6 Ways To Beat The Summer Heat

It may just barely be summer, but don’t tell that to Mother Nature. She already thinks it’s July or August, and it’s been showing lately in the form of daytime highs in the 90s and heat indexes reaching well over 100.

But that shouldn’t discourage you from making the most out of your trip to the Great Smoky Mountains. This week, we’ve got some ideas for things to do and places to go that will help you stay cool while still having a lot of fun.tubing

  1. Inner Tubing – Our Pigeon Forge cabin rentals are just a short drive from Townsend, TN, home of several different tubing attractions. Each of them offers trips of varying distances down the Little River, which runs the length of town. It’s a fun, lazy and – most importantly – cool way to spend a scorcher in the Smokies.
  2. National Park Swimming Holes – You can’t tube at these places, but favorite tourist spots like The Sinks and the Townsend Y are longtime popular swimming hole destinations. Just park your car, wade in and brace yourself for a blast of cold mountain water.
  3. Whitewater Rafting – You usually have to drive just across the Tennessee-North Carolina state line to reach the area’s many whitewater-rafting outfitters, but the drive is always worth it. They’ll provide you with all the gear and instruction you’ll need to spend a half-day or a day on one of the great whitewater rivers in the area, typically the Big Pigeon River. You’re guaranteed to get doused by rapids, and during the calm spells of the river, you might even get to take a cool dunk on your own.
  4. Dollywood’s Splash Country – This Pigeon Forge water park is the area’s premier water attraction each summer, offering dozens of slides and other water-filled activities that will definitely help you stay soaked and cool all day long. They have something to make everybody happy, from thrill seekers to tiny tots. Splash Country also has plenty of spots to soak in some rays, grab a bite to eat or replenish supplies for those fun-filled days.
  5. An Underground Cavern – You don’t always have to be wet to stay cool. Attractions like Forbidden Caverns and Tuckaleechee Caverns stay the same temperature all year long – around 57 degrees. That comes in mighty handy on a hot summer day when you’ve been out in the sun and are ready for a break.
  6. Any Air Conditioned Attraction – Whether you’re in Sevierville, Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg, you don’t have look far to find an indoor attraction where you can easily spend several hours, not only protected from the sun but also bathed in air-conditioned comfort. Music theaters are one great example of a cool zone that will entertain. And there are also all sorts of unique museums, animal attractions, arcades and more at which the price of admission is well worth the relief from the summer heat.

Five Free Things To Do In The Smokies

We know that paying for a family vacation can be a challenge, especially if you’re bringing kids along for the trip. Expenses like gas, food and Smoky Mountain cabin rentals are have-tos when it comes to travel budgeting, but then you haven’t even taken the family to a single attraction, outing or activity. This week, we’ll give you five great ideas for places to go and things to do in the Smokies area that are essentially free. And there are enough different suggestions here to please just about anyone in your gang, no matter how old he or she may be.

  1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Hey, that’s great news, considering that the mountains are the primary reason most folks travel to this area. Our national park has always resisted the growing trend of charging fees to visitors, so all that hiking and auto touring costs you nothing. You will have to buy a license to fish or pay a nominal fee to camp in a campground, but to visit sites like Cades Cove, Mt. LeConte and Clingman’s Dome costs you nothing.

In addition to points of interest in the park, the National Park Service presents a wide range of ranger-led programs and activities, offering multiple options each day during the summer. These can include hikes, walks, seminars and hands-on presentations that get adults and kids alike engaged in learning about their natural surroundings. The vast majority of these are free, although some do charge a nominal fee.

  1. The Old Mill, Pigeon Forge

This is one of the oldest structures in town, dating back to 1836, and you can watch its outdoor paddle wheel still faithfully turn in the Little Pigeon River daily as it grinds out fresh grains and meals for visitors. You can even go inside and tour the shop, although you’ll have to pay just a few bucks for a guided tour of the actual internal workings of the mill.

  1. Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community

Consisting of Glades Rd., Buckhorn Rd. and U.S. 321 East, this 8-mile loop near Gatlinburg is home to hundreds of craftsmen and is the largest collective of independent artisans in North America. You’ll see authentic artists and crafts people at work in media such as pottery, broom making, jewelry making, basketry, photography and much more. You can visit the shops and watch these folks at work for free.

