Vacation 2013: The Adventure Begins

{Gallery of pics at the end…sorry for my wordiness without a picture break!}

Last winter, when we started planning our summer vacation and decided on the beach, we weren’t sure where we’d go. Gulf Shores? Somewhere in Florida? Or maybe South Carolina?

In the end, we decided on Charleston, SC, primarily because it was a 2-for-1 deal: the ocean AND a city that Matt and I had on our bucket list. And since one possible route to Charleston took us through the Great Smoky Mountain area, we decided to stop on the first night and stay in the Pigeon Forge/Sevierville/Gatlinburg area, and then hike the next day in the national park, stay one more night, and leave early the following morning for the beach.

We arrived in Sevierville on Saturday afternoon around 4pm. Traffic into this area of TN is incredibly congested, so we were inching along the highway, checking the phone’s GPS for the best route to our cabin in the mountains. Of course, this is where our first, and probably best/worst, story of the trip comes in.

I should state that we had directions to the cabin from the owner; however, we didn’t know where the starting point of the directions was in relation to where we were (later, when we used these directions to leave the cabin, we were able to orient ourselves with the area and the directions were very good). So, the GPS seemed the best idea. (If you’re a regular reader around here, this is an appropriate time to have a flashback about Matt’s GPS steering us wrong at Disney last year.)

So we’re following the directions, things are going fine, we’re winding slowly up a mountain that is sparsely populated with homes on decent roads, and suddenly, we’re supposed to turn onto this road that looks really bad as far as the eye can see. An ATV of some sort passes by us on the right, over a path worn by that type of vehicle, bypassing the road that we’re supposed to be driving on. Ahem.


Me: “We can’t go this way.”
Matt: “I think we can make it.”

This goes on for about 5 minutes while he gives it one try for several yards, and then backs out due to how rough it is, all while I’m pleading that we just go back the way we came and find the beginning of the route from the homeowners’ directions. The problem is, we knew that doing that would take a really long time – like maybe an hour or more in traffic – and we could see from the GPS that we were just a couple of miles from the house.

So finally, Matt decided to go for it. And it was horrendous.

It was apparent that the very narrow, tree-lined road used to be paved with asphalt at some point long ago. But it was all broken and torn up, deeply rutted on at least one side and sometimes both, and completely littered with trash…not like a bottle here and there, but whole piles of garbage that people had dumped. It was pray-out-loud-that-we-make-it-out (alive) (or, less dramatically, without damage to the van).

Looking back, it was likely about a half-mile of this nightmare, and then suddenly, out of nowhere, the road was paved again, and in 10 minutes were at our beautiful cabin. I contemplated grabbing my camera while nearly crying the whole time we were on that road, and it just didn’t seem appropriate, so I didn’t get any pictures. Until our last day there, when, as we were leaving, I asked Matt to go back that way just far enough for me to get a picture of it, and he agreed (because by then, we could laugh about it).

Sidenote: we almost decided to go out for dinner BEFORE heading to our cabin. Which would have resulted in an absolute panic attack if we had to travel that route in the dark. So another major “thank you, God” moment.

However, the road from hell was maybe a tie with what happened next in terms of excitement. We unpacked at our cabin, checked everything out, and within 30 minutes were ready to head into town for dinner. The back of the van was open, the kids and Matt were buckled up but the sliding doors of the van were open, and I was outside the van when I sensed some movement behind me.

I honestly don’t know what I said out loud, but in my head, it was “holy crap” and a lot of stuff like that. Because at the neighbor’s house, not that far away, a black bear was rummaging for food. I knew I was supposed to stay calm, so I stayed outside the van, muttered to the crew that “THERE.IS.A.BEAR.RIGHT.THERE”, and moved carefully to the back of the van to close it, closed the sliding door, and got in my door. Matt was like, “WHY WEREN’T YOU MOVING FASTER?” and I was like, “haven’t you read anything about bears? You shouldn’t make sudden movements!” Thankfully there was time to get a few pictures before the bear meandered away, not to be seen again by us over the next 36 hours.

So, yeah.

The rest of our time in TN was, comparatively, pretty tame. The Smoky Mountains were pretty, but just don’t hold a candle to Rocky Mountain National Park. We were able to get in one good hike to Laurel Falls, but it poured rain on our way down the mountain…like literally, we were all soaked, as if we’d jumped in a lake in our clothes. So that was memorable:). I have to admit: the whole area just wasn’t totally my thing. I’m very much glad we went, and that our family made it to another national park, but it’s unlikely that we’ll be back.

We did eat one of our favorite meals of the trip in Pigeon Forge, though, at the Old Mill Pottery House Cafe and Grill…absolutely delicious, and delightful southern hospitality. And, all of their food is served on the beautiful pottery created right next door!

We left Monday morning and headed for our next destination: Charleston! Coming soon to a blog post near you: a million pictures of my kids playing in the ocean. But for now, here are the pictures to go with this first installment of the story.

3 responses to “Vacation 2013: The Adventure Begins

  1. Been looking forward to your trip summaries! “The road paved w/ good intentions”–gosh, you can get a lot of mileage (sorry!) out of that story for years to come! 😉 And the bear and the hiking in the rain–all great story-telling moments!! Great pics!

  2. um, you saw a hungry bear. at your neighbor’s house. !!! eeks, that road! it’s like the road to hana! those are awesome pics. holy beautiful house!!!

  3. Pingback: Vacation 2013: Charleston, SC | Here's the Diehl

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