The Smokies – Smokemont Campground, NC

smokemont-campground1Tuesday April 29

The three and a half hour drive from Fairburn, GA to Great Smoky Mountains National Park is uneventful. Grey clouds follow the whole drive but the rain holds off. By the time we reach Smokemont Campground, just north of the town of Cherokee in NC, night has long since fallen. We chose this campground simply because it was the closest driving from Atlanta.

We’ve made no reservations for the week, it’s still the off-season in the Smokies and as expected the two loops of the campground that are open this time of year are at maybe 20% capacity. It’s hard to get a feel for how good the sites are in the dark, so one in close proximity to the restrooms are chosen for the sake of expediency. I’m giddy for the adventure to come, but also tired. We sleep in the back of Julie’s car and don’t bother with the tent tonight, strong storms are still in the forecast and down in the valley where the campground is I get no phone reception (Verizon) to get weather alerts.

smokemont-campground2Wednesday April 30

Naturally, because we’re prepared for bad weather it doesn’t come. Julie says she awoke once briefly in the night to a gentle rain, I didn’t hear a darn thing. By the time we awake to a grey morning the ground is already half dry. So much for the big storms, but I’m not complaining!

Smokemont Campground sits within a valley about ten or so miles within the park boundries. This time of year in the Smokies the trees in the valleys all have their leaves, but they’re not full-sized yet. Some trees have white flowers on them, the same ones I saw in Fairburn when I moved up there three weeks ago. I’ve traveled back in time to an earlier Spring again.

smokemont-campground3It’s a pretty campground, what I can see of it. Only loops A and B are open all year round, there are three others that open in the summer.ย The sites can fit rigs up to 35′ for towables, 40′ for motorhomes. Like many National Parks, site spacing is reasonable. Considering how hilly the terrain is around it the sites themselves are quite level. All of them have a paved parking space, and then a boxed in gravel bed for putting a tent on. From what I can see, all have a picnic table and firepit. The cost is $17 for a tent and there are no hookups, the bathrooms have running water and there is a sink specifically for washing dishes in which is handy, but there is no hot water and therefore no shower house.

There are two short hiking trails that come directly off of the campground. While still in my pajamas Julie and I walk down to the start of them, a rustic log bridge over a beautiful clear mountain stream. What a great start to a day.

smokemont-campground4Then it’s off to the Visitor’s Center, to decide how best to use our limited time. And the drive to get there, wow. Just about anywhere you drive within the park is going to have good views, luckily there are plenty of scenic overlooks to park at for pictures. Great Smoky Mountains is the most visited National Park in the country, the Grand Canyon is number two, and sees only half as many visitors in a year. I imagine the location plays a big roll, it’s pretty centrally located in the more crowded half of the US, but there’s just something about this area. The mountain range is old, a lot older than the Rockies, and it feels ageless.

We stop at the Newfound Gap pass and I almost have to wonder if we’re still in the same park with the 150 foot fir and spruce towering overhead, a product of the high elevation. Looking down into the valleys on either side an endless sea of trees cascade down the mountain from dark evergreens near the summits to the bare branches of deciduous trees just below, gradually becoming greener the lower in elevation you get. It feels like you’re looking back in time to a different age. How refreshing it is to look at row after row of blue hills, fading into the distance, and not see a single building. This might be the most visited park in the country, but it feels remote and wild, and I can’t wait to explore it more. I came here once as a teenager with my family on a road trip eons ago, we only had a couple days. Then in 2011 I came back with Julie and her sister, but again it was for a weekend only. I already know the three nights I get this time will not be nearly enough.

smokemont-campground5The wind is really whipping around up here though and it’s a good ten degrees cooler than in the valleys. The grey sky makes picture taking difficult and we do have a destination to get to. I silently vow to come back and try for pictures again when the weather is more cooperative.

* * *

Going to have to cut this short. I should already be in bed for fest tomorrow, took me three places to find working WiFi and even then I’m having problems getting the pictures up. I’ll be adding the rest of the pictures, getting the rest of the trip writing up, responding to comments to the last post, and answering e-mails when I can – probably early next week once fest is over. There’s a lot of good things to come, until then have a good weekend all!

