Hi, this is about my camping trip to the Smoky Mountains. It was the Good Friday long weekend. My husband, me and a friend of mine set out on Thursday evening to drive to Tennessee to see the smokies. It was a beautiful day, sunny and bright. First of all it was a tent camping excursion, you will be given spots to put up your tent. It will be your home for the vacation in that park.
There is no dragging from attraction to attraction or fighting where to eat. A tent camping trip is a time for bonding on the trail and around the fire, where experiences and sights are shared. It is a chance to experience the unique adventure of the out-of-doors and have fun along the way. No electricity, no TV and other material things to disturb you. Just you and the nature around you. It is a wonderful feeling, the huge trees, in their glorious spring colors, that surround you and the small creek flowing just a few yards away from your tent, the birds clipping in the middle of the night. It is these sounds and sights that makes you forget your day to day chores and your jobs for those few days.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has 270 miles of roads, over 800 miles of trails and more than 500,000 acres of land. How much of it have you traversed? There are 80 species of mammals, 80 species of fish, 200 species of birds, birds 1300 species of flowering plants. The park even boasts seven trees of record dimensions.
Before you plan to go on such a trip you first need to take a few basic things.
Food : Basically it depends on whether you are vegetarian or a non vegetarian.
- Tents : There are two types of tents, dome tents and cabin tents. You can find tents where a family of four can sleep easily, or even for a single person. Depending on the size of your family,you can purchase your tent.Basically all the directions will be given on how to set up a tent in the camping spot in the brochure that comes along with the purchase of the tent.
Ranges from : $20 - $300.
- Sleeping Bags : You need sleeping bags to sleep on in the tent.You have sleeping bags made to tolerate temperatures from -20 degrees o 40 degrees.
Ranges from : $20 - $215.
- Lanterns or Petro Max : In the nights you will need to light your lanterns because there is no electricity.
Ranges from : $8.95 - $30.
- Fire logs : You need firewood to keep you warm in the evening and provide you with the warmth throughout the evening while you make dinner on the grill.It will be where all your friends and family gather around the fire chatting and have a merry time. I definitely enjoyed that part a lot !! You will get fire logs anywhere like Walmart and other retail stores.
- Insect Repellents : Mosquitoes, flies and other insects are common about dusk and night time. So you have to apply the lotion or spray to protect yourself from these bites.
Ranges from : $3.95 - $6.95.
- Sunscreen : When you go for hiking you must apply sunscreen lotion otherwise you get sunburn.
Ranges from : $2 - $10.
- Chairs : Foldable Chairs to sit on in the campground. You can even sit down by spreading a plastic sheets with a blanket spread on it. That will also do fine. But if you want chairs to nicely relax on then you have to buy them.
Ranges from : $20 - $50.( In costco I found a pair of chairs for just 20 dollars with two cup holders.)
- Ice Chest : To keep your water or drinks cold and to keep your other items like milk from getting spoiled. You get in different sizes and shapes from 32 quarts to 12 quarts.Depending on your requirements you can buy what you like.
ranges from :$40 - $14.
- First Aid : This in case of emergency. Keep some medicine like Tylenol, bandages and pain relievers. Suppose any one of you going for this trip has some health problems,they can carry their medication along.
- Gas Stoves : You can use these gas stoves to make your breakfast or lunch or dinner. Not too elaborate food preparations I hope,otherwise you will be cooking the whole day and you won't have time for any trekking or seeing other beautiful spots in the National Park.
Ranges from : $30 - $150.
- Grills to Go - Portable Portable grills are great for picnics or grilling outdoors in a small space.
Types of portable grills are:
Hibachi which use charcoal
Charcoal Go-Anywhere (Weber Trade Name)
Smokey Joe Grills (Weber Trade Name). The charcoal fired grills are the best for barbecue.
- Foot ware : One pair of hiking shoes, one pair of slippers or comfortable shoes.
- Toiletries : Soap,toothpaste,toothbrush,towel.
- Utensils : You can get from your home itself. A utensil for making tea or coffee or to boil milk. You need plastic cups,glasses,spoons and plates and to dispose the trash you have made (!joking) plastic bags.
- Other Accessories : Match boxes, A small bottle of cooking oil, 1 pack of Aluminum Foil,a small bottle of salt,a small bottle of sugar,a small packet of chilli powder and pepper,seasonings like masala or garam masala, bottled water, spring loaded tongs(a must ),screwers for making kakabs.
