After leaving the Smokey Mountains behind we headed for Crawford, Georgia. Crawford is a small town outside of Athens. Paul’s brother, his wife, and their two kids live on a small farm in Crawford and we parked the camper right next to their house and hung out for about a week.
Memorial Day weekend wasn’t spent hanging out in the pool or down on the beach, but fishing in their pond and smoking a big piece of pork in the wood smoker. Our days in Georgia were long and slow, but in a good way. Georgia gave us the time to relax, and get things done, we worked on the truck and camper, got some mail out, and caught up on all of other things we needed to do.
We spent Saturday night driving up into the northern mountains of Georgia to go to an auction. It wasn’t a car auction or an antique auction, but a farm animal auction. There were pigs, horses, mini ponies, donkeys, bunnies, chickens, and lots of other birds. Paul’s brother frequents the auctions and wanted us to experience it, and it was an experience. As people were bidding on animals, we ordered cheese fries and sodas from the snack stand, allowing us to really sit back and enjoy the show.
At one point during the auction Paul and his brother took a walk outside to see some of the animals that would be coming up, and that’s when Eric set his eyes on a one day old baby goat. As soon as they locked eyes Eric knew it was meant to be, he wasn’t going to leave the auction without that goat. We played with the goat and asked the farmer who brought him everything we could about him (what he ate, was it healthy, how to care for him, etc.). When baby goat got on that auction block it was Eric vs. some lady in the back, they went back and forth a few times until finally we walked away with a $80 baby goat.
As soon as we paid for the goat we headed out the Tracker Supply to buy some kid milk. We drove the hour and a half back to the house with baby goat sleeping in my lap. The rest of our time spent in Georgia was spent having lazy days on the farm, fishing, eating, doing maintenance on the truck and trailer and playing with baby animals.
After a week in Georgia we left the camper at Paul’s brother’s house and headed down to see my family in Florida for a few days.
We made it to the Smokey Mountains. The drive wasn’t too bad except for the road into to campground, which consisted of a 5 mile long dirt road with switch backs (my butt is clenched pretty tight on drives like that). We made it and got a beautiful camp spot right next to the creek. There were no hookups at this campground so we needed to relay on our golf cart battery to power our lights and the propane tanks to cook and keep the refrigerator cool. Overall we had no problems and it was a nice test for when we want to do more boondocking out west. We didn’t use the shower because filling the tanks with water and then heating it up with the propane would have wasted propane and weighed down the camper with all the water, and with nowhere to dump it we decided it was best not to take showers in the camper. (we paid $5 at a local campsite to use their hot showers, & it was totally worth it.)
After setting up camp we meet our neighbors who were fly fishermen and offered to take Paul out fishing with them later in the week. We drove about a mile down into the valley to look for some Elk before sunset, we found plenty grazing in the fields and even saw a bear walking along the tree line. Elk were reintroduced to the park in 2001 and have been thriving since. They like to stay low in the valley and because our campsite was in the most secluded part of the park the wildlife was abundant.
Day 1- We drove up the Blue Ridge Parkway to one of the parks visitor centers and explored the nearby farm museum. The farm museum consisted of old buildings that had previously been on property before it became a National Park. After talking with a park ranger we decided to explore the city of Cherokee, an Indian reservation that reminds me more of the Jersey shore. There were tons of tourist shops, mini golf, amusement rides, ice cream shops, mining for gems stands, and tons of other Cherokee themed shops. We checked out the Cherokee museum which was very well put together and super interesting, local members of the Cherokee tribe work at the museum and are happy to answer any questions. After our stop in Cherokee we headed to Bryson City, not much of a city but a really cool little town with lots of shops and cafes. Bryson City also has a train that you can ride through the Smokey Mountains. Paul found a fly shop, got his fishing license and they even had a small fly fishing museum in town (boring).
Day 2- It rained the entire night before and on and off for most of our second day in the park. We got a late start but decided to stay close to camp and do some hiking and fishing. The camper still held up well with our battery life and propane. We ran one light at a time at night when we needed it and only used the propane to keep the refrigerator cool and do some cooking. Boondocking for us isn’t going to be a problem.