**EDIT 5/3** All caught up on comments, last two pictures for this post have been put up, and I’m slowly working on the e-mails. ย Thanks for your patience everyone!


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At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.


  1. Dawn in MI on May 4, 2014 at 9:08 am

    Just watched the interview…lots of good advice!

    • Becky on May 6, 2014 at 6:51 pm

      Glad you liked it Dawn. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Charlie on May 3, 2014 at 10:30 pm

    Hi Becky, this is my first post, been reading about your Travels for about a year trying to figure out how to get on the road myself. The reason I’m writing now is I stayed in the same area you are in, I have traveled the Blueridge Parkway and the Skyline Drive twice through the Smokey Mountains on Motorcycle in the 80’s. Stayed in the same Park your at, when entering Park there was a sign saying Beware Of Bears, we sleep in a Four Man Nylon Pup Tent, when I woke up in the morning I checked outside, our Motorcycles where about Ten Feet from the Tent, I found Paw Prints from a Bear on the Seat of my Bike. Watch out for those Bears and NO FOOD in Tent. Also if you have time or a rainy day try and visit Gatlinburg, Tenn. quaint little town with shopping and entertainment.
    Travel Safe.

    • Becky on May 3, 2014 at 11:07 pm

      Welcome to IO Charlie, glad to have you aboard!

      I bet traveling in the Smokies on a motorcycle would be quite the experience! Had a quite a few bikers come through the Badlands too last summer, I bet it feels more up close and personal than seeing in in a car.

      That’s quite the bear story! Good thing you didn’t leave the keys in the bike huh or maybe it would have done more than sit in the seat. ๐Ÿ˜‰ There were bear signs posted at Smokemont, but we didn’t see any signs of them while we were there which I was just fine with.

  3. Jodee Gravel on May 3, 2014 at 11:59 am

    Glad that positive attitude kept the storms away – remember to only use your power for good :-)!! We would love to see the Smokies without the crowds and I’m looking forward to your pictures from your adventure. Be safe.
    Jodee Gravel recently posted..What Would Olive Think of “Her” Town?My Profile

    • Becky on May 3, 2014 at 11:03 pm

      Go in April Jodee! Unpredictable weather yes, but not having to make reservations and less crowded trails and overlooks make picture taking so much easier and a much more peaceful experience. From what I’ve heard going in the fall is about as bad as the summer, folks come out for the fall colors. Spring is really the time to go to avoid the crowds.

      And I promise to use my powers only for good! Well, mostly…. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. Reine on May 3, 2014 at 11:39 am

    We were at Smokemont Campground in March. Great campground but regardless of what carrier you have you won’t have cell service. We had to go to the Visitor Center to get connections. Lots of great trails in the area. We love the Smokies although it’s a long way from Texas.

    • Becky on May 3, 2014 at 11:01 pm

      Yes that would be quite a drive from Texas, haha. Glad you enjoyed your stay.

      And yes, no cell service in many of the valleys of the park (if you got high enough on the peaks you could get coverage with Verizon) but that’s a price I’m willing to pay for scenery like that!

  5. Reine on May 3, 2014 at 11:37 am

    Hey Girl, you’re famous. Just watched your interview on WomenRVers. Here’s the link for everyone.

    Great interview. You go girl.

