Exploring the East Coast • Destination Elopement Photographer • Adventure Elopement Photographer

Quick intro here, I had never really explored out East before, so when I booked a destination elopement on Folley Beach in South Carolina (view blog post here) I immediately started planning a little road trip around the area! So the plan started with us flying into Atlanta, GA, renting a car and heading to the Great Smoky Mountains!

sunset in Tennessee

Our first stop on the way to our campsite was the Newfound Gap which boarders Tennessee and North Carolina. We arrived right at peak sunset, I immediately realized why they called it the Great Smoky Mountains now… the rolling mountains went on as far as we could see, and the cool air settling over them looked like the whole valley was covered in a layer of blue smoke.

After about 4 hours on the road, we camped our first night in the Smokies. And it was a tough one. We brought our Tentsile Tree Tent… might I add this was our first time ever sleeping in it and we had only tested it back home for like 20 minutes the day before we left. So as you could guess that wasn’t the best planning on our end. Not only did it take us about an hour and a half to finally get the dang thing setup properly, but it was so dang cold at night (since it was Spring) paired with the fact that we were suspended about 6ft off the ground with no insulation on our backsides so the wind cut straight through which didn’t help at all!! Some poor planning left us a little chillier than we had liked, but life lessons were learned, haha! I for one am a stronger planner and over packer now!

Our first hike

After a night of freezing our butts off, and sleeping a couple hours in the car, we ventured out on our first hike in Tennessee to Alum Cave. Considering the sleep deprivation we were both suffering, the hike was actually surprisingly easy! We were only slightly disappointed to find there wasn’t actually a cave at the end, but more of an overhead dome. However the land was so lush and beautiful with mountain streams & waterfalls along the way, it was no matter!

Ramsey Cascades Trail was a short little hike to a pretty impressive waterfall! We didn’t spend a ton of time there, just a quick out and back hike, then on the road again!

Mount Mitchell is the highest peak of the Appalachian Mountains at a 6,684 elevation. Unfortunately we only had enough time to do a small portion of it at the top.

I have to say I was excited to feel that warm Savannah sun, after spending so many cold nights in mountains! We were still 2 days before the wedding and decided to take in the city life a bit, so we got a hotel room, took a much needed shower and hit those beautiful cobblestone streets. One of our favorite things to do when we travel, besides all the hiking, exploring and picture taking, is to go to cool little local shops, the more handmade local artist stuff the better! Savannah, hands down had some of the best shops we have ever been to, one of my favorites being “Cassandras’” cus well, my name, haha and it had a really great selection of handmade and vintage jewelry.

the area was so rich in history

The next morning we headed to explore some Historical sites in the area, the first being the Wormsloe Plantation. I never realized before how often I had seen that picturesque shot of the the old Wormsloe arch covered in all the Spanish moss before, until I saw it in person. It was like looking into a live photograph!

Oh man, then there was the Fort Pulaski National Monument…. an old Civil War military fort along the coast of Georgia. It was really interesting to see. In a way it was a lot smaller than I would have imagined a military fort to be, but then again those were very different times.

So ghosts are real…

The most interesting part was the underground tunnels, to what seemed to be, old concrete storage rooms. I will admit, I probably watch way too much Ghost Adventures, BUT when I was taking a photo of Mike in the tunnels (the b&w one below) we were both very still and quite so I could take the photo. Then I kid you not, we both her what sounds like a man whistling… at first I was like huh, cool… but after a couple seconds, it dawned on me that we were alone down there… we both scrambled to each end of the corridor to double check if anyone was right outside or had snuck in without us knowing… NOBODY was around. Feeling a little shook, we kinda laughed it off and went about our exploring. We rounded the corner to the darkest part of the tunnels, next to an open room, we immediately started hearing a music box… like something literally out of an old horror movie, or something Zack Baggans picks up on his recorder, (Ghost Adventures reference, haha!) it was crazy! Both the music box & the whistling were clear as day, it was a pretty freaky, but also interesting to experience, definitely not something either of us had expected!

Hello Charleston, South Carolina! It was finally the day before the beach elopement and we were still hungry for some more historical site seeing. So it was off to Patriots Point to tour the USS Yorktown! I am a huge fan of history, especially anything that has to do with trains, planes and large ships… dunno why, just been a little interest of mine since I was a kid. Getting to tour a large Naval Aircraft Carrier was things of dreams! I really enjoyed the self guided tour through the whole ship, a lot of it is preserved to look like how it did in it’s time which was really interesting. But when we got down to the engine room, you could really start to see the ships age. After spending a few hours in and on the ship, we decided to hop into the barely floating submarine. I mean, it looked mostly safe I guess, lol. Cannot stress this enough though, the inside of those things are TINY, all 5’5” of me could barely make it through the doors! Overall, the whole thing was a super cool experience! Highly recommend it for you history buffs out there, or just anyone looking to explore something really impressive!

After all the excitement of city life and the Folley Beach elopement we headed back to the mountains in North Carolina.

Next we headed up to check out the Linville Caverns in North Carolina. I didn’t get any photos in the actual cave, I was just doing my touristy thing, enjoying the moment and stuff! But it was pretty interesting to see an active limestone cave! Linville Falls was our next stop along the Blue Ridge Parkway. We just did a quick little hike up the trail to the lookout of the falls, admiring all the wildflowers along the way!

Hiking the AT

We continued along the Blue Ridge Parkway for the last full day of our trip. The one thing I had been dreaming of since I got into hiking was to hike the Appalachian Trail (parts of it at a time, I am not a seasoned thru hiker, yet!) Well we managed to find our way to Carvers Gap and hiked up through a small section of woods to the Roan Mountains highlands for sunset along the AT. I can honestly say, I am a sucker for a good mountain sunset, they not only last longer, but are just so much more joyous to watch. There wasn’t a ton of other hikers on the trail either, it was us and another group of people getting their engagement photos done up there. I was so jealous, like, if anyone wants to elope or have their adventure engagement photos taken on the Appalachian Trail, message me, let’s be friends!!

It really was the perfect end to our jam packed, camping the East trip!