This past weekend we decided to travel to Ocoee, TN to take advantage of a really cheap whitewater rafting offer on Groupon ($32 for 2 people). The drive took us through the heart of Tennessee’s waterfall country and past several of the more well known falls in the state – Cummins Falls, Rock Creek Park, and Fall Creek Falls.
We’ve been in TN for more than 2 years now and taking the state’s “waterfall tour” has been on our bucket list for all of that time. In 2015, we visited Rutledge Falls in Tullahoma, TN and it was absolutely stunning, like something you’d see in a movie, so when the opportunity came up to chase another waterfall, we were all in. Being the adventurous types though, we opted for a lesser known, and supposedly stunning, area known as Stinging Fork Falls.
First let me say, when folks talk about the “hills of Tennessee”, I’m sure they are speaking of some of the little towns in East TN along the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. We followed our deranged GPS (affectionately named Carmin) up, up, and up some more winding gravel roads, complete with switchbacks that allowed you to see the road below, until we came to something with a little bit of pavement. The road, by the way, was called Shut in Gap Road. If you travel it, you’ll know why it is called that. NO ONE would want to go in/out of their home if they had to drive this white-knuckle one-laner every day!
But I digress –
The hike to/from the falls is 1.7 miles. The first half mile in is completely flat. The next section is an area of wooden stairs (most of which are still intact) and narrow ledges. We made it almost all the way to the end but a series of large downed trees prevented us from getting to the actual swimming hole at the bottom of the falls (and obscured any attempt we made at taking a photo). Angie said the waterfall was beautiful but I never really got close enough to see it in all of its glory.
After climbing our way back out and using Google to find a better way back to the highway, we set off for Ocoee and our first ever primitive camping experience. High Country Adventures is the outfitter that we used for our rafting trip. Behind their main building they have a rustic campground and offer the option to add lodging to your trip for just $6 per person.
I’d love to say that we spent an enjoyable night by the campfire before retiring to our tent, where we watched the stars until we fell asleep but that didn’t happen. After dinner, it started raining buckets and it didn’t stop until about an hour before we left to go rafting the next day. As I told my sister when she asked me if we had fun on our trip, fun is a relative term. Some folks might have called this a disaster but we had a blast!
We’ve watched about a dozen YouTube videos of folks traversing the country in tiny cars like ours and actually sleeping in them along the way. We’ve always teased about trying this but never have…until now. Yes, we slept in our little Chevy Spark. Surprisingly enough, the front seats actually lay flat into the backseat. It wasn’t the comfort of a pillow top mattress (or even the air mattresses that were inside the tent we never got to use) but it wasn’t terrible.
As for rafting, we loved every minute of it – even though it was only 72 degrees outside when we left and the water was quite cool. After the first splash though, your body quickly adjusts and it’s just fun from that point forward. I’d love to share photos of our rafting adventure but we opted to paddle instead of using the water camera and well, those pics they take along the way are great but we’re way too cheap to buy them.
Angie and I both paddled the Colorado River before we met but this was our first rafting trip together. We hope to make this an annual adventure (provided we find another Groupon next summer LOL) and most definitely recommend High Country Adventures. Their staff was awesome and even though we didn’t get to fully enjoy the campground, it was very peaceful and we’d gladly go back (and maybe sleep in the tent this time!)