THE ROAD TO 300K – Cheap Thrills on Deep Creek

Friday morning as I was weaving through the mountain valleys on Interstate 40 between Tennessee and North Carolina, our 2004 Honda Element reached another milestone striking 296,000 miles. It’s always a good feeling when this happens while on a family adventure day and we were headed to meet friends in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on Deep Creek

Lodging and the groceries keeping a pile of teenagers fed aside, a day spent tubing on Deep Creek is cheap thrills and a stellar way to beat the summer heat. This has become a part of our summer for the past few years and this year we made a weekend out of it, even though I had to leave early to head back home for work on Saturday.

Arrive early and avoid the weekend if possible if Deep Creek is in our summer plans as we kinda had the place to ourselves for the first couple hours of Friday morning but by afternoon the place was packed.  Our daughter went back with her friends on Saturday afternoon and said it felt like bumper cars.  So, pick a weekday and go early to make the most of it.  

There are several places that you can rent tubes locally on your way into Deep Creek and a day rental is only $4-6 for each tube.  Oh, and there isn’t a park cost to access the parking lot area either.  Cheap and free is always good.

You’re going to get your steps in with a little less than a mile hike up the creek path with your tube.  The water feels great once you’re in and aside from a handful of rapids where you can get dumped, it’s overall a refreshing ride down the creek. 

For whatever reason on this summer’s trip, half the adults in our group limped away with injuries that ranged from scrapes, bruises, and one dad taking a trip to the ER with a shoulder sprain.   Maybe we’re getting old.  I don’t know.  I will say that there is usually a little more flow which can certainly affect the ride.  Yeah, I think we’ll blame it on that…

By late afternoon it was time to head to our cabin and unwind.  I ended up driving home on Saturday morning with our son and my wife and daughter stayed until Sunday.  It was a fun weekend getaway and we’ll likely be back next summer.

GEAR NOTES
This was a quickie trip but still good testing ground for a few items of noteworthy gear.  Here are a few things that made our trip better…

ASTRAL BREWER 2.0 WATER SHOES
I’ve been wearing a pair of Brewer’s for a couple of summers now and in my mind, they are the ultimate water shoe.  Lightweight, quick-drying with a G15 rubber shoe that is super grippy on rocks.  I use them for wet wading, creek play, and anytime I want to keep my feet protected around water.  A water shoe has advantages over a sandal if nothing else to keep rocks from getting underfoot while walking.

JACKERY EXPLORER 500 PORTABLE POWER STATION
I’ve been looking at the portable power sources for a while now and Jackery was running a $100 off promo (which I think they still are) on the Explorer 500 which seemed like the right time to buy it.  We’ve used it on several local trips to charge up mobile phones and this was the first time using it to power the Traeger grill.  I ran the grill for about an hour along with charging two iPhones to nearly full battery strength and it was still at 95% charge.  This is going to come in especially handy in the fall on some back to back weekend car camping trips with our family and friends.

HOWLER BROTHERS LOGGERHEAD HOODIE
I’m a total sucker for sun shirts (I have ZERO ability to suntan) and when Howler Brothers recently re-released the Loggerhead shirt as a hoodie, I immediately placed an order. 

The fit, feel and function of these shirts are perfect in every way.  There are four colorways to choose from and remember that you can use code “TFM2020” for a 20% discount on your order.  I’m likely going to order another one this week.

PAKMULE ORIGINAL & RIDGELINE
Since it was likely that I’d be returning home on Saturday due to work obligations, we ended up driving both of our SUV’s on this trip, and with a PAKMULE on the back of each, we doubled our space for gear.  We also picked up our children, who had been up in Michigan for a month. from my parents who met us halfway in Tennessee and we needed the extra space for suitcases, gear, and golf clubs.

I’ve said it several times before but we continue to be impressed with our PAKMULE cargo carriers and having the option of different models to fit different vehicles is a huge advantage in getting the right fit for your vehicle.  These really aren’t one size fits all and with three models to choose from, you can get it right.

PAKMULE has set the bar high for what a hitch basket should be and they are worth every dollar.  If you’re interested in placing an order and have questions, send me an email.  Otherwise, Let Kansas know that TFM sent you and use online code “flyfishing” for a free set of 6′ MULEstraps.

TRAEGER RANGER PELLET GRILL
For over a year now I’ve been grilling and cooking on a Traeger PRO 575 and more recently on the Ranger and though both deserve a full gear review write up, I can tell you that I continue to be beyond impressed by both. 

The Ranger is a great addition to a full-sized grill and allows you to do two things at once for big meals at the house.  The Ranger is also proving to be a great road trip and camp grill and has upped the possibilities of our tailgate kitchen.

If you have questions about Traeger grills let me know and if interested in purchasing one of your own, I usually have some promo codes around for a discount on online orders.

YETI TUNDRA 45 COOLER
It’s hard to believe that the Tundra cooler has been around for over ten years now and it without a doubt created a new “premium” category within the cooler space.

Years ago, I used to be able to order YETI coolers with The Fiberglass Manifesto inked into the lid top.  Since I could buy them at wholesale for myself, I ended up with a Tundra 35, Tundra 45, and Tundra 65 figuring that I’d have all the bases covered for our own use. 

Fast forward and I can tell you that over the years, our Tundra 45 is the cooler that we use most often.  It’s big enough without being too big.  On this trip, we filled one Tundra 45 with our lunch and drinks for the day and kept the second Tundra 45 locked up with Friday night’s dinner, Saturday morning breakfast, and Saturday night dinner.

The miles keeping ticking on our Honda Element and it won’t be too long before the next “The Road to 300K” post.  You can circle back to past posts in this series HERE, HERE, and HERE.