Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Smokey Mountains

We returned home from our trip to the Smokies on Wednesday.  We had a fantastic vacation that went by way to quickly.  The Smokies really are magical.
We stayed in an amazing cabin in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee with Nick's mom, dad and sister.  I had never been to this area of the country, so it was really exciting going somewhere new.  The Pigeonforge/Gatlinburg area was completely different than what I was expecting and very different from places we normally choose to visit.  It was totally crazy and fun with a strip similar to Myrtle Beach but it seemed larger in scale.  There were putt-putt golf courses, extreme rides, mini theme parks and go cart race tracks, restaurants of every style, outlets, bizarre attractions and museums every square inch of the strip.  It was totally packed with people having fun!  And normal people. Not wealthy, upscale, privlaged individuals... just down to earth, NORMAL people. Everything was totally campy, but you could really spend a week there and not see everything!  
The Smokies were beautiful.  We enjoyed a ride to Cade's Cove in Smokey Mountain National Park.  The creeks were laced with pretty little falls and at the Cove the mountain views were in abundance.  Unfortunately people were in abundance as well.  The 9 mile loop took almost 2 hours because of the large amount of cars stopping at every twig swaying in the forest.  And a single deer held up traffic for a mile or so!!  Holy cow! It was a little insane.  But it was very pretty none the less.
One of the highlights was the above Old Mill Restaurant and the shopping area that surrounded it. We found an amazing pottery shop there that spilled over with beautifully glazed vases, bowls and mugs.  And the restaurant was devine.  Best meal I have had in ages!  We also really had a blast at Dollywood!  It was the least campy thing in Pigeon Forge for sure, and the landscaping was beautiful!  There were fountains everywhere and sluices from old mountain town-themed buildings.  The kiddie area was packed with rides and there is one of a few remaining coal-powered train engines that took us for a scenic ride up the mountain.  The kids looooved the kiddie roller coaster and we all enjoyed a trip on the white water rapid ride.... where of course Isabel got completely drenched. The Dixie Stampede was also very fun! The kids loved every moment of it... even Kieran.  The bluegrass at the pre-show was stellar!  All the horses and riders were totally amazing!  There were a ton of surprises in the show and even "princesses" of sorts.

After our 4-night stay in the Pigeon Forge area, we headed over the mountains and through the woods to Mingo Falls on the Cherokee Indian Reservation.  Supposedly these are the tallest falls in the smokies, and the picture just doesn't do justice to how pretty they were. 

After Cherokee things went a little downhill when we headed into no-man's land to Hot Springs, North Carolina.  We had never been there before, and the drive to get there was pretty frightening.  Not only was it completely desolate in places, but we took this bizarre road that would go from two lanes to one lane with railroad tracks on one side and a river on the other. It was soooo scary!  Thankfully no trains or cars came or we may have ended up in the river. 

Hot Springs was very beautiful, but the rustic cabin we rented was beyond tiny!  There were three stories of bunks and while the kids loved it, the space was way too small to do anything but sleep.  So we enjoyed a walk by the river and catching fireflies until bedtime.

Our last full day was spent enjoying Black Mountain, North Carolina and the lovely creek-park beside Montreat.  I enjoyed all the artsy shops in the small, perfect town while Nick got some work done at the Dripolator.  I could totally live there.  We spent the evening in Asheville exploring different areas and ended up at the Mellow Mushroom for a perfect outdoor dinner of yummy pizza!!! It was a perfect day.  And we drove home the next day. After another night in the tiny cabin I was soo glad to be home in my own bed with some new fabric, some pretty handmade coffee mugs and a renewed love for our own tiny cottage.  And now that our trip is over, I feel like we can kick back and enjoy the rest of our summer! Bring on the sunshine and watermelon!  

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