For vegetarians : You can take vegetables like corn, carrot, broccoli,onions, eggplant and potatoes. You can take all kind of edible fruits with you. You need not take all these with you,but you can buy them after you have reached the National park.There are plenty of grocery chains from where you can buy your produce. That goes same for the non vegetarian people too.
Basically you can wrap the vegetable you want to steam in two layers of aluminum foil and put it in the fire that you make from the fir logs and after 10 to 15 minutes you will have a nice steamed vegetable. Put some salt, pepper and chilli powder or seasoned salt and viola you have nice healthy food to eat. You can try like this for vegetables like (potato, mushrooms, carrots, broccoli ).You can grill vegetables like eggplant( cut into nice thick slices and apply oil on it).After the pieces are done put salt and pepper !!it is very yummy. Corn you can grill it on the stove and once done put some lime,salt and pepper.
Well if you don't like to have it this way,there are hotels and restaurants outside the park that can cater to your culinary needs.
For Non-veg : You can barbecue chicken, shrimp or what ever meat you like on the grill by dipping these meats into nice sauces, ( like tandoori mix or garam masala mix and marinate it for an hour or so ), and eat them hot of the grill. so explore your world of cuisine and give a try at it, boy you will enjoy it !!!
Camping sites : They can cost you from : $8 - $15 for one day.So you should call before you go to the Smokies to reserve a camping site in advance.
Within the Smoky mountains there are many trails. Somme of the trails are long.
So a check list for day hikes.
- A sturdy pair of hiking shoes.
- Head cover( hat,toboggan or a hooded coat).
- Rain gear
- Drinking water.
- Lunch or Trail snacks( fruits, nuts).
- Pocket knife.
- Extra pair of socks.
- Flashlight( just in case ).
In the best campgrounds, the fluid shapes and elements of nature--flora, water, land, and sky-have melded to create locales that seem to have been made for tent camping. The best sites are so attractive you may be tempted not to leave your outdoor home. A little site work is OK to make the scenic area camper-friendly, but too many reminders of civilization eliminated many a campground from inclusion in this book.
A little understory goes a long way in making you feel comfortable once you've picked your site for the night. There is a trend of planting natural borders between campsites if the borders don't exist already. With some trees or brush to define the sites, everyone has their personal space. Then you can go about the pleasures of tent camping without keeping up with the Joneses at the next site over--or them with you.
This attribute can be very important depending on how much of a gear head you are and the size of your group. Campers with family-style tents need a large flat spot on which to pitch their tent and still get to the ice chest to prepare foods, all the while not getting burned near the fire ring. Gear heads need adequate space to show off all their stuff to neighbors strolling by. I just want enough room to keep my bedroom, kitchen, and den separate.
The music of the mountains--singing birds, rushing streams, wind rattling leaves, and raindrops pattering the forest floor--includes the kind of noises tent campers associate with being in the Southern Appalachians. In concert, they camouflage the sounds you don't want to hear-autos coming and going, loud neighbors, and the like.
Campground security is relative. A remote campground with no civilization nearby is relatively safe, but don't tempt potential thieves by leaving your valuables out for all to see. Use common sense and go with your instinct. Campground hosts are wonderful to have around, and state parks with locked gates at night are ideal for security. Get to know your neighbors and develop a buddy system to watch each other's belongings when possible.
I'm a stickler for this one. Nothing will sabotage a scenic campground like trash. Most of the campgrounds in this book are clean. More rustic campgrounds, my favorites, usually receive less maintenance. Busy weekends and holidays will show their effects. But don't let a little litter spoil your good time. Help clean up and think of it as doing your part for our natural environment.
To make the most of your camping trip, call ahead wherever possible. If going to a state park, call for an informative brochure before you set out; this way you can familiarize yourself with the area. Once there, ask questions. Most stewards of the land are proud of their piece of terra firma and are Hon-ored you came for a visit and want you to have the best time possible.
If traveling to a national forest, call ahead and order a map of the forest you plan to enter. Not only will this make it that much easier to reach your desti-nation, but nearby hikes, scenic drives, waterfalls, and landmarks will be easier to find. More and more national forests are erecting Visitor Centers in addition to Ranger Stations. Call or visit and ask questions. And when ordering maps, also ask for any additional literature about the area in which you are interested.
How to get there ?
