Category Archives: Travel

Dry Falls near Highlands, North Carolina

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During our recent North Carolina vacation, we visited over a dozen waterfalls, including Dry Falls. If you’re looking for a waterfall that’s easily accessible from the highway and one you can walk behind, this is it.

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Dry Falls is located along US 64/NC 28 between Franklin and Highlands (about 14 miles southeast of Franklin), which is a nice and scenic drive. There’s a “Dry Falls” sign marking your approach and the sizable parking lot is easy to spot from the road, so it’s hard to miss–unlike some of the other falls in the area.

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Once you make it to the parking lot, you simply have to descend a stone staircase and take a very short stroll along a paved sidewalk to the falls. The walkway crosses behind the falls and to either side, so you can photograph it from varying angles.

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If you’re in the area and you want to visit waterfalls, this one is definitely a “must see”.

 © 2015 BJ Bourg

BJ Bourg is the author of JAMES 516 (Amber Quill Press, 2014), THE SEVENTH TAKING (Amber Quill Press, 2015), and HOLLOW CRIB (Five Star-Gale-Cengage, 2016).

Flat Tires and Websites

Ever got a flat? If so, did you stand there kicking the tire and cursing, or did you simply roll up your sleeves and get to work? It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the longer you stand there throwing a fit, the longer you’ll be stuck on the side of the road. After all, the tire won’t change itself. As for me, I’ve gotten a number of flats and I prefer to immediately jump out the truck and change it. I don’t waste time complaining or wishing it hadn’t happened. I recognize that, in this life, we’re going to get a flat every now and then . . . how bad it ruins our day depends on us.

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Well, after having spent a great family vacation in the mountains of North Carolina, I came home to a bunch of “flats”. Not flat tires, but two crashed websites, a broken Jeep GC, and a dead lawnmower battery (in southeastern Louisiana, if you skip a week of cutting your grass you wouldn’t be able to see your house). I “jumped” the lawnmower and cut the grass, then went right to work on trying to fix the websites.

Long story short, after staying up all night for a couple of nights and spending hours on the phone with my hosting people, I conceded that my two websites, BJ Bourg and Righting Crime Fiction, had been somehow rendered inoperable and I’d have to rebuild them. I rolled up my sleeves and went to work. After I got them up and running, I was advised to switch to a different hosting plan to avoid having those same problems recur. Instead of “kicking my tire” and asking why they didn’t tell me that in July when I’d extended my hosting plan for another year, I simply bought the new hosting plan and went back to work. After staying up all night again, and with the help of a hosting employee named Seth Johnston, I got everything switched over to the new hosting plan.

While it might seem hard to imagine that something good could come out of a week of wasted nights, it actually happened. I had decided to start publishing an online magazine called Flash Bang Mysteries and I was going to run it through Righting Crime Fiction, which never did set well with me. While I was rebuilding stuff, I decided to buy the domain name flashbangmysteries.com and build a site dedicated to the magazine. So, in addition to a healthy sense of accomplishment, something good definitely came out of all of this mess after all.

As for the Jeep, I checked all of the local auto shops, but no one had the part. They had to special-order it and it doesn’t come in until Tuesday. Not the best news, but kicking the tire and complaining about it won’t solve the problem.

A Cades Cove Proposal

What do you do when you finally find that one woman who is worthy of you taking a knee? You take her to Cades Cove–of course! When I decided I wanted to marry Amanda, I knew the exact spot I would propose to her. However, I wasn’t getting on one knee for free…she would have to earn it. :-)

Amanda loves biking and we both love hiking, so I figured biking the Loop Road at Cades Cove and hiking to Abrams Falls (where I would pop the question) would be romantic and adventurous. (The only drawback to doing it in December was that the bears weren’t active.)

I wanted to capture the very moment I proposed, so I lugged a tripod, camcorder, and camera in my backpack. Amanda questioned why I was bringing my large camera and camcorder when her camera did both, and I told her I wanted to mount the camcorder on the tripod to video us standing in front of the falls. To sell it, I used the camcorder a lot along the way and I set up the tripod several times to take selfies. I even joked about getting married when we took a break to thaw off inside the Missionary Baptist Church. (In fiction, that would be called “foreshadowing”, but it came back to bite me in the end.)

After a long and hilly bike ride in the freezing mountain air…

…we finally arrived at the trail head to Abrams Falls. It was here that we dismounted and set off on foot…never to be heard from again.

 

The hike was awesome. While we didn’t see any bears, we did see a buck, and the views along the trail were amazing.

Along the way, secrets were revealed and dreams crushed, but it was all for the best. It was bound to happen sooner or later anyway…

Lugging all of the extra camera gear didn’t leave much room for food, and we paid for it later. We had to survive on deer scat and melted snow…we barely made it out alive.

