The arrival of hunting season is upon us. It seems like every August I am scrambling to get my garden harvested, the magazine ready for September, preparing for our catfish trip to Tennessee and of course looking forward to my future North Dakota duck hunt. I always have a long to do list during this time of year and I always tell myself to start preparing earlier so you don’t go crazy for a whole month when you get back from vacation. It never fails that I put myself in crazy mode for August just knowing once September arrives I will be focusing on hunting and nothing else really gets in the way of that.
As you know instead of taking our normal vacation to the great state of Wisconsin we were heading south to Pigeon Forge, TN. My wife has wanted to visit Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge for the last several years and teenage Ella doesn’t seem to enthused about fishing anymore so I figure it’s time to have some vacations focused on her. Leah and I will have plenty of time to catch fish once she graduates high school.
The drive was a little over nine hours, but it seems long distance driving is what I do. As we headed down the backstretch, we arrived in Pigeon Forge and much to my amazement this was like the entertainment capital of Tennessee. I am not sure what I expected but this was not it. There were multiple museums, several dinner shows, arcade places, go-carts and even an amusement park. Yes, I know I should have looked into this before making the trip but I didn’t. I was along for the ride and whatever my wife and kid wanted to do, I was in.
After seeing a little bit of the strip, we headed towards our cabin. This is really the first time I have driven in the mountains on very small, one-lane roads. I did drive through to California earlier this year, so I have experienced mountains just no roads quite like these. As we took turn after turn wriggling our way up the mountain we came to our road. We thought we were home free. We headed up a very steep incline with a few cabins on our left and right. The whole time I was thinking this can’t be where we are staying the picture Leah showed me, we had amazing mountain views. Anyway, we continued up and looked at each cabin and after fifteen minutes of searching multiple lanes we decided we had to call our cabin management company to help us find the location of our cabin.
After a couple of minutes on the phone with them, we realized the one road we didn’t take to the right must be it. As we worked our way back up the mountain we looked to the right and there was our road. A one-lane road had a switchback to get to the top of the mountain. You had to turn so sharp to the right you the left side you were looking up the mountain and the other side looked straight down. A little unnerving to say the least. As we made it up this one lane road, we had one steeper incline to get up to our cabin. I will be honest I was surprised at the steepness of these roads. We crawled up the last remaining hill and there was our beautiful cabin. After seeing the view for the first time, it made is so worth it.
After getting settled in our cabin for the week, Ella was getting hungry and she spotted a 50’s Diner on the way in and she loves her some diners for some reason. As we arrived at the diner, we realized that about everywhere we are going for the next week there is going to be a line. So, we patiently waited our turn and once we were finally seated my anxiety went through the roof. This was the first time in over a year and a half that I had been somewhere this crowded. The amount of people there was crazy. I guess not being in that situation for a while it just got the best of me. I actually was a little worried that we made the wrong decision by coming here with the amount of Covid cases that have been spiking across the nation. Besides that, we finished a great meal and headed out to start planning our week.
We picked up several pamphlets at a gas station, so we were going to go back to the cabin to watch the sunset and put our plan together for the week. There is so many activities to do and if my old event planning self would have planned better, we could have done things a little differently but in the end, I wouldn’t change that week for anything.
As we set our schedule, we decided on the first day we wanted to go to the aquarium in Gatlinburg, and then we would go to Anakeesta. Anakeesta has a gondola that will take you to the top of the mountain. On top of the mountain, they have all kinds of activities to do. You can zip line through the treetops, walk the bridges in the tree canopy, check out the Vista Gardens, Firefly Village, Black Bear Village, Rail Runner Mountain Coaster and so much more. They also have a new tower that once at the top you are highest point in Gatlinburg, TN. It was great day spent with the family. Ella, who I found out is deathly scared of heights, overcame her fear and road the gondola up and back down. I didn’t think she would take it back down but she put her fear aside and did it anyway. She actually seemed to relax a little on the way down.
Monday we thought we would leave the day open and attend a museum or two. One thing we didn’t realize is if you are planning a trip to this area, order tickets a week or two in advance or you are kind of at the mercy of their schedule. We headed to the crime museum, which was way better than I anticipated. We love watching mob shows in our house, so we knew many of the characters and enjoyed reading more in depth information on them. It was fascinating to see some of the actual clothing and guns they used. After an hour and half in the museum Ella noticed a Zombie Attack Haunted House so that was our next adventure. Not an activity I preferred to do but this was her trip and if she wanted to go, I would be there beside her. After we finished the haunted house, we went to a nice seafood place to enjoy dinner and for a nighttime adventure, I took one of the mountain coasters up and around the mountain at dusk. Ella and Leah didn’t like how fast it went so it was just me running around the mountain.