  1. Douglas Lake

This TVA reservoir is located near Sevierville, TN and offers 33,000 acres and 513 miles of shoreline for warm-weather water fun. Put your boat in for a day of skiing or wakeboarding, go to a beach for some sunning and swimming, or take your favorite trawler out to catch some fish. Other than fishing permits, you can do all this for absolutely no charge.

  1. Free Kids’ Admissions At Theaters

Adults have to pay admissions to get into all the music and theater shows in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, but many of these venues offer free admission for children under a specific cut-off age, usually around 12 years old. Be sure to check out that option when ordering your tickets or making reservations.

This Week In The Smokies…

We’re into the prime summer months here in the Smokies – those months when families are on vacation and there are just a lot of things to see and do. Whether you’re visiting Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg or Sevierville, you’ll have no trouble finding any number of ways to fill out your vacation to-do list.

So if you’re staying in one of our cabins in Tennessee this week, in addition to all the attractions, shows and shops, don’t rule out taking part in one of the many special events that our cities host on a regular basis. Some are special events that are related to attractions, and some take place within the national park; in any case, you’re bound to find something going on this week that everyone in your group can enjoy.

  • The Tennessee Smokies minor league baseball team hosts the Birmingham Barons on June 9 and 10 at Smokies Stadium in Sevierville. Tuesday’s game starts at 7:05 p.m., while Wednesday’s game starts at 12 noon. The stadium is located just off Interstate 40 at Exit 407.
  • The Sevierville Convention Center hosts Parker’s Greatest Knife Show on Earth June 11 through 13. This show is known as one of the best antique pocketknife shows in the country, with top-quality knives for sale by more than 75 dealers.
  • Appleview River Resort in Sevierville is hosting a free outdoor showing of the movie Maleficent on June 12 at the resort’s riverside location. Bring a chair and a blanket to enjoy this family event.
  • Country Tonite Theatre in Pigeon Forge hosts Chubby Checker in concert on June 12 as part of its celebrity concert series. This 1950s legend, best known for his hit “The Twist,” takes the stage at 8 p.m.
  • Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge kicks off its new Great American Summer event on June 13, and it runs through August 2. Each day begins with a live performance of the Star Spangled Banner and ends with a fireworks extravaganza entitle “Dolly’s Nights of Many Colors.” During the event, the park will stay open until 10 p.m., which means guests can experience thrill rides like Wild Eagle, Thunderhead, Mystery Mine, Tennessee Tornado and FireChaser Express under the stars.

There are also several interesting ranger-led programs scheduled in Great Smoky Mountains National Park this week. They include:

  • Old-Time Toy Demonstration – June 10, Cades Cove Visitor Center, blacksmith building. 5:30 to 6:15 p.m. Free. See how wooden toys were made and used back during the heyday of the Cades Cove community.
  • Evening Campfire Program at Elkmont – June 14, Elkmont Amphitheater. 8 to 9 p.m. Free. A park ranger will host a topic that will enhance your knowledge of nature and/or the national park.
  • Early Bird Hayride – June 15, Cades Cove Riding Stables. 8 to 10 p.m. $14 per person. This ranger-led open-air hayride features wildlife viewing and discovering the diversity of the Cades Cove section of the park.

Cabin Of The Week – Smoky Mountain Solitude

For some Smoky Mountain vacationers, staying in a rental cabin is the only way to go when it comes to accommodations. There are visitors who cherish the peaceful majesty of the Smokies and the national park, and for them, staying in a crowded motel or hotel on the strip just isn’t the way to do a trip to the mountains.

If you can identify with that philosophy, then you’ll definitely want to consider one of our Wears Valley, TN cabin rentals on your next journey to the Smokies, because this week, we’ve got a property that’s right in line with your way of thinking. It’s called Smoky Mountain Solitude, and it’s the ideal destination for couples. With one king bed and a sleeper sofa, this cabin can actually sleep as many as four guests, but it’s ideally suited for a getaway like a honeymoon, anniversary trip or romantic weekend.

