Category Archives: North Carolina

Hike Review #2: Charlie’s Bunion, GSMNP Tennessee/NC

Name: Charlie’s Bunion

Location: Located at the Newfound Gap parking lot at about the midway point of where Hwy 441 cuts through GSMNP. 20 mi from Cherokee, NC and 15 mi from Gatlinburg, TN.

Distance: 8.1 miles out-and-back

Difficulty: 7/10 Moderately Difficult. There are moderate climbs on both the intial 2 miles and on the first return mile. In between these climbs, the trail is relatively flat with gradual climbs and some steady descents. Total elevation gain is 1640 feet. I might have given this a 6, but because the terrain is pretty rocky, a 7 is appropriate.

Features: 8/10 Excellent You are rewarded throughout this hike with panoramic views to the North and South. The pine trees emit a very strong, sometimes pungent smell. It is quite refreshing to be at this elevation (6122 ft!) with the fresh air and smells. In the Spring there are wildflowers. I saw a few birds, squirrels, chipmunks, and a mouse. This hike utilizes the infamous Appalachian Trail (AT). 

Here is how it got it’s name: Charlies Bunion is a rock out-cropping that was originally known as Fodderstack. The current name was derived when Charlie Conner went hiking one day with Horace Kephart, one of the early proponents of a national park in the Smokies, and author of Our Southern Highlanders. When they paused for a rest on the rocks Conner took his boots and socks off, exposing a bunion that looked like the surrounding rocks. Looking at Conner’s feet, Kephart remarked, “Charlie, I’m going to get this place put on a government map for you.” And so he did. (Taken from

Solitude: 4/10 Poor Unless you get up early you will not avoid the crowds that swarm Newfound Gap, probably the most crowded stop in the entire GSMNP. I was on the trail by 7:30 am and I had the trail all to myself. I arrived at the peak at 9:10am and there was 1 other hiker already there. However, on the return I passed at least 20 other hikers. Anytime after 10:00 am, there is rare solitude here. Plus, there is the Icewater Spring Shelter…a popular stopover for backpackers on the AT.

Overall Experience: 7/10  Very Good I have hiked this trail 3 other times and it used to be a favorite of mine in the park. However, because it has become so crowded, it is hard to get the solitude I enjoy when on a  hike. Nevertheless, the views are amazing and the fresh coniferous air makes it a nice hike. I probably would give this hike an 8 or 9, but with the overuse of the trail comes trash. There were at least 6 incidents of trash along the trail.



Hike Review #1: Smokemont Loop, GSMNP North Carolina

Of course one of the best parts about this lifestyle is I get to pursue one of my great passions: hiking! So, I am going to keep a log of my hikes. Hopefully after a few years of this I will have a nice collection of hike reviews for my readers to take advantage of.

Name: Smokemont Loop Trail

Location: Hike begins and ends in Smokemont Campground which is located 3.5 miles north of the Oconaluftee Visitor Center in GSMNP outside of Cherokee, NC

Distance: 6.5 mile loop

Difficulty: 7/10 Moderately difficult. Not recommended for young kids without hiking experience. The first half of the hike is easy, but there is a 2.5 mi section that has a very respectable climb. You are rewarded with a decent view.

Features: 7/10 Very Nice A good portion of the trail follows a very pleasant and sometimes swift stream. This is a great fishing stream. I witnessed one fly fisherman snag a nice trout! In addition to the stream, the flora is nice with hardwood forests, wildflowers, the longest foot bridge in GSMNP, and an old church to explore. The view from the top is a decent reward 3/4 seasons and probably spectacular in the winter.

Solitude: 9/10 Excellent Being that this hike starts and ends at a popular campground I expected to run into several other hikers…but I never saw a soul. It was a gorgeous day and the campground was busy, so I assume the somewhat difficult climb on this hike is a deterrent for the casual camper.

Overall Experience: 7/10 Very Good This hike is pleasant and challenging with decent aesthetics. Better views at the top would have bumped it to an 8.


Elevation Scale: 

“Wave over Wave” Cataloochee Valley Elk

Cataloochee Valley used to be a well-kept secret tucked away on the eastern edge of the Smoky Mountains National Park. When we lived in Waynesville, NC we would frequently visit this place to witness the revival of the elk population that was hunted out of existence about 150 years ago. When we first started coming here there were only a handful of onlookers watching the 50 or so elk. Now…7 years after our initial visit the elk population here has surpassed 15o elk and the spectators have also tripled! Great news for the elk population, but I liked it better when it wasn’t so crowded here. Oh well, it is still a fantastic trip to take if you are ever in the Maggie Valley/Cherokee/Waynesville North Carolina area! October is prime time to come here as the elk are in “rut”…they’re looking for some action 🙂 Come here enough days in the fall and you will likely see a good fight and hear some bugling as well.

I still need that zoom lense, but we did get to witness a good chase. One bull elk came out of nowhere and charged another that we had been watching for about an hour as a third bull decided to come out of the woods and join in the fun. Dominance must have already been established before this incident because the charging bull easily removed the other two from flirting with his girls.

The Losers

Cataloochee is Cherokee for “wave over wave” or “fringe sticking straight up”, probably referring to the mountains that serve as the beautiful backdrop of this pristine valley.After a while, Kylee got bored watching the elk and thought everyone else could use a little entertainment while we waited for something to happen.

Kylee practicing her bugling

Anyway, if you get a chance to come here…do it! There are spectacular hiking trails, horse trails, camping, and wildlife. I have hiked back here before and run into a few bears even. A special place, indeed. A 1/4 into the woods and the crowds are gone.

Cherokee Parade

I started the day off with a 3mi jog around the RV park here. This is one of the great perks of the RV lifestyle…having new and interesting places to run all of the time. The mountain backdrop and cool temps made for a very pleasant jog.

Today we decided to head to the Annual Cherokee festival parade here in Cherokee, NC. But, first we cooked up a nice lunch. It is soooo nice to be cooking regular meals again and not eating out so much. I grilled up some type of chicken artichoke something-or-other while Lisa prepared something called “tabbouleh”. It was pretty tasty (and healthy too! She’ll have the recipe on her blog is she ever figures out how)…


Kylee wasn’t a fan, though…With lunch all done, Kylee and I got a boost of energy and the bluegrass music we were playing got the best of us and we decided to cut a rug…Then it was off to the Cherokee parade. Just down the road we found a LOT of people lined along the streets waiting for the start of the parade. We couldn’t figure out why all the kids (and some adults) were holding on to empty grocery bags, but once the parade started we figured it out.

Candy was being strewn everywhere!

After a while Kylee just stopped and said, “I don’t want to pick up anymore candy”. Thank Goodness for that! Three weeks before Halloween and we already had enough candy to last us a year.To me the parade was a little disappointing. I was hoping for a little more of a cultural parade; but, instead, it turned out to be a pretty basic town parade with high school floats and local businesses advertising their wares and services. All in all Kylee had a good time, though, and that’s what we were there for.

One of the cuter moments of the parade

Any guesses what his job was?