From the North
If you're coming from Detroit, Indianapolis, Cincinnati or Lexington, take I-75 to Knoxville. Take I-40 east to exit 407. Turn right onto S.R. 66. Continue until the first major intersection in Sevierville. Turn left onto U.S. 411 and follow 411 to S.R. 416. Turn right on S.R. 416 and follow until you reach U.S. 321. Turn right onto U.S. 321 south and west and continue until you reach Gatlinburg. Continue through Gatlinburg. From light #1, it is less than a mile to the Park entrance and the Sugarland Visitors Center.
From the Northeast
If you are coming from Harrisburg and Roanoke, take I-81 south to I-40 east. Take I-40 to Wilton Springs/U.S. 321 south and west exit 440. Turn right and follow U.S. 321 into Gatlinburg. From light #1, it is less than a mile to the Park entrance and the Sugarland Visitors Center.
If you are coming from Baltimore and Washington D.C., take I-66 to I-81 south and then to I-40 east. Take I-40 to Wilton Springs/U.S. 321 south and west exit 440. Turn right and follow U.S. 321 into Gatlinburg. From light #1, its less than a mile to the Park entrance and the Sugarland Visitors Center.
From the Northwest
If you are coming from Mikwaukee and Peoria, take I-65 to I-40 east to the 407 exit. Turn right onto S.R. 66. Continue until the first major intersection in Sevierville. Turn left onto U.S. 411 and follow 411 to S.R. 416. Turn right on S.R. 416 and follow until you reach U.S. 321. Turn right onto U.S. 321 south and west and continue until you reach Gatlinburg. Continue through Gatlinburg. From light #1, it is less than a mile to the Park entrance and the Sugarland Visitors Center.
From the East
If you are coming from Richmond, Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro and Winston-Salem, take I-85 to I-40 west. Take I-40 west to the Foothills Parkway exit 443. Turn left onto U.S. 321. Follow U.S. 321 until you reach Gatlinburg. Continue through Gatlinburg. From light #1, it is less than a mile to the Park entrance and the Sugarland Visitors Center.
From the Southeast
If you are coming from Tampa, Montgomery, Birmingham, Macon, Atlanta and Chattanooga, the quickest route is to take I-75 to exit 81 (S.R.95). Go east on 321 through Maryville and Townsend. where you enter the Park from the Townsend entrance, near Cades Cove. Optionally, if you are in the upper reaches of Georgia and North Carolina, you can enter the Park at the south entrance at Cherokee, NC via 441 at Dillsboro.
If you are coming from Charleston, Columbia, Greenville, Spartanburg, Asheville, Jacksonville, Miami and Daytona Beach, take I-26 to I-40 west and the Foothills Parkway exit 443. Turn left onto U.S. 321. Follow U.S. 321 until you reach Gatlinburg. Continue through Gatlinburg. From light #1, it is less than a mile to the Park entrance and the Sugarland Visitors Center.
From the Southwest
If you are coming from Tulsa, Little Rock and Memphis, take I-40 east to exit 364 S.R. 95. Go east on 321 through Maryville and Townsend. where you enter the Park from the Townsend side of the Smokies, near Cades Cove.
(Biloxi, Gulf port and Mobile): Take I-65 to I-85 and I-75 north. Continue on I-75 north to exit 364 S.R. 95. Go east on 321 through Maryville and Townsend. where you enter the Park from the Townsend side of the Smokies, near Cades Cove.
From the West
If you are coming from Witchita, Kansas City, St. Louis and Nashville, take I-70 to I-64 (through St. Louis). Continue I-64 to I-57 to I-24 and the I-40 east (through Nashville). Stay on I-40 east and exit 364 S.R. 95. Go east on 321 through Maryville and Townsend. where you enter the Park from the Townsend side of the Smokies, near Cades Cove.
If you want to know how far it is from where you are, click here
I hope I have given you enough information about what will need to make your camping trip a exciting one. Don't be daunted by things that you have to carry there.The most exciting part of a trip is the planning and once you are in the campgrounds you will have fun just setting up your own little tent and gathering the dry wood for the camp fire along with your fire logs.One more thing is that, you have to get to the campsite before dark,otherwise you will find it difficult to set up the tent in the dark. Once you have set up the tent zip up all the openings to tent. It will prevent bugs from entering your tent and then start your campfire by pouring some kerosene on the fire log and lighting with matchbox.Once you have the fire going you can all enjoy by preparing your dinner and everyone can have fun trying out new recipes.
This article was written by one of my very good friends Vinitha. She is the driving force for me.. to take this trekking trip to Smoky Mountains.