Em treated me to a week in Gatlinburg for my birthday. I was more than happy to go, but I have to confess I wasn’t too excited about a week in the “Dollywood” entertainment capital of the Appalachians. I’ve never been a big fan of theme parks and pageant like entertainment. I’m not saying anything is wrong with them, it just isn’t my cup of tea. But Em had a few things in mind that would make this a great week. For starters she rented a log cabin just outside of Gatlinburg high in the hills and back in the woods. This particular cabin was part authentic log cabin that was added on to with modern log techniques so we had the best of both worlds. It came with big flat screen TV hooked to satellite TV and there was a nice hot tub on the deck. The hot tub was to be the best toy of the week. We did a lot of walking and that tub was just the right tool for easing tired old bones and muscles. The cabin was nested on a ridge such that we did not have to climb stairs to get in and out and we didn’t have a neighbor 15 feet off to one side or the other like some of the places we saw. In other words we had privacy, which was needed considering the lack of dress we wore to, in and from the tub.
We did a few of the traditional Gatlinburg / Pigeon Forge things. Em got us tickets for “Dixie Stampede”, a Dolly production. I enjoyed that evening but the best part was the intro period in which we sat at long tables with a drink and peanuts/popcorn and listened to live music from some relatively unknown performers. They were very talented entertainers and the closeness to the raised stage made it a more intimate form of entertainment. The main attraction was a utensil free meal and a pageant/rodeo show. A war between the South and North theme in which one side of the arena is pitted (playfully) against the other. It ended with a big screen TV patriotic song by none other than Dolly Parton herself, which was kind of cheesy. I enjoyed the show and it was everything I expected it to be which in hindsight was a good thing.
One day we took a long winding ride thought the Great Smokey Mountains National Park (GSMSP) to Cades Cove. It is a wonderfully relaxing drive and even though it was very late winter, spring was in the air. It was such a good day I think I’ve convinced Emily to invest in a camper with me. LOL I do want to go back to that area during different seasons and camp and photograph my heart out. I know it’s been done by others, but I shoot pictures for my own pleasure and remembrances. I’m not out to out-do anyone, just have my own experience. There is something exciting about getting up before dawn – no matter what the season – and finding new discoveries the new day brings.
Most of the time the weather was good but we did have a day of rain and dreary skies. On the rainy day, Em and I drove a car tour of the GSMSP that took us into the clouds. It was a cool looking ancient rain forest. The trees were still bare but the rhododendron was green and thick soft moss covered rocks and decaying tree trunks. The road was narrow with many vistas that included a look straight down into deep ravines. The gray dampness and clouds gave everything a soft gentle look. Peace was all around.
That afternoon we drove into Pigeon Forge. Erin, my son who is studying in England, wanted a coffee cup that distinguished him as a southerner instead what the Europeans so blatantly label us – Yanks. I expected to find those silly “The South Will Rise Again” cups with the fat old bald Confederate waving a Confederate flag. Thankfully, that little iconic representation of the south seems to have lost its popularity, since I found none like that. There was a lot of “Rebel” crap – mostly with the defiant look and color of hate – to be found. That was disappointing. There is so much about southern culture that is good and friendly but our hateful past just will not let go. I did find a cheap cup that said “Proud to be a Rebel” with a Confederate flag. I got it knowing I’d have to supplement it with some good hiking clothes for his birthday.
We looked for pottery too that afternoon. Em wanted a sun burst for her porch. We didn’t find anything to her liking but as always, we supplemented the day with good food. In fact we ate like royalty that whole week. Not much of it traditional southern cooking either. There are lots of options throughout that area for good food of just about any cuisine you want. Probably the worst food we had was at the ski resort. Nothing special about it at all and rather mediocre. We had a bad meal at a seafood restaurant too. That bad dinning experience was compounded by poor service as well. It was probably a one night issue but it was the night we were there and that is the one we took home with us. Because I feel it was a one time thing, I’m not going to mention the name of the place.
The whole week was a great birthday present from Em (there were packaged gifts as well) and I hope I can do as well for hers this coming May, although it is going to be spent at her time-share. Got to get the creative juices going “fer sure”.