Tuesday was a one of the days I was really looking forward to. We had tickets to the Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Theatre, and I have always loved a good dinner show. We arrived and were quickly seated. I loved that we had our own table and out came a bucket of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn and rolls. Man was it good food. After we ate, we were entertained by the show and I must say it was by far my favorite dinner show of the week. This was Ella’s first dinner theatre, and I could tell she was hooked. She was so excited when we got out of the theatre; we decided to book two more shows during the week. On Wednesday, we would go to the Dolly Stampede Dinner Theatre and on Friday, we would attend the Pirates of the Caribbean Dinner Theatre.
Wednesday we watched the sunrise from our cabin before heading down the mountain for some breakfast and we thought we would do a little shopping before our afternoon dinner theatre. One thing we learned quickly, it is definitely a tourist trap. There must have been 15 different $9.99 stores, outlets everywhere and it seemed each block had a tattoo place and old fashion photo place. Every restaurant you are in will take your picture for $25. It’s a great place for vacation but you better be ready to open the wallet.
After our shopping extravaganza, we headed to the Dolly Stampede Dinner Theatre. The food was okay, but I think I had my hopes up after the Hatfield and McCoy Show. The show had some beautiful horses and there was a lot of interaction with the crowd. After the show, we headed for some ice cream and then back to our cabin to watch the sunset over the mountains.
As Thursday rolled around, I was like a kid in a candy store. There are a few things I have always wanted to do and never had the opportunity. When I had seen they had whitewater rafting I knew I was going to do that no matter what. It was my wife’s birthday and I wanted to do something unique to remember the day. I was worried that Leah and Ella might not like this adventure. I wanted to go all out and do the class 3 and 4 rapids. I wanted to get the full experience the first time. Who knows it maybe one of my only chances to ever do something like this? We arrived at our destination Thursday morning. As our guide called our name, I knew we had the best guide on the river. He was joking and having a good time doing his job and really wanted us to have a great experience.
After orientation, we loaded our bus and headed up the mountain to start our adventure. As we entered the water, I could see the first rapids quickly approaching. I was in the front and there is exactly where I wanted to be. We hit the first rapids and the cold water splashed my face I was in heaven. At that moment, I realized that this was one of the most fun things I have ever done. I looked over my shoulder and I could see Ella smiling from ear to ear. My wife had this goofy looking smile on her face and my worries were over that they would enjoy this adventure. As we continued down the river through class 1,2,3,4 rapids, I didn’t want it to end. After an hour and half, our adventure was over. The first thing Ella said when we were done is “When can we do this again?” That’s when I knew we may have an adrenaline junky on our hands. We have talked about this experience ever since and we are planning to get some friends of ours together to go back down in a couple of years and the number one thing will be multiple white water trips.
Friday arrives and we realize this is our last day in Tennessee. It has been such a great trip and really didn’t want it to end. Our cabin view was breathtaking, but it was getting time to get back to reality and get this September issue rolling. One thing we hadn’t done on this trip was take a hike. Leah’s main goal this week was to see a bear. Unfortunately, we didn’t but it seemed everyone we talked to did. We decided to take a hike to Grotto Falls and it was really worth the trip. It was the first time I had ever seen a waterfall of this size. It was a good hike up about one and a quarter mile up hill. The hike up was a lot more work than the trip down. Luckily, I didn’t fall down and roll down the mountain. After our hike, we walked around a place the call The Island that has all kinds of little shops and entertainment for the kids. As the afternoon came, it was time for our last adventure. We arrived at the Pirates of the Caribbean Dinner Theatre and were once again entertained by a great show. The setting was perfect. They had aerial acrobats into the water; seals had a couple of acts. It was a very entertaining show and if you ever get to Pigeon Forge, TN you need to experience a couple of the Dinner Theatres.
After a long trip home, I arrived to a garden filled with tomatoes so my last day on vacation was spent canning spaghetti sauce for winter.
Until next month. May your sunrises and sunsets be magical!