*There are 74 photos, including Creepy Pedo-looking Logan, Beautiful Mountain panoramas, Young Love, Puppies, and Other Things.
I've been to the Smoky Mountains a handful of times. Gatlinburg, its majestic strip plagued with ho-hum shopping and tourist vendors and more than a few museums. Pigeon Forge is like a fraternal brother, just more sprawled out and more food. These two cities are swamped year-round as people flock to the Great Smokies in search of beautiful nature, rustic arts, class-act entertainment, expensive dining, candies and taffy, and cheap souvenirs. This year, I re-joined the rat race.
Keisha and I have never been on a vacation with extended family, and we thought that we should try it out. We took care of planning everything, booking the cabin, reserving our tickets, and everyone else would just reimburse us. So come Thursday morning, we loaded up two vehicles and hit the road.
We entered the Great Smoky Mountains National Park a little after lunch time. We pulled off to the side of the road near the Pigeon River and had cold cuts and snacks. We then spent the rest of the afternoon meandering along the river banks. At one spot we collected two socks full of hickory nuts (we didn't have any other handy container (pun intended)). The water was cold, but the scenery beautiful. Eventually we made it to the city and got our cabin info.
The road up to the cabin started off mildly steep, but nothing my 05 Corolla couldn't handle. Each turn brought a change of grade, and by the last, the road was extremely inclined. I've never driven on a road this steep, but I pressed on (what other choice did I have?), tires spinning, brakes grinding. The cabin was worth it. Sleeping ten, offering a hot tub and two king size beds, a pool table and a fireplace, the place was very nice. And, since there were eight of us, it only wound up being around $49 per couple per night, which is much, much cheaper than any hotel rate.
The rest of Thursday was spent resting and driving around the Pigeon Forge strip. We bought some breakfast groceries and headed back to the cabin in the late night. Friday morning, Keisha and I made everyone breakfast, frying bacon, eggs, and toast. The plan for Friday was to spend all day in Gatlinburg and then be back in Pigeon Forge by 4:00 for our Dixie Stampede reservations. The Craftsmen Fair was going on in Gatlinburg, and Keisha and I love looking at all the handmade items, getting ideas for making things ourselves or buying gifts. We also got another caricature drawn, and as it so happened, by the same person that drew our first one a few years ago.
The Dixie Stampede always offers plenty of fun, an amazing feast, and a good experience. Last time I went, Keisha and I got selected out of the audience to participate in one of the games. This time, I got picked again, and I faced off mano y mano in a game of horseshoes with 1500 people or so watching. However, instead of actual horseshoes, we threw toilet seats. Sadly, I lost, but it was fun getting picked. Afterward, we picked up some more breakfast foods and headed back up the mountain.
Saturday morning we made sausage, biscuits, and gravy for everyone. Once finished, we loaded up the rides and headed out for a two hour, winding mountainous drive. Destination: Maggie Valley, NC. The roads were cluttered with look-out points to stop and enjoy the view. Traffic was slow and congested, but we eventually made it. We spent time at another craftsmen fair, and then some candy stores and other tourist traps. I bought a peck of apples on the cheap and have lots of varieties to enjoy for the next several days. We stopped at Cherokee, NC, and had a picnic in some gnat-infested park.
The drive back was awful. It took much longer as traffic was bumper to bumper. We stopped at a few vistas and got some great pictures. Then we headed to Pigeon Forge and stopped at a little mall, killing time before the Comedy Barn reservations. Travis (Keisha's younger brother, but not youngest) actually got selected out of the audience here and he went on stage for the finale. My head was throbbing from laughing so hard and lacking oxygen, but it was definitely worth it. If you've never been to the Comedy Barn, go go go if you ever get the chance.
Sunday we had to be out of the cabin by 10 and I was wanting to eat at a pancake house. We checked out and had a delicious breakfast. Then the vehicles split up, mine heading off to the outlet mall, the other heading back home. I finally found me some new tennis shoes (so did Keisha, among many other things) and we eventually headed home. Home to mamaw's to pick up our waiting, furry pups.
Overall, the trip was fun albeit busy and tiring. I didn't get much reading in at all, though I really wanted to. I didn't much sleep either, though I don't go on vacation to sleep. Traveling with the in-laws was enjoyable. There wasn't too much drama and I think everyone had a good time. I can't speak for them, but I did.