Business...and Pleasure

This blog will be mostly about investing and issues that could impact your retirement plans, but I thought it might be nice to mix in a little pleasure as well. My clients know that I am an outdoor enthusiast who enjoys cycling, hiking and occasional off-road excursions to find an incredible view. They often ask me about some of the places I go, so I thought I'd put together the "Weekend Adventure in East Tennessee" series to share my experiences. Fortunately, there are few places on earth better than right here in our own backyard to enjoy the outdoors. Hopefully, you can go enjoy them as well if you haven't already. 

- Paul Ragone

Weekend Adventure in East Tennessee - No.3

By Paul Ragone
July 24, 2015

Breakfast With A View!

Our table above the clouds!

Earlier this year, one of our clients mentioned that he and his wife went to McCloud Mountain Restaurant & Lodge and really enjoyed it. My family and I made reservations for breakfast for the following Saturday morning. Unsure what to expect, we did a little research only to find some not so flattering reviews on Yelp and other online sources. My client also mentioned an amazing "Skywalk" down the road from the restaurant, so I was looking forward to that more than the food anyway.  


From West Knoxville, it took us a little over an hour to get there. Along the way, we discussed not eating at the restaurant because of the reviews and instead just going to the Skywalk. We decided to make our decision when we got there.


We arrived at the entrance gate and followed the signs to proceed up the winding road. About a tenth of the way up, there was something like a guard station with an interesting gentleman that stopped us to ask if we had reservations. He was extremely nice and told us how to get to the restaurant, which was two miles further up the hill. We got to the top, checked out the restaurant and wisely decided to stay. Despite what we had read, our food was fantastic and the service was great. The view from our table over looking the beautiful Tennessee valley was incredible.


View of the TN valley from our table after the clouds were gone.

After enjoying our breakfast and taking in more incredible views from the outside decks at the restaurant, we went in search of the Skywalk. Leaving the restaurant area, we followed the signs to the Skywalk a couple of miles further north. Amazingly, we were the only ones there so we took our time exploring the area. 

About halfway accross the Skywalk.

The Skywalk itself is basically a long boardwalk bridging a series of stone chimney tops. Looking down between the stone sections is a little unnerving to say the least. It's a LONG drop. At the end of the Skywalk, we were greeted with an incredible view that seemed to go on forever. It was also extremely quiet and peaceful. 

Looking straight out from the end of the Skywalk.

Directions - From Knoxville, travel I-75 North to exit 134 (Caryville, La Follette, Jacksboro). From exit 134, travel east on Hwy 63 East for 8.2 miles to red light #9 (don't count them... pay attention to the numbered ones). At red light #9, turn left onto Indiana Avenue and Hwy 25W toward Jellico. Once you turn onto 25W, there are signs each mile. 4.8 miles up 25W (at the cutoff to the Duff community), you will see signs pointing right to McCloud Mountain. The entrance is flanked with stone pillars and a black iron gate. Pull through the gates, and the restaurant is 2 miles at the top of the mountain.

Important Notes - I don't know if reservations for the restaurant are necessary if you only intend to go to the Skywalk. My feeling is that since they don't charge a fee for the Skywalk, they would appreciate it if you went to the restaurant. Also, consider what time of the day to go depending on what you want to see. The restaurant faces east towards the valley while the Skywalk faces West away from the valley on the other side of the ridge. Go in the evening if you want to see the valley in better detail with the sun behind you. Finally, while not completely necessary, I would recommend going to the Skywalk in a 4WD vehicle. The road to the restaruant is paved but it becomes a dirt road from the restaurant to the Skywalk. The closer to the Skywalk you get, the harder the road terrain becomes to drive on. On the way back, I was in 4WD High most of the time...although, we did travel off the beaten path a few times.

Weekend Adventure in East Tennessee - No.2
By Paul Ragone
July 17, 2015

Biking Cades Cove Loop!

Cades Cove and the Smoky Mountains

I was surprised to realize that a lot of people don't know that during the summer you can ride a bike, (or walk) around Cades Cove loop. Every Wednesday and Saturday morning from sunrise until 10 am, Cades Cove loop is closed to automobiles. It's an entirely diffrerent experience and believe me when I say it’s well worth the trip.


Recently, my son and I decided to go early one morning and ride the loop. We have been to Cades Cove a few times but never rode the loop on bikes. We arrived about 7:45 am and there was plenty of parking available. Surprisingly, some people had arrived much earlier than we did and were already heading back home.

No Cars!

After getting our bikes ready, we were on the loop by 8:00 am. We had planned on riding at a moderate pace so we could go around the eleven mile loop two times before 10 am. Those plans quickly changed because as soon as we began riding, we immediately realized that this was something worth going slow for and just enjoy the views. It really is an amazing place.

Some of the wildlife we saw. Fortunately, no bears.

We rode the loop once, stopping to take plently of pictures and to check out the old structures along the way. We made it back to the parking lot by 9:30 am and talked about going back again in the near future. I can't wait!   

What a View!

Directions - Take Highway 321 to Townsend. Continue until you reach the "Y" intersection. Go right at the intersection and continue until you reach Cade's Cove. A park Ranger will tell you where to park.

Important Notes - Although Cade's Cove is mostly flat, there are a few hills that may be challenging for beginning riders. We noticed many people walking their bikes in certain sections. Bike rentals are available at the entrance through Cades Cove Trading and their website allows you to reserve bikes online. Also, children 16 and under are required to wear a helmet. If you want to walk, there are two gravel crossroads to shorten the loop considerably. Besides bringing our bikes, we brought a cooler full of bottled water which I would highly recommend doing. 



Weekend Adventure in East Tennessee - No.1
By Paul Ragone
July 10, 2015

This view of Knoxville is worth the short hike!

View of downtown Knoxville from the River Bluff Trail

Trail Name - River Bluff
Trail Difficulty - Easy

Directions - Take Alcoa Highway to the UT Hospital exit. Turn right on Cherokee Trail and continue until you see a large blue water tower. Right across from the water tower is unmarked dirt parking area. Park there and walk down the hill towards the gate at the trail head. There is not a sign at the trail head but if you are at the gate then you are at the right place. Continue around the gate and follow the gravel trail down the hill. Towards the bottom of the hill you'll notice a trail that veers up to the right. Do not take that. Instead, ontinue straight and as you begin to head back up hill you will notice another trail that veers to the left. Do not take that one either as you will end up going down to the river instead of up to the bluff. Continue on the main trail around a few curves until you reach an area where the trail splits. At this point you can take either trail as they both go to the same place. When you get to the top you'll see an amazing view of downtown Knoxville.

Important Notes - Although this is an easy hike, (roughly a half mile in each direction) I would not recommend taking small children because the overlook is high atop a cliff with no railing or safety barrier at the edge. This property is currently owned by Legacy Parks but will soon be owned by the city of Knoxville.

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