Sunday, May 14, 2017


As we pulled into this beautiful campground we knew we were in for a pleasant stay.  The camp host greeted us immediately and suggested campsite #1 that offered a newly created beautiful view.  They had just cleared the area a few hours earlier of some undergrowth that had previously blocked this gorgeous view from our camper.

Of course we had to drag the fall decorations out to match those of the various campers in the campground.

I do have to admit our closest neighbor, Mr. Squirrel did not take kindly to  ghost on his tree.  He in fact chatted with Gary about it for awhile, as shown in this video.

Plus, I must admit I wanted the campsite to look nice because my facebook friend, Sharon Hudson was going to come for a visit during our brief stay.  I was very excited to meet her face to face.

I was not disappointed, she was so much fun and brought the most delicious cake with her.  One of her own making I might add.  She is the owner and baker of AKAKery and ships her beautiful cakes every where. 

This little gem was key lime in flavor and oh so good!  I would highly recommend her cakes to anyone.

After our too short visit with Sharon we headed out after just a couple of days at this very well maintained and beautiful campground.

We had been hoping to get into Ft. Wilderness at Walt Disney World, but had been told they were booked solid.  Stubborn soul that I am we headed that way anyway once we were certain all threats from Hurricane Matthew and the storms that followed him were over.

We weren’t certain where we would stay, but we were certain it was time to go back to the Mouse House. 


We were in North Carolina for around a week, which was long enough to get to meet my facebook friend and steadfast cancer support buddy, Lea. 

She was the person I leaned on the most besides family when I was going through those scary times.  It was her I shared the news with that Christmas Eve that the doctors had been successful and I was cancer free. 

Until our visit to NC Lea and I had never met face to face.  It was a joyous occasion for me.  We had a wonderful meal at Cracker Barrel halfway between our two base locations. 

Our home base was at the Hagan Stone City Park in Pleasant Garden, NC. The campground was a basic simple campground.  

Our first night there we were told to set up wherever there was not an orange cone and we would be fine to stay for several days.  So we did just that, in a nice level graveled spot that was plenty big enough for our long fifth wheel as well as an individual water spigot.  We got completely set up and settled in for the night. 

The first thing the next morning the staff had changed their mind and told us that despite the fact there were no reserved signs or cones we had to move because there were others who had plans for our site.  They never used the words, “reservation” when we were discussing moving. The staff carefully worded their statements to not include the word reservation.  Instead they said things like “We have someone else who wants this spot.”

 We try not to rock boats with anyone, so we moved to the campsite they told us we needed to move to.  A short, sloped, grassy/muddy spot that was so short we had to park our truck in the middle of a grassy area across the road from our camper.  Our water spigot was a shared one, the park did not provide a splitter connector either.  Luckily, we had one. 

You can see by the first photo on this post how close our trailer was to the road in the park, where the dirt is showing is the road.

Having to move was not a big problem, but it did irritate us that we had  been told we could park there because it was not reserved and the people who “wanted” that site did not come in for five days. When they did it was a group of tent campers on an rv site, that blocked paths around their campsite with signs you were not to walk on the park paths while they were there. 

If there hadn’t been two LARGE designated tent site camping areas we could have understood better tents with no rvs being in the rv area.. In fact that weekend the tent campgrounds were fairly empty, while they were turning away rvs due to the large number of tents on the rv sites. 

We were told by permanent residents there that what happened to us had happened before because that group tent campers were locals that were friends with the staff. 

If they had reservations, that is fine, but why were they not in the tent area that was just one loop over either direction?  Why on rv sites?

Other than that our visit at the campground was pleasant, our very close neighbors were friendly and helpful, we had some charming evenings with them.

We also enjoyed walking the nature trails in the campground and seeing the marathon runners.

Other than taking long walks in the park and seeing Lea we just chilled in this area without visiting any local sites.

We would stay there again, but we would make certain that we had a guaranteed reserved site. 


We were lucky that the town we were directed to after our throwing a wheel not only had a trailer building business, but it was open on a Saturday.  While they didn’t have an exactly matching to our other trailer wheel rim they had one that was so close you had to look twice to realize it was a different rim.  Even better they had a trailer tire the right size AND a brass valve stem.  It took them no time at all to take off the temporary fix lug bolts and put new properly fitting ones on all the way around.

We were soon on our way and arrived at the Douglas Dam Campground near Sevierville, TN in the late afternoon of that same day. However, it was late enough that since we did not have a reservation we were put in a campsite that was just slightly too small unless we left the truck hooked up.

Which we did because they said they would have several available the proper size the next day. 

This is a pleasant campground ran by some very nice folks who work very hard to keep it clean, even keeping the leaves blown off the pads every day in the fall. 

Since the camp hosts had decorated the campground for the impending autumn holidays we decided that Malecifient Dragon should make her campground debut, along with Snoopy and the gang, and Jack Skellington, once we were in our campsite #31 for the duration of our stay.

The neighbors all enjoyed the huge dragon stopping by to see where we had purchased it and just to chat in general.

The “camp cat” was just more or less bored by it.  He did come over periodically to check out the inflatables, but never offered to be “naughty” around them.

That first full evening and a few others we walked around the campground to take a few photos of this laid back campground.