This one-bedroom, one-bath chalet is strategically situated for those who plan to make excursions into the national park a priority. It’s located on the edge of the park and is easily accessible through the Wears Valley entrance. This is a little traveled entry point that’s easy to find, has little traffic and takes you directly to the Metcalf Bottoms picnic area. From there, Little River Road can take you to notable park destinations like Cades Cove, Elkmont and Tremont.

The cabin itself blends old-fashioned atmosphere with modern touches and amenities. The single level boasts a full kitchen with appliances and cookware, a dining table for four and a living room with 42-inch flat-screen TV, satellite hook-up, wood-burning fireplace and a pool table. The mountain vibe is captured everywhere from the hand-hewn beams in the cathedral ceiling all the way down to the hardwood flooring.

In the bedroom, that rustic feel is brought out in the form of a king-size log bed and matching dresser, while the 21-st century TV/DVD/VCR set-up allows for the latest in entertainment. The bathroom offers a separate shower and whirlpool tub.

This summer, you’ll be able to make the most out of Smoky Mountain Solitude with outdoor features like a gas grill, rocking chairs and hot tub, all of which are found on the deck. It’s the perfect place to start the morning with a cup of coffee, stay cool during the heat of the day or enjoy a sunset as evening creeps in.

While the national park is certainly easy to get to from Smoky Mountain Solitude, the property is still conveniently located near the cities of Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevierville, for those times when you might be ready to venture out and spend some time enjoying an attraction or shopping the outlet malls or spending a night on the town. Depending on traffic, you can be in Pigeon Forge in about 10 or 15 minutes.

Give us a call or click online today to book Smoky Mountain Solitude for your next vacation in the mountains.

(Note that this cabin does share a common entrance deck with our Ranger Ricks chalet.)

What To Bring (And What Not To Bring) When Staying In A Rental Cabin

We hope you’ve already made plans to stay in one of our cabins in Wears Valley, TN this year. But whether you plan to stay with us, or even another company, in the near future, there are generally quite a few features and amenities that you can expect from your chosen rental property. After all, it’s all about making guests feel as comfortable and relaxed as possible while vacationing in the Smokies.

Because we have so much to offer in each of our cabins, guests typically need not bring along a number of essential items from home. For example, all of our bathrooms come with a starter supply of toilet paper, while towels, linens and pillows are provided as well. Of course, if you have a preferred brand of toilet paper or a favorite pillow from home that you must have to sleep well, you are certainly welcome to bring those with you if you like. If you’re planning to go to a water attraction of some kind, you may also want to bring your own beach towels from home.

Our kitchens are very well equipped, starting with all the major appliances like ovens and refrigerators as well as smaller appliances like coffee makers and microwaves. You will find all the cookware and dishes you’ll need as well, including pots and pans, skillets, plates, silverware and glasses. We also provide limited supplies of items like dishwashing liquid and trash bags. Many of our cabins have charcoal grills (instead of gas), but you are responsible for providing your own charcoal, and you may want to bring your own barbecue tools as well.

You are similarly responsible for supplying your own food, but our properties are generally a short drive from the nearest supermarket or convenience store. And depending on the owner, some properties might include basic food staples like seasonings. It’s a good idea to check to see what is already on hand before making your trip to the market for supplies.

Our cabins usually have washers and dryers on site, but to be on the safe side, you might want to bring your favorite brand of laundry detergent from home if you’re planning on doing a few loads while you’re staying with us.

You can generally expect to find at least one DVD player in your rental cabin. Often, the owners will also have a library of movies for you to watch available in the cabin, but you are welcome to bring some from your own collection to watch as well. The same goes for books and board games. Many cabins have their own titles on hand, but you are always free to bring your favorites from home.

If you’re not sure and still have any questions about items that you should or should not bring on your next trip to one of our cabins, feel free to call us any time and ask about the property you’re staying in. We’ll be glad to offer whatever help we can to make sure that your next stay with Timbercreek Cabins is an enjoyable one.

