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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Mixed Reviews, Great Adventures Ahead!

I've seen more than highway on my drive to Knoxville.  I made sure to swing in to Indian Mountain State Park just over the state line and give it a look-see.  Built in the 1960's, the park was developed as a reclamation project in which abandoned strip mining pits were converted to recreational use. 

The ponds are stocked with a number of fish species including bluegill, large-mouth bass, crappie and catfish.

There are 49 sites with paved pads to serve both tent and RV campers. The park is only 5 minutes from the interstate but far enough away that I didn't hear any highway noise, and the road through the town of Jellico and into the park is pretty manageable for larger camping units.  There were a few sites that looked like they would easily fit a 37 foot fifth wheel, but I wouldn't say larger than that would be realistic.  Sites are fairly close together, but it looks like a good spot for a night or two on the way to somewhere else.

view from one of the paved sites - open year round!

I also stopped at Cove Lake a bit farther down the road and have to say I was not impressed.  Also close to the highway the campground is very small, the turns are tight and quite a few of the sites backed up to a chain link fence with residential buildings right on the other side.  Maybe for one night in an emergency.

Norris Dam State Park was beautiful but definitely not a place I would want to tow anything over 25 feet long.  The road going up the mountain into the park is steep and twisty, but the view of the dam was worth it as long as you're not towing anything.  A Visitor Center run by the Tennessee Valley Authority with restrooms is available at the dam itself, and the East side campground is over in that area as well.

From the state park's website: Construction of Norris Dam began in 1933 as the first project by the Tennessee Valley Authority, a Great Depression-era entity created by the federal government to control flooding and bring electricity and economic development to the Tennessee Valley. Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) enrollees were sent to build the park. Many of the facilities at the park were constructed by the CCC and are still in use. 

The road in to the east campground was crazy, barely wide enough for my car and also very curvy.  The road to the west campground was a little newer and wider, but I still wouldn't tow anything bigger than a pop-up if it were me.

share the road with the wildlife

The sites on the inner loop were small but standard rv fare, but the ones on the outer loop where I tent camped were perplexing.  Where would you set up a tent?

Thick with trees and roots, sharply sloped, I had to settle for site 25 where it was still sloped enough that I woke up a few times in the night to scootch back up onto my sleeping pad.  Right next to my spot was a hiking trailhead, promising to take me down into Hootin Hollow but hard as I looked I did not see or hear any owls.

Fall color is definitely done at Norris Dam, but it did afford some partial views through the trees down into the gaps and even to the water at one point.

I had to watch where I was going since the spiders seemed to love it there for some reason.  I kept my hiking pole moving in front of me but a couple of times when I knocked down unseen webs the spiders ended up sticking to my pole and scurrying toward me, once even landing on my camera around my neck!

Not knowing anything about spider identification I couldn't tell what this is, but I knocked the same kind down in a few spots so I'm hoping it was something common and harmless.  Nonetheless I showered thoroughly when I got back from my hike to avoid spending the night with a spider inside my jammies.

In the morning I woke to fog, but it felt pretty comfortable all night long even though the temps got down to 40F.

When I woke up I saw that I had visitors.  Can you see the deer hiding behind the trees?

Speaking of visitors, I packed up my tent and went visiting my hiking buddy Sharon in Knoxville!  We had a great lunch at First Watch and then drove to set me up at South Lake RV.

Probably the sketchiest park I've ever stayed at, with decrepit campers that looked more permanent than not.  If you RV you know what kind of place I'm talking about.  But, it was fine for the night because of its location, really the only park closer than half an hour from Knoxville where I wanted to do some shopping at Dillard's and not have to worry about country roads after dark.

Which brings us up to the present, finally landing in Townsend.  I've made my stop at The Chocolate Bar and stocked up ($72.00 worth, and hopefully I'll exercise some self-control and make it last) and now I'm at the Artistic Bean by Ace Hardware while I wait for a load of laundry to dry next door.  I'm going to stay at the Cades Cove campground in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which will be the first time I've actually stayed overnight in the park itself.  No wifi or even reliable cell signal over there so I'm incommunicado today, and tomorrow morning I'll be meeting Sharon for a hike at the Schoolhouse Gap trailhead.  Great adventures just ahead!


  1. How wonderful that you came so far down to see Sharon. Thanks for the honest campground descriptions, they are really helpful to know where to go and where to avoid. If this is in real time I'm amazed you can tent camp in the Smokies at this time of year without lows in the 30's at night.

  2. Looks like you're off on another solo adventure too! :)