I stand corrected…we had trail mix and bottled water. It’s funny how an aging, punch-drunk memory can play tricks on you. In any event, we finally made it to Abrams Falls and I found the perfect spot to propose. As Amanda explored the area, I set up the tripod and waited for some sight-seers to step out of the camera’s view. I then called her over, positioned her just right, and dropped down to one knee. Remember how I said my joking had come back to bite me? She just stared down at me smiling, thinking it was all a joke. It wasn’t until she saw the ring that she took me serious…and then she said, “Hell, no!”

Despite her protests, we were married five months later, and we just recently celebrated our one-year anniversary by cruising to Cozumel. More on that later…

Here’s the note Amanda left at the Blue Mist cabin (rented through Mountain Laurel Chalets) as we were packing up to return home:

Thanks for reading!

BJ Bourg is the author of JAMES 516 (Amber Quill Press, 2014), THE SEVENTH TAKING (Amber Quill Press, 2015), and HOLLOW CRIB (Five Star-Gale-Cengage, 2016).

Copyright © BJ Bourg 2015. All rights reserved.

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A Beary Clean Video

Did any of you parents ever spend countless hours filming your kids while they were sleeping or eating or doing any number of other boring activities? I know I did…and I’ve got the videos to prove it.

On one of my many trips to the Smoky Mountains, I rented a cabin from Mountain Laurel Chalets that was called Squirrel Hill. Every evening we’d get a visit from this one bear and it would just sit there and clean itself. We had ringside seats from up on the high balcony and I found myself getting lost watching it. I’d break out my camcorder and just sit there filming, as though it were one of my kids back when they were young. It was a peaceful time and was amazing to watch this wild animal chilling out in the backyard without a care in the world. It didn’t have a job to rush back to or grass to cut or a book to write or a workout to labor through…my idea of vacation.
To a lesser extent, when I was watching that bear, I felt like I did when I’d just sit there and film my kids drooling at the mouth and bumping into walls. It didn’t matter what they were doing at the time…I knew there was no place I’d rather be. 
There is no greater blessing than to have kids and I thank God every day for Brandon and Grace. Nowadays, they’re much more independent and they barely sit still long enough for me to photograph, much less film, but it’s a joy to be able to have meaningful conversations with them and watch them mature into responsible and successful young adults.

Thanks for reading.

BJ Bourg is the author of JAMES 516 (Amber Quill Press, 2014), THE SEVENTH TAKING (Amber Quill Press, 2015), and HOLLOW CRIB (Five Star-Gale-Cengage, 2016).
 
© 2015 BJ Bourg

Cades Cove: Great Smoky Mountains National Park


Looking for an affordable and breathtaking place to spend a vacation? Look no further than Cades Cove in Townsend, Tennessee. Located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cades Cove is a 6,800-acre valley surrounded on all sides by mountains. Rich in wildlife, history and activities, it’s free to visit and open year-round. Whether visiting for a week, a weekend or a day, visitors are sure to create memories that will last a lifetime.

TOURING THE COVE

An 11-mile, one-way road completely encircles Cades Cove. Appropriately called the Loop Road, it’s paved and can be navigated by automobile, motorcycle, bicycle, horse or foot, making this an attraction for everyone, including people with disabilities. Didn’t bring a bicycle? Don’t own a horse? No problem. For $7.50 an hour you can rent bicycles and helmets at the Campground Store and, if you have children under 10, you can get their bikes for $4.50 per hour. For $30 an hour you can visit the Riding Stables and take a guided horseback tour. Motorized hayrides are also available for $12.00 a person.

If you’re considering a bicycle tour but are worried about safety on the road, Cades Cove has you covered. The Loop Road is closed to vehicular traffic until 10 A.M. on Wednesdays and Saturdays. This allows for safe and peaceful biking or strolling and is a great way for a family to spend the morning together. If an 11-mile ride is too grueling, you can reduce the distance by taking one of two shortcuts. The first is located at Sparks Lane and represents a mere fraction of the entire eleven miles. The second is at Hyatt Lane and reduces the ride by several miles. If you elect to take one of the shortcuts, you can return later and complete the entire tour by vehicle, enjoying all that Cades Cove has to offer in comfort.



WILDLIFE WATCHING

Once a hunting ground for the Cherokee Indians, Cades Cove now serves as a sanctuary for many species of wildlife, some of them endangered. While alert visitors can view deer, wild turkeys and snakes, the majority of them flock to the cove to see the king of the mountain: the majestic black bear. Over 1,500 wild bears live in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and many of them consider Cades Cove their home, making the cove the best place in the park to view bears in their natural habitat. Many cove visitors are treated to multiple bear sightings in a single visit and you can increase your odds by visiting in the early morning hours or later in the evening.

