On The Road: The Great Smoky Mountains

Shortly after returning from The Coop, we loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly.

Hills, that is.

Not really.  But, we did get as close to Hillbilly Heaven as possible — the gates of Dollywood.

Here are the highlights:

  • This trip was a test of Island Boy’s road-worthiness.  He passed.  IB turned out to be a pretty good traveling companion on long car trips.  However, he remained mystified during the entire journey as to this series of rotating domiciles that we called “hotel rooms.”  Upon arriving at our destination in Tennessee, he was overjoyed to see his cousins.  But, he could not comprehend why the cabin in which we dwelled was not their actual home.  Oh well, these gaps in understanding will be filled in over time.
  • Riding through West Virginia, I was aware that we would be crossing the New River, one of the greatest white-water destinations in the Western Hemisphere.  However, I had no idea that we would be crossing:


    That’s right.  The Big Kahuna.  I’ve written about this sucker in the past (click here for Building Bridges vs. Burning Bridges).  Now I can say that I’ve been over it.  And that I’ve made my family descend a couple hundred feet to view it from the side.  They didn’t even grumble…much.  We learned that the Washington Monument and two Statues of Liberty stacked one on top of another would comfortably fit below the center of the bridge’s arch.  As for IB, the best part of the experience was petting a dog named Rufus whom we met on the observation platform.

  • The next day, while listening to Wicked as an audio book, we went through some pretty nasty rain.  All I kept thinking about was the high number of extremely devastating tornadoes that have occurred in the South and Midwest this year.  We made it through the storm and arrived at our log cabin on the side of a mountain.  The three story structure was precariously poised on top of a 30 foot concrete foundation.  It leaned off the slope in such a manner as to afford the best possible view of the surrounding Smokies.  But, all I kept thinking was — This thing is toast if a twister hits.
  • The Smokies are gorgeous.  In the morning, they catch the clouds perfectly to create the imagery of smoke:

  • We had some great hikes.  We visited several lovely waterfalls.  On the last day, we hiked drove to the top of Clingman’s Dome, the highest point in the range.  A short distance away, we could see Mount Mitchell, the highest point east of the Mississippi River.  I looked it up and the next highest point east of the Rockies is Harney Peak in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  We will be visiting this range later in the summer.
  • At the top of Clingman’s Dome is a half-mile hike uphill at an extremely sharp grade.  Many people were struggling and had to stop to rest.  At the very peak is an observation tower.  As I was racing my children to the top, we passed an octogenarian couple who had made it to the summit, literally and figuratively.
  • A moment later, a man called down to a woman on the ground.  “Although this is probably not the right time or place,” he began tentatively, “I think I have the right question.  Will you marry me?”  The bride-to-be nodded her assent.  We all burst into applause.  The bride began to make her way up the ramp to the top of the tower.  We then had the unusual experience of congratulating her before she even reached her newly betrothed.

My kids on top of the world.

On the way down.

  • The Gang.

  • As usual, this whole cousin business turned out to be a lot more fun than our kids anticipated.  IB met his Texas cousins (who had driven up to meet us half-way) for the first time.  He had a ball.  Whether shooting pool, sharing a meal, hot-tubbing, climbing mountains or fighting over car seats, all five cousins would agree that they had a blast.
  • The local towns were surprising.  I had pictured Pigeon Forge as a quaint, quiet, Appalachian hamlet.  Instead I found a nightmarish strip of tacky souvenir shops, hotels, fast food joints and over the top tourist attractions (A replica of The Titanic complete with iceberg?  Really?).  It was like a cheesy beach town with no beach.
  • Gatlinburg, on the other hand, was more upscale.  I had envisioned the Wild West (this was certainly due to the fact that Johnny Cash’s Boy Named Sue meets up with and fights his dad in a saloon on a street of mud in Gatlinburg).  It sort of resembled a ski town.  It even had a lift to ferry passengers to the top of the surrounding hills.
  • Our family dinner in Captain John’s Seafood Buffet was just what one would have expected.  However, our repast at A Taste of India was unbelievably good.  Go figure.
  • The highlight of the trip was zip lining.  I led the four older kids on this expedition.  It was amazing.  Subway Dude was a daredevil from the start.  The Fashionista tried valiantly to hang upside down in mid-zip, but could not find her purchase.  The cousins gained confidence and did great.  For yours truly, hanging upside down with knuckles pointed toward Earth as I zipped 250 feet over the treetops was not difficult.  Pulling my self back up so that I didn’t arrive at the tree station inverted was another story.  Let’s just say that I finally saw the wisdom of all of those ab crunches I do at the gym.

    Fearless Subway Dude charges forward.

    The Fashionista's first run.

    Made it back to Earth alive.

    My brave team.

    Island Boy found other means of amusement...a sand pit.

    The final leg of our journeys took us to our Nation’s Capital (post to follow soon).

— The Major


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by lisa on July 3, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    Smokey Mountains are beautiful!


  2. Posted by Eden on July 6, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    We do agree! It was a great trip! Love the recap! And love y’all!


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