5:30 a.m. – Time to get up! We were so tired, but needed to get going. The Ranger Led Hayride in Cades Cove, starts at 7:30 a.m. Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountains was about 30 minutes away from The Bear Skin Lodge. It was raining and still dark out. The drive was not too bad. I did the speed limit, but still had to pull over for the Speedy Drivers. The road was curvy and along the river. We luckily did not see any wildlife in the road. It was around 7:00 a.m. when we arrived at the cove. I paid around $24 for both Nadia and I to ride the hayride. The Ranger warned us to make sure we had our rain gear with us. So far, the rain had let up; there was just a lot of fog around.
The ride started at 7:30 a.m. sharp. You are in a wagon filled with hay of course, and a truck pulls the wagon. As soon as we started out, we saw a deer out in the field. We were both excited. The Rangers were really nice and educated us on the history of the area. There were old cabins and an old church. It was very interesting and the scenery was magnificent. We were in the valley with the mountains surrounding us. At one point the rangers shut off the microphone and the truck and just let us listen to the sounds of nature. We saw so many deer that morning that it got to the point, “oh, another one.”
A great thing for kids to do at the Smoky Mountains is to become a Junior Ranger. You get a booklet for about $2 that the kids fill out and you get Rangers to sign off at certain checkpoints. I had also bought her a vest so we could sew patches of places we had been. They sell patches for hiking trails too.
The sun actually started to come out and the fog lifted. It was even more beautiful. The wagon came to a stop at one section of the field and the Rangers passed around pelts of the animals that are found in the park. You could see close up, the claws of a Black Bear! Pretty Scary!!
The wagon started up again to continue our tour. I was really enjoying myself, until I felt a tickle on the top of my hand. I glanced over and thought I would pass out. It was a GIANT SPIDER on my hand!!! It was not like a tarantula, thank God, but its legs covered my whole hand, and the body was a little smaller than a dime. It was a rust color. I am not a screamer and so I said softly, “there is a spider on my hand.” I then just flicked my hand and the spider went on the wagon. I was scared to sit back and thought I was going to have a heart attack. Thank goodness the nice man sitting next to me, saw it, and grabbed his shoe and swiped it over the side of the wagon. I said a BIG “thank you” and sat back with my hands inside the wagon, this time.
I was starting to enjoy the ride again when there was some commotion in the front of the wagon. My daughter left me in the back of the wagon and was right up front with the Rangers with her camera. Here, out in the field was a momma bear with her 3 little cubs. They were so cute. It was so cool and exciting to see, especially since we were in the safety of the wagon with the rangers.
The hayride lasted for about two hours. When we had finished, my daughter got the Rangers to sign off on her Junior Ranger Booklet. We then went to wait in line for the restroom and here comes a deer and her fawn walking right passed us! How exciting this place was!!