July 2013 marked 5 years of wedded bliss for “the hubbs” and me. As promised, we are traveling to a different state to celebrate each year. So far we have conquered:
2009: New York: camped in Watkins Glen on a $250 budget
2010: Pennsylvania: Pocono Mountains, Hershey
2011: Ohio: Cleveland, Put-In-Bay
2012: Michigan: Detroit Ford Plant, Silver Lake Sand Dunes
2013: Tennessee: Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, etc. and a pit stop in Philly on the not so much way home
So what follows is a brief synopsis of our travels this past week!
Only one pit stop on the way down and completely worth the extra 30 minutes! We pulled off at the New River Gorge Bridge and took a short walk to an overlook that was breathtaking! The 3,030 ft long bridge looked amazing from below. Initially, we had left the house early to make sure that we got to our hotel before rush hour…turns out Gatlinburg is nothing BUT rush hour…a bit of a tourist trap, but we managed to check in and find delicious pizza at The Mellow Mushroom downtown. It was a hippie joint loaded with peace signs…right up my alley!
New River Gorge Bridge
New River Gorge Bridge
Mellow Mushroom was followed by a terrifying ride up Ober Gatlinburg, a tram built to hold over 100 people. The views were amazing once I slowly started getting over my fear of heights! This is where we spotted our 1st black bear playing in someone’s backyard!
Day Two…and Three…
Our last day in the hotel thankfully, and after a less than desirable continental breakfast, we beat the crowd to Ripleys Aquarium. Among the first in the door, we were astonished by the exhibits that we large, interactive, and beautiful examples of some of the bizarre creatures that God creates. We both loved the moving walkway through the shark tanks and the brightly colored jelly fish!
We played Hillbilly Golf for a score that ended in a competitive 54-52 in my favor! The course took you up to Hole 1 on a railway tram!
After resting for a bit following our walk through the tourist dominated town, we decided to head up to Clingman’s Dome. You were able to drive through the national park to a lot at the top which situated you nicely to make a 1/2 mile hike to the 6,643 ft marker which is at the highest point in the park. Unfortunately, the fog and smokey haze had not lifted with the sun we received so we decided to attempt it another day. The temperature was enjoyed however! We started at 95 degrees in town and by the time we reached the peak, it had dropped to 55 degrees! The air quality was incomparable to anything we had experienced. It was as though sinus congestion and pressure could not exist! We also stopped at Newfound Gap for some great scenery.
Kris even managed to find 4-leaf clovers on the summit! We headed for gas and groceries afterward in anticipation for our trip to the cabin we rented outside of Pigeon Forge!
“Mountain Magic” was the name of the place we chose to call home for the remainder of our week in the Smokies! After driving 25 minutes out of town, up, and down some interesting terrain, we arrived ! We were greeted by worship music playing softly and were in awe of the beautiful and meticulous cabin. Not RUSTIC at all and a wonderful place to feel the peace and serenity of the mountains we were nestled in.
After a low key night at the cabin, we decided to head to Cades Cove. Situated between two mountains, the valley served as settling area for many before the formation of the national park. Interesting fact that we learned is that some settlers refused to move when the national forest was formed so that government attempted to buy them out…again refusing, they were eventually allowed to stay until they died, with no offspring being allowed to stay. It was an 11 miles one-way driving loop abundant with amazing views and wildlife! We spotted two bear cubs along the side of one roadway.
Halfway around the 11 mile loop, we decided to hike to Abrams Falls via a 5 mile round trip trail. It was 95 degrees but we were fully stocked with water, fig newtons, and wearing Merrells! The waterfall at the end of the trail was comparable to some of the beautiful places we have locally but the volume of water rushing over was impressive. We enjoyed chatting on the way their and back along with some little creatures we found along the way.
We finished the night with yet another competitive game of putt-putt. Kris 54-Sara-50.
Today was the day I looked forward to for months prior to leaving. My personal top choice for attractions was Wonderworks…an interactive, mind-boggling science experiment of a building! We tried a ropes course for the first time…it was over 4 stories tall and resulted with us both getting to level 2…only to hear Kris exclaim “Fat people belong on the ground!!! We NEED to find an exit NOW!” We also attempted “360 bikes” and the United States Army Training simulator. Bubbles was a great exhibit that Kris really enjoyed. The photos say it all!
We headed back to the cabin and relaxed in the rockers on the porch while a storm rolled in. Amazing lighting and thunder that shook the floors!
Up at 5:00 am to head for Philidelphia…only for Kris’ main squeeze, Taylor Swift. I couldn’t believe that he was dragging me to a country concert and especially couldn’t believe it was Taylor Swift. Nevertheless, I SO enjoyed seeing him enjoy his time there in the sweltering heat and surrounded by teenage girls! We drove 10 hours from TN to PA and then another 7 from Philly to home. We arrived at 5:30 am to wake Dad up and get Ruger, who was especially excited to see us!
Our little guy!
Ultimately, it was an amazing way to spend our 5th anniversary. Tennessee has some sort of allure in the mountains. Complete and total peace. Isolation from the chaos of daily life and a serenity that I have not found elsewhere. As for year 6, the state has yet to be chosen! We shall see…