Sunday, September 20, 2009
Our Smoky Mountain vacation
After six solid days of rain, we're back home in good ol' Illinois.
Although the weather was less than pleasant, we definitely made the most out of our trip, and plan on continuing the tradition by visiting the Smoky Mountain National Park every couple of years.
We arrived on Monday afternoon around 4 pm after a late start. We made incredible time, thanks to Sadie being an angel the entire way down. The weather was perfect along the way too. We saw an amazing sunrise among foggy cornfields while driving through the heart of Indiana. It made waking up at 3:30 a.m. worth it.
Erik ran out to get pizza after we unloaded all of our luggage into the cabin and got lost. Not entirely his fault, however, because one of the roads our GPS told him to go down had a locked gate at the end. He was gone for over 2 hours and I was about to call the police when he pulled into the drive with our dinner. Again, worth the wait. We LOVE Papa Johns - and there aren't any around here.
Tuesday we were up bright and early. Initially, we were going to do a mountain drive, but once we saw "Ober Gatlinburg" - decided to stop right there and do the tram ride. I was very scared to get on, but it was worth it. Such a beautiful and amazing view of the mountains and Gatlinburg. There was no one riding our tram either, so we had free reign of every amazing view.
It was a good thing we decided to take the tram ride, because by the time we got to the bottom, it was pouring rain. So the mountain drive had to take a back seat.
After an afternoon nap, we had a blast at Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokey's. That is by far the BEST aquarium in the country. It is extremely kid/toddler friendly and the exhibits are hands-on and no matter where you are standing, you won't miss a thing. Well worth the price.
Wednesday was a rough one. We made the mistake of not letting Sadie have a nap in the morning before we left for Cades Cove. By the time we were halfway on our 25-mile-trip, she was screaming bloody murder. The kind of screaming and whining that makes you want to throw your baby out the car window. Poor thing was cooped up in the car a lot because of the rain - but so far this morning - it remained dry. So we figured that she could run around the valley once we arrived. And, as expected, as soon as we arrived, the rain accompanied us. We had to cut the drive through Cades Cove short, and headed back toward Gatlinburg.
On the way back, we decided to stop at a trail that led to "Laruel Falls." According to the info from the park office, the hike was rated "easy" and we assumed that Sadie would be able to run around on the trail. Boy were we wrong. It was a 2.6 mile round-trip hike up a mountain. We didn't plan on climbing a mountain that day, but we did - and to say it was worth it is an understatement. Even though Sadie was in the stroller for the entire hike, she was mesmorized by the spectacular falls that greeted us at the end of the trail.
That night, we walked the strip in Gatlinburg - think Wisconsin Dells expaned by about 3 miles. Took a trip into Ripley's Believe it or not Mirror Maze and Sadie had a fun time. As an adult - you can't tell one mirror from the next, but Sadie had us out of the maze within 5 minutes.
Thursday morning Erik made us a really tasty breakfast and planned on going to the waterpark. Instead, we noticed that the sun had poked out from behind the clouds and figured this was our big chance to make it to the highest point of the Smoky Mountains - Clingman's Dome. By 10 a.m. we were on our way to the top, but as we climbed in altitude, the clouds, fog and rain came at us hard and fast. I've driven on some scary roads and seen a few bad accidents in my day - but that drive to the top of Clingman's Dome in the fog and rain was the scariest drive in my life. Thank God Erik knows his stuff when it comes to downshifting and driving through the mountains.
Stopped and had lunch after coming back down from the rain and fog, then headed out to a popular pottery shop - Allewine Pottery. I bought several unique items from Allewine on our honeymooon a few years back and they REALLY jacked up their prices. It wasn't a total loss, however, because Sadie was able to watch a live bluegrass band while Mommy and Daddy enjoyed fresh popcorn.
That night we decided to do something a little different and walked the strip in Pigeon Forge. There was a huge car show going on and we didn't expect to do much, but to my surprise, we got in 18 holes of mini-golf, I got to rollerskate for the first time in years and Sadie enjoyed riding the teacups with daddy.
By Friday we were completely fed up with the rain and decided to head down to Wild Bear Falls indoor waterpark. Sadie had a great time for over 3 hours - running around and finally doing something that she could run around and get tired from. On a sidenote - we ordered a "corn dog basket" from their food court and the french fries were AMAZING.
While we were eating our food we noticed the sun poking out and figured we should try to give the mountains one last chance - and began our climb to the top once again. By the halfway point, we were again greeted with rain and fog - so we stopped at the second-highest point - "Newfound Gap" and made the most of it.
All in all it was a great trip and I learned that when you take a toddler along for the journey, a lot of what you do revolves around them. Our cabin was amazing and so cozy - which was great because we had to spend a lot of time there. I will miss it a lot and we definitely plan on going back every 2-3 years and possibly spend a Christmas in the mountains. If you have kids, it's a fantastic place to go. I highly suggest bringing your own food - we only ate out twice which saved us a LOT of money. We'll miss the mountains but it definitely feels good to be home.