Of course being that close to Dollywood, we had to spend some time there as well as visit the Bush Bean Visitor Center

We did spend time just driving around Gatlinburg and through the Great Smokey Mountains National Forest too. 

There are numerous shows, restaurants, and shops we could have been tempted by, but our time there was limited and there were certain things we really wanted to do.
One, for me, was visit the Scrapbook Superstore in Gatlinburg, not once but twice.  

That place is HUGE.  It is a good thing I had just reassessed my crafting budget before going in there or I could have done some various serious damage to that sinking fund for certain. 

 They had just about everything you can imagine for paper crafting.  Next door to it is also their clearance center, although by the time I went in there I was tired enough I just sort of just did a quick look thru and then decide to come back another time when I had more time.  After all Gary was aging greatly out in the truck in the heat as I drooled all over the die cuts, stickers, stamps and papers of this huge shop. 

We would definitely recommend this campground to others.  If we were to have a complaint at all it is a minor one.  Their public restrooms are so well lit the outside light on them can temporarily blind you at certain angles if you are coming in after dark.  That is such a tiny thing we feel this campground deserves a very good rating.


Is there anyone in the USA who doesn’t know who Dolly Parton is?  I seriously doubt it, but maybe there are a few people left that haven’t heard of the petite blonde country singer and humanitarian.  Even as a fan I had some questions about her life, and family.

Dollywood, is just that, all about Dolly. From a museum that holds memorabilia of her life including wigs, dresses, movie clips, awards, records and much, much more to a show saluting her songs put on by her friends and family it is all there. Rather than show you hundreds of photos of the park Gary put this video together of some of the goings on all over Dollywood 

There is a live stage production that has nothing to do with Dolly there as well that was very good and moving.

Then there is her Bald Eagle Sanctuary.  If I hadn’t already been a Dolly Parton fan the sanctuary would have made me one.  Roughly 90 bald eagles who have been harmed in one way or another to the point they may never be able to safely live free again have found a home in this large beautiful natural enclosure.  We were mesmerized just watching and listening to these beautiful creatures for the longest time.  All appeared to be in the best possible health despite the injuries that had originally brought them here.  The main group is together, but a few are separated out because they are crippled too severely to be in the general population.

Again it makes more sense to show the video then to let you imagine their sound and movements. 

Weeks later we heard of the fires surrounding Dollywood and our first thought was the eagles.  Not just because of the flames, but because of the dense smoke that filled the area and the harm it could do to the birds.  There were news stories everywhere about evacuating the people, but the media said nothing about all of our nation’s symbols that were in the enclosure.

A quick web search turned up the eagle nest cam at Dollywood that was shut off, but had a wonderful notice on it that all of the eagles had been evacuated safely.  I immediately became an even bigger fan of Dolly.

After the fires Dolly not only came through on getting the eagles safely rehoused, she came through for “her people” of Sevierville and helped them get rehoused as well. She is a true humanitarian.

These are not the only humanitarian things Dolly has done, including free books for children, helping with education and much more.  Many of her kind works are shown throughout the park.

Of course there is the usual assortment of fast food stands, thrill rides, street shows and live entertainment.  All in all it was a nice theme park with a few drawbacks, like the fact you have to pay $16 per day parking, unless you want to park a few miles away for free and take a fifty cent per person each way trolley over to the park.

The free parking is rather limited, in fact between some sort of show going on in a tent at one free parking location and an event going on at the other at the convention center we had zero chance of finding a parking spot for our one ton dually.  Therefore we ended up paying for parking both days.

While we only purchased one day passes, using our senior citizen discount, we arrived after 3pm on that first day and begrudgingly paid the parking fee, hoping that the second day free would apply to that as well.  No such luck, only the re-entry to the park itself was free the next day.  This made this shoestring traveler a wee bit unhappy, but as soon as we actually got in the park my mood lightened.

The park was all decked out for fall, and anyone who knows me knows fall is my favorite season.  The hills were just starting to turn color and the air was crisp.  In fact crisp enough that my “brag rag” for Dollywood was a sweatshirt instead of a t-shirt.  (Are you starting to see a theme here about my wardrobe?)

Notice the last photo is a little different?  That's because he was a living statue that was a lot of fun.

While Gary and I are not fans of thrill rides Dollywood does have them. 

It also has rides for the less adventuresome as well.  A peaceful train ride through the country gave us a cool respite mid-afternoon on our second day, although because it is a coal fueled train (think old time melodrama train) you will get soot in your eyes if not careful.  In fact we happened to be walking near the train tracks at one point when the train came through and we both sprouted instant dark spots on our face and hair.  It gave both of us a laugh.

One other thing that caused our shoestring travelers to twitch a bit was the price of food at the park.  It was high, higher than food at Silver Dollar City in Branson, higher than the same type of quick service meals at Walt Disney World and you are not allowed to bring food or drink in, something that is allowed at the other parks.  So if you don’t want to pay high prices for fast food that lacked variety from stand to stand pack an ice chest in your car, leave the park and eat in the parking lot. Or eat a big meal before you go and after you leave.

Of course they do have some annual pass discounts, but unlike the other two parks I mentioned we didn’t feel we would be in the area enough to justify the cost of an annual pass.

Depending on how big a Dolly fan you are you could spend an afternoon to a week or longer just seeing and doing everything in this former Silver Dollar City theme park.