Tag Archives: Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Fun With Family-Part 3

7 Nov

On the Porch

Onisha Ellis

After our adventure with my aunt and cousin earlier in the week, we decided to set out on another one, but not so strenuous for my aunt. My husband loves driving Highway 441 through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Even with the twists and curves, it relaxes him and we are blessed to spend 6 months of the year less than an hour from the park.

During leaf season Highway 441 can become congested, especially on the weekend. We checked the weather forecast and decided that Thursday, October 23rd would be a perfect day. We packed some snacks and set out.

The park has frequent turnouts, or scenic overlooks and we stopped at a couple of our favorites.

The walkway in the picture above leads to an overlook and the colors were gorgeous.

The first time my children went sledding was in this park at one of the turnouts. Friends had invited us to visit them at their cabin in Franklin, NC and we were thrilled when we learned the park had snow. Good memories were made with our children and the grandchildren.

Our next stop was the Newfound Gap overlook. It sits astride the Tennessee and North Carolina border and is a popular stop. It took a while but my husband found a parking space.

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park now has webcams and I am thrilled. The mountains are always showing a different look. Here is the LINK if you would like to check it out.

Back on the road, we headed down into Tennessee. We planned to shop in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee for Christmas gifts but stopped at Chimney Top Picnic ground to enjoy our snacks. There are several popular trails off the road and their parking areas were full beyond capacity. We were concerned there would not be any free tables at the picnic area, but the concerns were unfounded. I can’t believe I didn’t take pictures of our picnic, but I did take pictures of the boulders along the stream.

When we arrived in Pigeon Forge, we only visited one shop, a ladies clothing store-of course. We scored some bargains then my husband drove us to his favorite shop…Krispy Kreme doughnuts! Since we don’t usually eat carbs this was a serious treat but we each only ate one and a half of the lusciousness!

My husband was tiring and since he was the driver, we decided to retrace our route to return home. The park reintroduced elk a few years back and the herd has prospered. We were hoping our family would see them when we reached the Oconaluftee Visitor Center area. And they did!

We weren’t the only ones gawking, I mean enjoying them! The park service had made one of the road lanes a viewing lane and helped keep visitors safe.

This is the end of my Fun With Family series. We enjoyed the time we spent with them. Time with family and friends is truly a gift.

The delayed colder temperatures have arrived and the beautiful colors are losing their luster. Even once the color is gone, the mountains still call to me and I love the time I am blessed to spend among them.

I'm a winnerAfter my retirement, I decided to re-learn the canning and preserving skills I learned from my mother but hadn’t practiced for twenty years. I titled the blog Old Things R New to chronicle my experience.  Since then I have been blessed to have six other bloggers join me, DiVoran Lites, Bill Lites,  Judy Wills, Louise Gibson, Janet Perez Eckles and Melody Hendrix

In addition to blogging, I work as the publicist/marketer/ amateur editor and general  “mom Friday” for my author daughter, Rebekah Lyn. I also manage her website, Rebekah Lyn Books  where we frequently host the best in up and coming authors.

My 2019 goal is to use my love of photographs and words to be an encourager on social media. You can visit Real Life Books and Media You Tube Channel if you would like to view some of the mini-videos I have created for our church, Gateway Community in Titusville, Fl.

It Can’t be August

1 Aug

On the Porch

Onisha Ellis

Can you believe it is Thursday already? This week is flying. Over the weekend I went down the rabbit hole of ancestry research. Sunday night, Ancestry.com and its enticing green leaf tips kept me enthralled until after 3 am. I couldn’t seem to stop clicking just one more hint. Of course, once I decided to step away from the computer, it took me an hour to fall asleep.

Ancestry green leaf for tips.

My husband and I had been talking about driving through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and into Pigeon Forge, Tennessee to do some shopping. Monday morning, after 4 hours of sleep, I checked the week’s weather forecast and Monday was the only day with no prediction of rain. Sigh…Coffee to the rescue!

The weather was beautiful, sunny with a light cool breeze and we enjoyed the drive, taking advantage of the time to work on finishing the latest Baldacci audio book.

By the time we drove through Cherokee, NC and passed Newfound Gap on the North Carolina/Tennessee border, we were ready for lunch at one of our favorite picnic areas, Chimney Top. Stopping for a relaxing picnic is probably my favorite part of the drive.

Who says you can’t eat Keto on a picnic?

The restrooms are modern but housed in beautiful rustic stone buildings.

Recently videos have made the rounds of tourist getting too close to animals in the National Parks. One set of parents even ran and left their child to be tossed by a bison. There are signs everywhere warning people to keep their distance. This sign was on the inside door of the toilet stall. Unless one is blind, you can’t miss them.

Our first stop in Pigeon Forge was the Corning Revere Clearance center. It is one of my favorite stores. I love bargains and yes, I have a thing for kitchen stuff, think SnapWare. To my utter dismay, the store was empty..closed..gone. We even drove around to the front of the store, hoping for a “we’ve moved” sign. I pulled out my phone to find the location of the two other stores in the area, but the internet wasn’t loading so I moved to plan B. I would ask at a clothing shop in the same shopping center, it was the second store on my list.