Bear Alert In The National Park

If you happen to be staying in one of our cabins in the Smokies this week or within the next few weeks, you might want to be alert when visiting the national park, particularly if you have plans to hike to the top of Mt. LeConte.

Specifically, we wanted to pass along a warning about a trail closure. The Cliff Top trail and the Mt. LeConte backcountry shelter are both closed as of today (May 19) to all users until further notice, due to aggressive bear activity.

Right now, the multiple trails leading to the summit of Mt. LeConte are all open, but hikers are strongly encouraged to hike in groups of three or more and carry bear spray, while park wildlife staff members are stationed onsite to monitor the situation.

Last Sunday, a park wildlife technician encountered an aggressive bear near the trail to the Cliff Tops area, and traditional means of scaring bears off (see below) did not work with this particular bear, who continued to display threatening behavior.

All this brings up the important issue of how to handle bear sightings in the Smokies. It’s natural to want to spot these creatures live in their native habitat, but it’s always useful to remember that as humans, we’re infringing on their territory. So arming yourself with knowledge about bears is always useful when hiking in the wild.

For starters, did you now that willfully approaching within 50 yards of a bear, or any distance that disturbs or displaces it, is illegal? Violating that law can result in fines or arrest, not to mention the fact that trying to get close to a bear to get a photo is simply not worth the risk to the well-being of the bear or your own safety. Park officials advise using binoculars and telephoto lenses to get those up-close views.

But what happens if you’re minding your own business, hiking on a trail perhaps, and you stumble across a bear or a mama with her cubs? As we mentioned, do not approach it, but do remain watchful. Getting too close to a bear or doing anything that causes it to change its behavior means you’re getting too close.

As in the case of the bear mentioned above, if you get too close, you may see aggressive behaviors like loud noises, swatting the ground or moving toward you. If that happens, don’t turn your back and run, but back slowly away, keeping your eye on the bear. Try to increase the distance between it and you, and chances are, it will do the same.

But if a bear is persistent in following you and it’s not vocalizing or paw swatting, you may have to eventually stand your ground. Talk loudly or shout or even act aggressively to try to intimidate the bear. You can even try throwing rocks or wielding a stick, but again, these are last-ditch efforts to be implemented only if a bear persists in pursuing you. Whatever you do, don’t turn and run. Bears are fast and can generally outrun humans.

Park Visitor Centers Are Great Resources

If you plan to visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park this spring, summer or fall, you’ll have hundreds of acres of unspoiled wilderness and native wildlife to explore. From hiking trails and campgrounds to historic sites and observation towers, there’s a lot to see and do. After all, there’s a lot of geographic territory to cover, and for those who may have never visited the park before, it can almost be intimidating trying to focus on the areas that might be of most interest to you.

If you’re staying in one of our cabins in Sevierville, TN, Pigeon Forge, TN or Gatlinburg, TN, our recommendation is to start your exploration of the park at one of its many visitor centers. If you happen to be starting on the North Carolina side of the park, you’ll want to go to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, but more likely than not, you’ll want to go to the main center on the Tennessee side – Sugarlands Visitor Center.

It’s easy to find. From the south end of the Parkway in Gatlinburg (also U.S. 441), continue south until you enter the park and then follow the signs. It’s just a couple of miles away. Once you’re there, you’ll find plenty of parking, and inside lies a wealth of resources and information.

For instance, there’s a 20-minute film about the national park that plays continuously throughout the day, and the park also presents special ranger-led programs on a seasonal basis, many of which take place at the visitor center. The facilities also include a bookstore and shop as well as public restrooms and vending machines. You can even get your backcountry permits there.

But don’t forget about one of the most valuable resources at Sugarlands – the park rangers. These folks know their stuff, including points of interest, important safety guidelines and information about the local flora and fauna. They might be able to offer some valuable recommendations when it comes to prioritizing what you want to do while you’re in the park.

Sugarlands Visitor Center is open every day except Christmas, beginning at 8 a.m. Closing hours vary depending on the season.

