As we planned our route for leaving North Carolina we decided that we would stop and see some sights in Nashville. However, it was too far to drive in one day so we opted to stop for a couple of days at the Fox Fire Riverside Campground in Hartford, TN. Our only reason for stopping in Hartford was that it was about halfway to Nashville and we choose Fox Fire Riverside Campground because it was on a river. What a fortunate choice! Hartford is not much more than an intersection with a four-way stop, but is on the edge of the Great Smokey Mountains. It is also home to more than a dozen white water rafting operations.
We arrived on Thursday, May 3rd. After we settled in to a nice pull-thru site, we checked on rafting trips and found out that the next possibility was two days away, on Saturday. The level of the river is controlled by a hydro-electric dam and they normally released water from the dam on Tuesday through Thursday, and sometimes on Saturday. A release was scheduled for this Saturday.
We followed a link on Fox Fire’s web site to Smokey Mountain hiking trails and made plans to hike to Hen Wallow Falls the next day. There was plenty of parking and a picnic area at the trailhead. The trail was well marked, although we did take a different trail for a short distance by accident (it pays to be alert!). Two point two miles up the trail we came to the falls. We had fun climbing on the boulders at the base of the falls and looking for a cave that was next to the falls. After relaxing and a snack we headed back down the mountain. It was a beautiful day, sunny and warm, but cool enough to be comfortable.
The next morning we checked on the rafting and found out they had a trip tentatively scheduled to leave at 1:00, but it was moved up to 11:00 because the dam would close off the water at noon. When we checked in we discovered we had a boat all to ourselves with our own personal guide. It was good that we had this personal service, but not so good because we had to paddle an eight-person raft by ourselves. Fortunately the river was running fast and we didn’t have to work too hard. Our guide, Randall (with his dog, Bluesy), was very experienced and gave us a great ride. I think he was happy to have two experienced paddlers for a crew. The ride was exciting and we were soaked by the end of the float – but what a fun time! I would gladly recommend Big Creek Expeditions to anyone looking for a professional experience on the Big Pigeon River.
In addition to hiking and white water rafting Hartford also has a winery (Goodwater Winery) and a legal moonshine distillery (Bootleggers). We sampled both and bought some wine and moonshine to take with us.
A side benefit of staying at the Fox Fire RV Park was the annual gathering of the Coleman Collectors Group. If you ever owned a camp lantern or camp stove it’s a good bet that it was made by Coleman. The Coleman Company has been making outdoor equipment for decades, many military command posts in WW II were illuminated by Coleman lanterns and many field kitchens used Coleman stoves. Coleman products are known for being the best and longest lasting pieces of camping equipment. It was fascinating to me to walk around the various tents displaying Coleman products. One of the sad pieces of information I got was that a Coleman lantern I sold at a garage sale for $15 could have been sold on Ebay for around $100-$150! Oh well!
We did a lot in our two days, more than we thought we would do on what was to supposed to be just a stop-over. On Sunday, May 6th we headed west to Nashville and the Grand Old Opry.