In the clothing store the sales lady asked if I needed help and I asked if she knew where the Corning store had moved. The store didn’t move, it was closed along with every store in all 50 states! The company moved all of their business online. I fear this is going to be a snowballing trend in retail.

I found a bargain on a pair of jeans in the clothing store and then we moved on to my husband’s shopping spots-three discount tool stores, a camping outlet and his all time favorite, Smoky Mountain Knife Works. This place is huge! I didn’t take a picture as one would not do it justice. Here is a fun, short video from You Tube.

After all the shopping we began to think about supper. Pigeon Forge is pure tourist and loaded with restaurants but my taste buds had been salivating since we passed a Publix supermarket on the way to the knife store. Publix makes the best fried chicken. I went inside to buy a box while my husband set us up at a bistro table outside. We had everything needed except forks, but who needs forks for fried chicken?

After supper it was time to head back over the mountains. We were hoping the elk that hang out in the evening near the visitor information center at Oconaluftee would be near the road. They were reintroduced into the park several years ago and it has been successful. Often there are quite a few, but this time only 4 or 5. I took several shots of them. Photo bomb warning…..

By the time we arrived home, both of us were tired, but happy tired. Tuesday sped by after I got a sleepy, late start. Wednesday we met friends for breakfast and then I opened my computer and logged on to Ancestory and the rest is history! Pun intended. I’m now trying to figure out how my ancestors went from being part of King Henry VIII’s court to tenant farmers in North Carolina!

I'm a winnerAfter my retirement, I decided to re-learn the canning and preserving skills I learned from my mother but hadn’t practiced for twenty years. I titled the blog Old Things R New to chronicle my experience.  Since then I have been blessed to have six other bloggers join me, DiVoran Lites, Bill Lites,  Judy Wills, Louise Gibson, Janet Perez Eckles and Melody Hendrix

In addition to blogging, I work as the publicist/marketer/ amateur editor and general  “mom Friday” for my author daughter, Rebekah Lyn. I also manage her website, Rebekah Lyn Books  where we frequently host the best in up and coming authors.

My 2019 goal is to use my love of photographs and words to be an encourager on social media. You can visit Real Life Books and Media You Tube Channel if you would like to view some of the mini-videos I have created for our church, Gateway Community in Titusville, Fl.

It’s Spring, It’s Winter, No Wait, It’s Spring Again.

23 Mar

On the Porch

Onisha Ellis


Our daughter has been visiting with us this past week. Although the weather wasn’t the best, we had enough fun to keep me from having time to pick up where I left off on our road trip.

Before Rebekah arrived, I noticed a sign advertising a u-pick farm located on the outskirts of town that grows tulips, hyacinth and daffodils. When I mentioned it to Rebekah, she was keen to go.  We ventured out on Monday, before the rains began only to discover the farm was closed on Mondays. We were determined, though and  Tuesday morning dawned sunny. Rebekah loves tulips so she was in her element.



Wednesday we awoke early and the temperature had plunged.  The rain began shortly after our weekly breakfast with friends. On our drive home we saw a few snow flurries, but the ground was too warm for any accumulation. By lunch time the snow was beginning to fall steadily and we decided to drive highway 441 up towards Cherokee to see if the snow was “sticking” there. This was the first time I had experienced fairly heavy snowfall that melted upon hitting the ground.  I found it to be kind of weird.

In Cherokee, the temperature was colder and while the roads were clear, snow covered the tress and buildings. It was beautiful.



Snow covered solar panels at the Visitor center.


Highway 441 which travels through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park was closed 4 miles north of the Oconaluftee visitor center. We were good with that. Being raised in Florida, icy roads terrify me. Rebekah wanted to take pictures of the pioneer village in the snow, so I bundled up and joined her, while hubby stayed in the car. He has a lot more common sense than I do!



I love the homestead picture. The wood was damp enough to allow the color of the wood to pop. In the Summer sun, it is not as obvious.

On our way back through Cherokee we stopped to get a picture of this painted bear. He is beautiful. I wish the camera on my phone had been able to capture the art.



Thursday, it was as if all the snow and cold temps never happened. The sun was bright in a beautiful blue sky. We decided to take a drive to our favorite waterfall in the area, Cullasaja falls. We love it in every season.



We seem to be physically incapable of visiting Cullasaja without continuing on up the road to Dry Falls. I went with Rebekah to the overlook, but it was cold and I decided to pass on walking down to the falls!




Rebekah will be returning to her home soon and we will be settling back into our life in the mountains. I will need to readjust to the slower pace-no more power walking in the grocery store!  I will need to remember to meet the eyes of the people I see in the shops and to SMILE. Don’t get me wrong, Florida people are friendly. Growing up in the 50s, everyone smiled and said hello but we have lost the art of saying howdy.