Another visitor center worth the stop is the one in the Cades Cove section of the park. If you drive the cove’s historic 11-mile loop, you’ll find this center at about the midway point of the one-way tour. In addition to hosting many of the park’s ranger-led programs on the Tennessee side, this venue hosts indoor and outdoor exhibits that illustrate Southern mountain life and culture, particularly as they relate to the cove’s heyday of the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Some of the more notable outdoor structures include Cable Mill, an operational gristmill, which you can see in action spring through fall; the Becky Cable house; and several other historic structures and out buildings. This center also has public facilities as well as a bookstore and a shop, and its operational schedule is similar to Sugarlands Visitor Center, except that it doesn’t open until 9 a.m.

Cabin Of The Week – Four Bears Barn

If you’ve been planning a trip to the Smokies for this spring or summer, and you’ve been researching cabin rentals in Pigeon Forge, TN, then consider this cottage in the Wears Valley area that delivers some of the most remarkable pastoral views around.

Four Bears Barn gets its name from its barn-like architecture, but inside, it goes all out to provide its human guests with a place to relax and unwind in comfort and luxury. This two-bedroom, two-bath, non-smoking property has a cozy country feel inside and out and would be ideal for a family vacation or for a small group of friends looking for some R-and-R time in the Great Smoky Mountains.

On the main level, you’ll find an open floor plan featuring cathedral ceilings and hardwood floors. The living room area has a sofa (which folds out, adding to the cabin’s sleeping capacity), a gas-log fireplace and a satellite TV with VCR and DVD player. The master bedroom is also on this level and features a country-style queen bed, a satellite TV and a whirlpool tub in the adjacent bathroom.

Of course, there’s a full kitchen with plenty of cabinet space, in case you plan to stock up on groceries at a local supermarket and do your own food preparation. The cabin comes with all the cookware, dishes and cutlery you’ll need to make it happen, and there’s a dining area that seats four.

On the upper level is a loft area that features a log-style queen bed and an adjoining private bathroom. There’s also a foosball table for indoor recreation.

Outside, the wraparound deck is a great place to gather on sunny days and cool evenings. It’s ideal for pleasant conversation, settling in with a book or just looking out over the green, rolling valley that stretches beyond the cabin and toward Bluff Mountain in the distance. The cabin also has a generously sized yard that’s well suited for outdoor games with the kids.

Other outdoor features include a porch swing and a hot tub – the ideal place to unwind and let your muscles soak after a long day of hiking, shopping or sightseeing. There’s also a gas grill, which might be a fun alternative to cooking in the kitchen, especially if the weather is nice and you happen to have bought some juicy steaks or chicken breasts at the store. Amenities like high-speed Internet, a fire pit, and an iron with ironing board round out the perks of Four Bears Barn.

Our guests love our cabin locations, and Four Bears Barn is no exception. Like most of our properties, you’ll be secluded from all the traffic and bustle of the main areas of Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevierville. You’ll be spoiled by mountain scenery and a sense of peace and relaxation in this relatively undeveloped section of Sevier County.

The good news, though, is that all the fun spots in the Smokies are just a short drive away. You can be on the Parkway in Pigeon Forge or inside the national park within 10 to 15 minutes.

New Paula Deen Restaurant Opens At The Island

It’s been in the works for some time now, but Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen is finally opening for business in Pigeon Forge. Located at The Island development just off the Parkway, the combination restaurant/retail store opened its doors to the public this week, and the restaurant’s namesake owner is promising to “butter people up” when they come to visit.

The opening of the $20 million venture was marked by an appearance by Deen herself, and she says that her family has been involved in every aspect of the restaurant’s operation, including the menu and the interior design.

paula-deens

There are actually three different menus, depending on whether you’re stopping in for breakfast, lunch or dinner. All meals are served at a fixed price per person, and all meals are served family-style.

Breakfast includes a choice of three Down Home Dishes, including chicken and waffles, Bananas Foster French Toast, Sweet Piggies in a Blanket and Everyday Breakfast Casserole. You also get to pick two breakfast meats and three breakfast treats.

