full hook-up (no sewer), but that's pretty standard for state parks.
The roads are a little too hilly for our kids to ride bikes, but older, more
experience riders would have enjoyed it. A bear visited our site early
Thursday morning, but we were sleeping late and missed it. Personally,
I think this is the nicest state park we've been to thus far. Its only
a couple of hours away, but it's really secluded. It's close enough to
attractions for day trips like Helen, Uniquoi State Park, gem
mining/grubbing, Tallulah Gorge, Dillard, Frankiln, etc. We'd give it
While camping at Vogel, we took a day trip to Helen, GA, an alpine village
(tourist trap) located in North Georgia. We didn;t spend much time
there because Lee Thomas wasn't feeling well, but I'd like to note that we
ate lunch at La
Cabana, a wonderful Mexican restaurant with very good food. The
owners/management were very nice and treated the kids like their own.
It was also very reasonably priced with food and drinks totaling about $5.00
I'd also like to mention a barbeque restaurant we ate at on the way home on
Saturday. If you're ever in Blue Ridge, Georgia, stop by
Blue Ridge Mountain BBQ
for lunch. I think it was some of the best barbeque I've ever had!
The service was great too!
June 16: Bike
Riding and Rockhounding -
Berry College, Rome, GA and Summerville,
This past week I made some modifications to Herbie's trailer so
we could also carry bicycles. I had them all loaded up, so we decided
to give it a test run. Lee Thomas had been begging to go rockhounding
for agate in Summerville, so we made it a combination PB&J Adventure,
rockhounding and biking.
Although it was very hot, everyone had fun While at Berry College, we saw a
couple of very young fawns. If you have not seen the deer at Berry
College (Rome,GA), I'd recommend going over one evening (an hour or so
before sunset). If you drive to the back of the main campus, you will
see a lot of deer. I have counted over 200 in one field alone.