  

COVE HISTORY

There are more than seventy historic buildings in Cades Cove. These include Carter Shields Cabin, Primitive Baptist Church and Cable Mill, all of which can be explored at your leisure. You will be transported back to a time when Native Americans roamed the cove and settlers first began to arrive. You will stand where they stood as they built cabins, farmed the land and put their dead to rest—and you can learn more about them by visiting the cemeteries and reading the epitaphs on the tombstones. This is history in its unadulterated form. Among other things, you will learn that John Oliver and his wife, Lurena Frazier, were the first white settlers of Cade’s Cove and that they arrived between 1817 and 1818.


 

  


ACTIVITIES IN THE COVE

There are plenty activities for the whole family in Cades Cove. Over a dozen hiking trails can be accessed from the Loop Road, including Cooper Road Trail, Cades Cove Nature Trail, and Gregory Bald Hiking Trail. Trout streams are located in the cove and fishing is permitted year-round. A fishing license can be purchased from nearby towns for about ten dollars. Children under the age of 13 are not required to have a fishing license, but they are subject to the same regulations as adults, such as a limit on rainbow trout and a prohibition against possessing brook trout, a threatened species. Cable Mill, a fully operable water-powered grist mill, is located near the halfway point along Loop Road and children are often allowed to operate it and make corn meal. A visitors’ center complete with restrooms is nearby, and postcards, books, stuffed black bears, and other souvenirs can be purchased there. Friendly park rangers are on hand and they offer activities for children and guided tours of the area.
 
 

DON’T MISS

Abrams Falls—a 25-foot waterfall named after Chief Abram of the Cherokee Indians—is located at the end of a 2.5-mile scenic hike. Small children routinely make this hike and it is well worth the minimal effort to behold the tremendous volume of water thundering over the rocky crest and crashing into the spacious pool below, all against the breathtaking backdrop of the Great Smoky Mountains National Forest. Strong undercurrents and deep water make swimming at the base of Abrams Falls dangerous, but the majority of the large pool is gentle and shallow, offering a great place for the family to cool off after a summer hike.

NOTE: This area holds a special place in my heart…it’s where I dropped down on one knee and proposed to Amanda.

WHERE TO STAY

Cades Cove Campground, open year round, has 159 tent and RV sites. Each site has picnic tables and fire rings. Flushing toilets, running water, a store and wheelchair-accessible sites are available (sites cost $20 per night/day; 877-444-6777; www.recreation.gov).

Mountain Laurel Chalets, located 27 miles away at 440 Ski Mountain Road in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, has over 150 chalets and cabins for rent. Special discounts are available, as well as access to clubhouses with outdoor swimming pools (1- to 3-bedroom chalets from $99; amenities; 800-315-4965; http://www.mtnlaurelchalets.com/).

NOTE: I have used Mountain Laurel Chalets nearly every time I’ve visited and I highly recommend them. They have chalets that can fit anyone’s needs and budget, and the folks there are fantastic and friendly.

WHERE TO EAT

Gatlinburg is home to dozens of excellent restaurants, including Hard Rock Café (515 Parkway; 865-430-7625), the Peddler’s Steakhouse (820 River Rd; 865-436-5794) and Smoky Mountain Brewery (1004 Parkway #501; 865-436-4200).

If you’re looking to save money on food, Cades Cove has a beautiful picnic area equipped with picnic tables and grills, allowing the affordable option of packing and preparing your own food. Additionally, nearly all chalets and cabins from Mountain Laurel Chalets have kitchens and a barbeque pit.

But remember, you’re in bear country and there are laws against feeding bears and—equally important—there are rules regarding the proper disposal and storage of food. Allowing a bear access to human food causes it to start expecting food from humans. This creates a dangerous situation for any humans who will later come into contact with that bear and it places the bear’s life in jeopardy. Brochures on bear safety are available at the visitors’ center and elsewhere in Cades Cove. To ensure you have a safe and memorable experience, be sure to educate yourself and your family before setting off into bear country.

CONCLUSION
There are plenty of things to do in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but a trip to the area is not complete without a visit to Cades Cove. If you decide to pay a visit to the Cove, load up the family, pack a lunch and bring a camera…you won’t be sorry you did.

BJ Bourg is the author of JAMES 516 (Amber Quill Press, 2014), THE SEVENTH TAKING (Amber Quill Press, 2015), and HOLLOW CRIB (Five Star-Gale-Cengage, 2016).
 
© 2015 BJ Bourg