I’m going to preface this blog post by saying there won’t be many photos to accompany my story, because I’ve never actually been to the Smoky Mountains. You’re about to find out why.
I thought it would be fun to do a travel series over some of the travel mishaps I’ve had over the years. I started with my first failed attempt at car camping in Colorado. Now I’m going to tell you about the time I tried to go to the Smoky Mountains.
There were a few things in common with that trip, and with this trip:
- Alyssa was my travel companion
- We were both very broke
- It was in 2017
- We had a National Parks Pass
- We didn’t go very much research
Alyssa and I had just returned from our summer in Denver. We went back to Ball State for the fall semester and had just started working again when Labor Day weekend rolled around. We were trying to decide what to do with our 3-day weekend that would be fun and inexpensive.
Since we already had a National Parks Pass, we decided to make the most of it and head to the Smoky Mountains. It was only 6 hours away from Muncie, and we found an AirBNB for $30 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Even though Knoxville was about an hour away from the park, it made sense to buy a cheap place here and make the drive than pay outrages prices in Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge. Truthfully, we couldn’t afford much more than our AirBNB anyway.
The day started off wonderfully, we got a mid-morning start, the weather looked beautiful, and we even found this cool parked train. We pulled over and walked along side it, even deciding to hop on and explore it a bit.
Six hours later we were just about there. We were in that edge-of-your-seat anticipation as you are finally approaching your final destination. We went through Knoxville and turned onto a country road. It was nice, lined with trees and quiet.
We kept driving and pretty soon the road turned to gravel. The vibe started to go from quaint and relaxing to very un-travelled and secluded. Finally, our GPS says we’ve made it. We turn into this driveway and we see this little house in the woods. On the other side of the driveway is our little cabin, so we pull up next to it.
As we’re looking around, we see a bunch of chickens and dogs running around, and there’s one more building on the property: a garage with at least 10-12 junk cars spread out in the yard.
As we were unloading the car a woman came out and introduced herself to us as the host. She was middle-aged with long gray/white hair. She seemed friendly enough, but Alyssa and I were both a little spooked already. She took the dogs away with her and let us get settled.
Inside the cabin was pretty much what we were expecting from the photos. It was small, but clean. However, we couldn’t shake the eerie feeling we got knowing how secluded and alone we were out here. The cabin wasn’t very stable. The walls were thin and the lock was pretty flimsy. It didn’t strike me as being very secure.
Alyssa and I settled in and went to check our phones. We had almost no cell service out there… another concerning piece to this puzzle. But I remembered thinking that the place had wifi, so we looked around and saw a paper on the refrigerator.
I kid you not, the password to their network was GETOUTNOW.
Alyssa and I both looked at each other in horror. “Alyssa, how many signs do we need that we should not stay here tonight?” I was officially spooked! Thankfully Alyssa agreed. But, we were broke. We couldn’t afford to book a hotel room.
After talking it over, it was decided we’d be heading back out and driving back to Indiana to visit Alyssa’s sister at U Indy. We tried to quickly load our bags back into the car so the host didn’t know we were leaving. We weren’t sure where she had gone or if she could see us, but we knew we had to get out of there. It was already after 5 o’clock so we knew if we were going to head back to Indiana we needed to get on the road – stat.
As we tore out of there, we started laughing hysterically at the situation. It was extremely secluded, the loose animals were everywhere, and who did those cars belong to? We made jokes that they were the AirBNB guests before us who didn’t have the sense to GET OUT NOW. Seriously, who sets that as their password? Was it a joke? Was it supposed to be funny? We weren’t about to stick around and find out.
We drove almost 6 hours all the way to Indianapolis, arriving at Ashley’s dorm close to Midnight. However, it was so worth it.
As much as I want to visit the Smokies, nothing is worth your safety. Always trust your gut, even if you think you’re overreacting.
I want to end this post by saying I’ve stayed in tons of AirBNBs and usually I don’t have any issues. They are almost always wonderful! However, a good rule of thumb is to read the reviews and stay places many other people have had good experiences at. It’s worth it to pay a little more to know it’s a trusted home!