The lunch and dinner menus feature optional appetizers like Grandmama Paul’s Fried Green Tomatoes, fried okra and pimento cheese served with toast points. For the family-style portion of the meal, you can choose two down-home sides from among the likes of Best Ever Southern Fried Chicken, Cheesy Meatloaf, Spare Ribs and Georgia Fried Catfish. A choice of four sides and a Southern dessert is also included in the meal. Look for sides like green beans, collard greens, candied yams, squash casserole and black-eyed peas as well as dessert choices like Ooey Gooey Butter Cake, banana pudding and peach cobbler.

The meal, however, is just part of the Paula Deen Family Kitchen experience. Much of the square footage is devoted to retail space, where you can stock up on many of Paula’s favorite products for the kitchen. Merchandise includes her signature house seasoning, her fried chicken batter mix and hot sauce, her hoecake mix and all-purpose baking mix, and her Ooey Gooey Butter Cake mixes and Butter Y’all collection.

The 4,000-square-foot store is on the first floor, and the 300-seat dining room is on the second floor. Tiered seating provides each guest with a captivating view of The Island’s show fountains and the Great Smoky Mountains in the distance. Reservations are not accepted, but you can do call-ahead seating up to one hour in advance of your arrival.

Breakfast is served from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m., lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and dinner is served from 4 to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 4 to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Of course, visitors to The Island can also take advantage of everything the development has to offer including other restaurants, unique specialty shops and attractions like The Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, a giant Ferris wheel in which passengers enjoy incredible views of the Smokies while traveling in climate-controlled pods.

We’re happy to say that Timbercreek Cabin Rentals is a short drive from The Island, so if you’re planning to visit the new Paula Deen restaurant in the near future, consider staying in one of our cabins in Pigeon Forge. Depending on the location, you can be at the restaurant within about 20 minutes.

The 65th Annual Wildflower Pilgrimage Is In Full Bloom

It’s shaping up to be a beautiful week here in the Smokies, which means you should definitely get outside and explore what the mountains have to offer. Since we’re in the thick of spring, the timing is just about perfect for seeing all the plants and wildflowers that are blooming in the mountains. The Great Smoky Mountains may be known for their fall colors, but the colors of spring are pretty impressive as well.

This week, everyone from serious botanists to weekend gardeners has the ideal opportunity to see, learn about and explore the flowering beauty of the Smokies at the 65th Annual Wildflower Pilgrimage. The event offers unprecedented access to some of the nation’s leading botanical experts and authorities on Appalachian wildlife.

The Wildflower Pilgrimage takes place the rest of this week, through Saturday the 25th, at the W.L. Mills Conference Center in downtown Gatlinburg. The event is presented by the Great Smoky Mountains Association.

“This is a rare chance for those with a personal love of flowers to have the same access to leaders in the field as professional researchers,” says Ken McFarland, a botanist and University of Tennessee professor. “Through seminars and guided tours, participants will expand their knowledge of the unmatched flora and fauna of the Smokies.”

Over the course of the week, some 150 demonstrations, lectures and other programs will be presented, including instructional walks and guided hiking tours that are designed to match the walking skills of participants. Tours will showcase the abundant varieties of wildflowers, plants, ferns, mosses, trees and shrubs as well as birds, reptiles and amphibians that are native to the Great Smoky Mountains.

Most of these activities will take place outdoors, but there will also be a number of educational sessions and entertainment programs taking place at the Mills Center.

Registration is required for events, and note that this week, you can register on site at the Mills Center throughout the day. Fees range from $15 for a one-day student fee to $75 for an adult two-day fee. Children 12 and younger can participate for free when accompanied by a registered adult.

Free parking is available in the municipal lot on Reagan Drive, next to the fire station. Otherwise, guests can expect to pay for parking at any of the other municipal lots in the downtown area.

Sponsors include Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Great Smoky Mountains Association, City of Gatlinburg, the University of Tennessee Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Friends of the Smokies, Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, TVA, the Southern Appalachian Botanical Society and the Gatlinburg Garden Club.

And if you’re thinking about rolling into town this weekend, it’s not too late to book one of our secluded Gatlinburg cabins. We have properties that will place you within a convenient drive of Gatlinburg, the national park and all the Wildflower Pilgrimage events. We also have rental cabins convenient to Pigeon Forge and the area’s abundance of attractions, restaurants and shops.