    • Becky on May 3, 2014 at 10:59 pm

      Thanks Reine. Cherie and Chris at Technomadia recorded that interview with me last summer when I was working at the Badlands, I didn’t realize WomenRVers was going to be re-publishing it, but hey publicity is publicity. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. freestyle freddy on May 3, 2014 at 10:31 am

    Just read your story on RV Travel newsletter. I admire a woman who has the courage to tackle the challenges of single RVing. I hope, if anything happens to me, my wife would continue travelling as long as she still felt the desire to. We are semi-retired and have been fulltiming for over 4 years. We work 3-5 months each year and wander the balance of the year. If you’re looking for short term high paying jobs like we do, Amazon is a good one like you said, but also check out the sugar beet harvest in Montana and North Dakota. It’s three weeks in October and you’ll make $2500-$3500. You’ll work at a piling machine outdoors and direct the trucks bringing the beets from the farms. 12-13 hours per day and 7 days/week, but it only lasts 2-3 weeks. We’ve done it 2 years. Then as soon as that ends you can drive down to Coffeyville to work the last 7 weeks at Amazon, which are the longer hours and highest paying weeks of the Amazon season. But during October when you are only getting 40 hours at Amazon you can be earning much more at the beet harvest. We’ve done that but we went to Amazon in Fernley Nevada after the beet harvest. Also, if you’re going to just work for Amazon, many people feel the Campbellsville, KY plant is the nicest for workampers. They seem to appreciate the workampers more and, like Coffeyville, there is a campground right across the street.
    Another good job is oilfield gate guarding in South Texas. You can hook up with another single person and park both your rigs at the gate and each of you work a 12 hour shift. Or there are some 12 hour gates where the site is closed at night and you only work the daytime, but they pay less, around $100/day. The 24 hour gates pay anywhere from $125-$175/day/7 days a week, which you would split with someone. The sites can be very busy(up to 400+ trucks per day) or very easy like the one we are currently doing, averaging 10 trucks per day. All you do is open the gate and sign in a trucker and then sign them back out. Some of the sites that are actively drilling and have large crews onsite will furnish a large midday catered meal for the crew and you frequently get included in that. If it’s not a busy gate you can do many other things like surf the web, read, watch tv, take long walks on the ranch. I set up a golf driving net and practice my golf swing each day. Oil gate jobs are typically paid as an independent, so no taxes are withdrawn. You can usually work as a gate guard as long as you want, though you will get moved from job to job occasionally. The slowest season is around Nov. to Feb. and the busiest is late spring to early fall when most snowbirds head back north and there is a shortage of gate guards.
    If you haven’t been aware of these jobs, check them out. Good luck!!

    Fred & Gladi Burns
    “Chasin’ Our Dream Fulltime”

    • Becky on May 3, 2014 at 10:54 pm

      Heya Fred and Gladi,

      I’ve heard about those two opportunities before, they definitely sound intriguing but have always seemed less accessible than Amazon, well that and the fact that finding gate guard positions as a solo RVer is all but impossible. I think you have a good solution for that, finding another solo to pair up with, but do you know what would happen if they flaked out and didn’t hold up their end? Would you be responsible for bringing in another person to work with? I’d hate to get stuck in that situation. Maybe if I got to know the other person ahead of time. I definitely do favor a schedule that includes a lot of hard work for a shorter amount of time and then having more time off the rest of the year.

      It’s nice to meet you two, safe travels and happy trails!

    • Tom on August 13, 2014 at 3:37 am

      How did you find out about the Oil gate guarding? Very interested in doing this.

      • Becky on August 16, 2014 at 10:10 am

        Workamper News, a subscription job finding service for RVers, has gate guarding opportunities in it. Since it’s not something a solo RVer can get into easily and I don’t have any sort of gate guarding license I never looked much into it myself.

  7. Furry Gnome on May 3, 2014 at 8:12 am

    We were there just a year ago now. Your post brings back great memories. Looking forward to your pix. Have fun at the fair in the meantime.

    • Becky on May 3, 2014 at 10:48 pm

      One day down, one to go. Thanks Gnome! I got the last 2 for this post up, there are a lot more to come in a couple days.

      • Sam on May 4, 2014 at 6:01 pm

        Becky, The next time you are in East Tennessee camp at Elkmont. You will really enjoy it. Much more to do and see. I live close by and go that way all the time. Let me know the next time you are in ET. Would like to meet for lunch. Sam (female Sam ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

        • Becky on May 6, 2014 at 6:52 pm

          I was in that campground the next two nights Sam, more on that coming hehe.

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