Before bed we decided to take a drive to see if the elk were out, they like grazing at sunrise and sunset. We stopped to look at a herd grazing on the side of the road and it wasn’t long until they were surrounding the truck. As cool as it was to see these animals up close, it’s unfortunate that they’ve developed these behaviors because of people feeding them from their cars.
Day 3- We spent our third day in Asheville, North Carolina. It’s a cool little music and arts town with tons of breweries and some amazing restaurants. We walked in and out of the stores and spent some time using the Wi-Fi in a local pub to pay bills, upload pictures and do all of the stuff we didn’t miss doing.
Day 4- Our last day in the park we drove up to Clingman’s Dome, an observation deck on top of the highest point in the park. On a good day you have 360 degree views and can see for 25 miles, we weren’t so lucky. As we drove up the mountains the fog got thicker and thicker and visibility was nonexistent. Once you get to the parking lot of Clingman’s Dome we still had a 1/2 mile hike up hill. We did the hike, stood in the fog and rain for a few minutes and then headed back down. At the bottom of the hill there was a gift shop where Paul decided to do a good deed for the day and give some AT thru hikers a ride. (*Note to self: always ask where they’re going first). The 3 hikers were looking to go to Gatlinburg, we found this out on our way down the mountain, and although we had no intention of going to Gatlinburg we thought it was a good excuse to see the town. Once we got into Gatlinburg we realized seeing it was all we needed to do. We dropped the hikers off at an outdoor store and drove right through the town. It was busy and crowded with lots of chain restaurants, shops, and touristy stands.
It’s finally here, our last week of work and last full week in New Jersey, we really can not believe it.
We would not be able to take this journey and make such a big leap if it weren’t for our friends and family. We needed and wanted to say “thank you” and “goodbye” to as many people as we could. We have had the help and support every step of the way, from my mom for putting up with us for the past year as we worked our butts off saving money and working on the camper, to the countless number of friends and family who came by to help us with each project. My Aunt Barbara who generously gave me all the curtains in the camper. Our friend Nick who helped us demo the camper and find all the water damage. Paul’s dad who helped with the wood pallets project and putting all the cabinets back in. Paul’s cousin Freddy who not only helped but let us borrow his tools. My Uncle Ernie who was great in helping us with finding a truck and giving us advice when it came to maintenance on it. The list really goes on and on. We were given some really awesome gifts as well, a tire repair kit, an emergency battery pack to jump the truck, a small air compressor, gift cards, wine, coffee, some cool camping gear, and little things to remember New Jersey and everyone we love. We love our friends and family!
Last weekend my Mom was kind enough to throw Paul and I a going away party, making it much easier to see everyone that we wanted to see before we left New Jersey. Paul and I invited our friends and family only a few day before the party and we were so grateful to everyone who showed up. We shared stories, ate, drank and said our goodbyes. The outpouring of love and support that we received last weekend, and throughout this entire experience, was overwhelming and grounding for both of us. We have had lots of friends, family and neighbors come by to wish us safe travels, many bringing thoughtful cards and generous gifts that we totally were not expecting.
Another unexpected part of this whole experience has been the negativity and lack of understanding from some. As I’ve said, we have the most amazing family and friends who have made such an effort to wish us well, but we also have those around us (a small handful) that don’t understand why we are making the decision to do this and can’t figure out why we would leave our jobs. We’ve been called “stupid” and we’ve been doubted, but this only strengthens our love and gratitude towards all those rooting for us, so thank you all.
Last weekend we took our camper out for the first time. Before hitting the road for a few months we thought it would be a good idea to at least get a trial run in and work out the kinks. We decided to go to the Poconos because it wouldn’t be too far from home in case anything major did go wrong. I am happy to say that nothing major did go wrong, we realized what things we were missing though (pots for the kitchen, outdoor lights, a bike rack, etc.).
We stayed at Otter Lake Campground in East Stroudsburg and it was really a perfect place to spend our first weekend. The large park surrounds a lake, and while there are a lot of RVers the spaces are separated nicely and tree-lined. Otter Lake offers fishing, bingo, there’s a baseball field, a few tennis courts, and 2 pools (indoor and outdoor). The park was dog friendly and everyone was happy to be where they were.