Last Friday the 17th, we headed to Gatlinburg for five nights. We find ourselves redoing some of the vacations that we've done before when the bigs were little. The end of August (and spring break) seem to work out best for Greg to vacation with us, but due to his new job responsibilities - he still had to take time at the rest areas to touch base, and he's been working a lot of overtime since we've been back in order to catch up. But he came, and we did get him to relax a bit.
I had spent a good portion of July checking out the favored hot spots and reviews. I wanted our vacation to be a good blend of kicking back and relaxing, a small dose of tourist trap and hikes. Due to the forecast sharing a high percentage of rain and humidity each day, I made sure to bookmark a few more indoor activities than we usually do.
The first one was the Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Show. This one had rave reviews and the price for the 2pm Saturday show was cheaper than all the others. It made sense to me that we do the all we could eat at 2pm anyway so we'd still have time to work it off.
Mark still qualified for the kid's plate price, but he ate more than any of us.
On the flip side - I had prepacked all our meals for the week, and after this it took a few days to sell the kids on the chicken and mashed potatoes that we'd brought. My planning skills have slipped a bit at 50. Or not.
Besides stopping at Taco Bell on our way back home, this was the only time we ate out all week.
After the show, we headed up to Clingman's Dome, making a few stops along the way to work off our meal.
Visibility was low, and the dampness brought a bit of a chill. Wendy stole my hoodie, I put on my rain jacket and Brian grabbed a blanket out of the wayback.
Every so often, we'd see a bit of blue sky - but it didn't last real long.
The visibility was even less on the way down.
Side note: My fitbit registered 75 flights of stairs on this day.
My family isn't always nice to me. I didn't look while taking this requested photo. I also wasn't a very good passenger on the mountain.
Mark, in his dry tone: It's a good thing you didn't marry a Nascar driver.
We had the pool to ourselves for an hour this morning.
We had three pools to choose from, but this one - saltwater with a view - was our favorite. It was just a few doors down from our townhome which had pretty much the same view.
Side note: We heard of bear sightings daily at the resort, but we never saw one - and I was stalking the windows like Ethel.
Sunday afternoon, we headed up to Cades Cove. I've been there at least twice before - maybe three times, and never have I been there when it was bumper to bumper like on this day. I find the hardest part about family vacation is working around everyone's ideal vacation - which in my big kid's mind is sleeping the morning away. Were it just me - I'd have been up here bright and early to beat the rush, but I work really hard on 'rolling with it' on vacation. It was bumper to bumper a majority of the 11 mile loop, starting out with this bear jam right at the beginning.
It was pretty much impossible to get a good shot of the bear, but he was enjoying wild cherries way up in the tree directly above the road. When anyone tried to get closer for a photo, the park ranger reminded them to back up. He was a big boy, and according to the park ranger - he could potentially stay up there all day. Or not.
He was one of only two bears we saw all week. The other we saw on our way up to Clingman's Dome on the side of the road the day before.
Brian earned the title of Wendy's official photographer. Lucky Brian.
We saw way more butterflies than we saw bears.
One of our stops on the way down the mountain. Not my family jumping.
Monday was the day I was most anticipating, but my anticipated plan didn't begin until later in the day. We filled our morning with putt-putt. This course pulls you up the hill in this tram, and then offers two course choices at the top. They also offered that you could do the other course after for an additional five bucks each, but our family isn't wired to cooperate and be all smiling through one course, let alone two. We chose the course on the left.
It offered up some challenges. Mark got the only hole in one. Wendy won overall.
After lunch and a swim, we headed out for a hike to Grotto Falls. It was sunny and clear at the trail head.
All the research revealed that this was a very rooty climb with the recommendation to wear closed toe shoes. There were a couple young school girls (about 12 and 6) on the trail in front of us, both wearing flip flops. The older of the two totally biffed it not far from the trailhead and broke her shoe at the same time.To her credit, she never once whined or complained and kept on going.
The POURING rain began when we were just about a tenth of the way to the falls. We kept on hiking.
We got up here faster than I anticipated, so I convinced the family that even though it was raining pretty steady - this was my thing. I had researched and timed our hike to coincide with bumping into the llama train that delivers supplies up to Mt. LeConte.
After waiting it out for about an hour, there approached someone from the upper trail that had the air of knowing stuff. I asked him if he knew if the llamas were close behind him.
Oh, he says, they did their delivery yesterday to avoid the rain.
WHAT?! Blew that one. The forecast I read was consistent every day, but somehow they knew it would be slightly worse Monday than Sunday.
Eye rolls and heavy sighs from the kids, and we headed back down. It was slick in spots by this time.
This was still my favorite part of our vacation, but oddly - it was the kid's least favorite part. I'm determined to make a hiker out of at least one of them.
We had also bumped into a family on the trail whose kid had taken quite a digger at the falls. I'm not sure of all the details, but they had managed to get his arm in a sling and his face was pretty cut up and bloodied. Always pack a just in case kit.
My boy scout in a relaxed state.
I think they liked it more than they let on. I'm sure Allan would have enjoyed it if he'd been able to join us.
On Tuesday we woke up to rain, and it rained most of the day. Our original plan for Tuesday was to go tubing, but the rain changed that. Instead, we hit the artist's loop. We each circled what we wanted to see on the map, and we meandered our way around. I'd say that Greg could have probably done this loop on his own as it had the most for him and his woodcarving and knife making interests - but the rest of us managed to circle enough treat shops to help keep the balance.
We did get to the dulcimer shop (recommended) and it was much cozier than we anticipated. Mark played Amazing Grace (with coaching) on the dulcimer. We didn't stick around long as it was crowded.
We hit an old fashioned soda shop for shakes. Mark: I haven't seen a soda shop like this since the last time I read an Archie comic.
We met a van driving gentleman who worked with rocks and minerals and pulled all sorts of stories and treasures out of his van. He was excited to show us the paddle board that he'd attached a motor too. Definitely a memorable character.
Tuesday night, still raining, Wendy and I headed to Tanger Outlets and managed some school shopping.
Because school's coming, like it or not.
We came home Wednesday.
It was weird to miss Melon Festival and Woodward this year due to the changed school year resulting in our changed vacation, but I figure it's okay to miss those every once in awhile. Next year, though, I'll be trying to get in both a vacation and keep our August traditions intact.
Summer flew too quickly.
Two more days....