Mingus Mill

28 Mar

A Time to Live

Melody Hendrix

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Mingus Creek Trail, Cherokee, NC

A half-mile north of the Oconaluftee Visitor Center is Mingus Mill. Built in 1886, this historic grist mill uses a water-powered turbine instead of a water wheel to power all of the machinery in the building. Located at its original site, Mingus Mill stands as a tribute to the test of time.

The fairly large building is powered by the water that rushes into the “millrace” from a diversion upstream.  The path leads all the way to where this diversion occurs.  As you walk up the millrace you’ll notice how the wooden planks that makeup the siding have remained firmly in place over the years. Although it was rehabilitated in 1968 by the National Park service, it is still an impressive sight to see.

Life After Christmas

5 Jan

On the Porch

Onisha Ellis

I am emerging from my Christmas fog. It began in mid December when I succumbed to a sinus infection. Since I am rarely sick, I spent quite a bit of time in denial. That might have been a contributing factor for the fog. Suddenly, it was Christmas, then Christmas eve. I do remember that we had a lovely Christmas morning with our children and grand children, then the fog descended once more.  I emerged again to celebrate our daughter’s birthday with a drive to Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

The trip had been planned for several weeks but after the fires roared through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and down into Gatlinburg, it took on a poignant mood. We drove through one of the hardest hit areas, Chalet Village, and the devastation was heartbreaking. Out of respect for the owners and those who had lost loved ones, we did not take pictures.  If you would like to volunteer your time to help the hurting families, visit Volunteer East Tennessee

We ended our day in Pigeon Forge at The Island. The two big restaurants are The Timberline Grill and Paula Deen and there is an assortment of shops as well as an area with a carnival atmosphere including one of the new Eye rides. It is very pretty at night.

The Island

Two days later we drove to one of our favorite places in Franklin, Wayah Bald. Wayah was one of many National Park areas that were targeted for arson during November and December and we were anxious to see how the park fared. We knew that the roof on the fire tower had burned, but we were unprepared for the extent of the damage to the Flame Azalea plants as well as the smaller trees that lined the path. It was also odd to see green foliage next to burned tree trunks.

 I do clearly remember New Year’s Eve. We spent the evening with at least fifty talkative cousins, aunts and uncles. I love them so much! I have high hopes the fog is gone!

Snow is predicted for tomorrow night. We haven’t had snow yet this winter so I am excited and I have the required milk and bread! Hopefully I will have some pictures and a story  to share next week.

If you are in the path of the storm, stay safe and warm. If you are in Florida, you might want to pull out that sweater you seldom have the chance to wear.


Busy,Fun and Throw Back Thursday

7 Aug

On the Porch

Onisha Ellis

I'm a winner

Onisha Ellis

This past week was fun and busy. My aunt and cousin came to visit. We ate a lot of food and especially dessert! My aunt is a great cook and I try to learn something from her whenever we are together. My cousin is a talented crafter. I shamelessly took advantage of her to get some bows made for Christmas. In addition, she learned how to make those ruffled scarves that are so popular and she made two of them for me. Don’t tell Rebekah, but they are for her.

photo photo 1

The last Sunday they were with us, I suggested a Sunday afternoon drive. Does anyone remember doing that back in the 1950’s? We had a delicious buffet lunch in Franklin at The Boiler Room, then loaded up in Mike’s truck and headed for the hills.

We decided to take one of our favorite quiet drives, Balsam Mountain road off the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is a one-way drive through natural forest. It does not have spectacular vistas but it is perfect if you want the whole woods experience without snakes and bugs. Just before the entrance to the drive is a fantastic picnic area. Fantastic if you like a quiet picnic in what looks like an enchanted forest. The tables are big stones set on stones with logs for benches. We loved it. Next we left the picnic area and began the drive.

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Time to wrap up this post. We are going to a picnic tonight by the creek of someone at church. Since today is Throw Back Thursday I will add  that  thirty or so years ago, I was busy with another creek bank. My friend Sharon and i worked with the children in our church on a musical, “Down by the Creek Bank” My favorite line from the play is “aren’t the stars pretty?”. I’m not sure I can stay awake long enough to view the stars tonight!

Mis-adventures Are Fun Too

19 Jul

On the Porch

Onisha Ellis

We have been enjoying the summer exploring with the grandchildren. Two weeks ago we visited the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. We had planned some short walks and a picnic at Collins Creek picnic area. The weather decided to change our plans but we were able to grill our hotdogs under a wonderful pavilion at Collins Creek.

This week we were on a waterfall hunt in Clayton, Georgia. Due to bad directions and an over-full ford, we didn’t find the waterfalls but we did discover a great picnic area, Warwoman Dell.  Warwoman has two amazing picnic pavilions, one with a large fireplace the other with a central fireplace with four grilling stations.  We ended our day with the grandchildren wading in the Chattooga River located on the South Carolina-Georgia border.

Uh-oh should have driven the truck.

Love the fireplace. Looks like a great place for a Fall picnic

Wading on the Chatooga

Neither of our days went as we planned but we had a great time. Sometimes those rainy day picnics and mis-adventures create memories that are remembered far longer than perfect days.

How about you, do you let the weather or bad directions keep you from having a good time?

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