Every year as far as I can remember we usually spend Christmas with our families, but this past Christmas Ann and I decided that we would spend Christmas in the Great Smoky Mountains. It has been over four years since we’ve had a much-needed vacation. In my line of work everyone needs at least one getaway vacation a year.
So we packed our suitcases, loaded the car and left Henderson at 5 a.m. on a Friday morning and traveled over 800 miles for about 12 hours before stopping in Chattanooga, Tenn. Our hotel was sitting in full view of the mountains with Cracker Barrel right in front of it. With the exception of the long travel time this was a great way to start our vacation.
The next morning we traveled another 200 miles until we reached our destination, Pigeon Forge, Tenn. We toured the town and ate at one of our favorite restaurants until we could check into our room. It was very comfortable with a balcony that overlooked the Little Pigeon River. After we unpacked we headed out after dark to view Christmas lights.
Well so much for what I thought would be a quiet Christmas vacation for the two of us. It seemed as if half of the U.S. population had the same idea of spending Christmas in the Smokies. Bumper to bumper traffic, long lines at restaurants, parking lots full and wall to wall people.
I wasn’t going to allow the unexpected spoil my vacation, so on Christmas Eve morning we got up early and beat everyone to a log cabin restaurant in Gatlinburg. It wasn’t snowing but it sure was cold. After enjoying a great meal we headed up the mountain to a state park where we hiked up a trail for about a mile to see a beautiful waterfall.
After experiencing a few snow flurries and chilled to the bone we went to downtown Gatlinburg so Ann could shop and I could locate the nearest coffee shop for a cup of hot chocolate. It was an incredible day.
On Christmas morning we headed to Ashville, NC to tour Biltmore Mansion and Gardens. When we arrived at the gate there was a line of cars backed up to the highway. My first thought was, why aren’t these people home opening presents with their families, it’s Christmas. For the five hours we were there the lines of people were never ending. You would think that they had never seen a mansion before.
I have to say that it was an amazing experience to visit Biltmore on Christmas, but I’m still amazed that people would pay that kind of money to be herded like cattle from room to room. Oh well, Ann was thrilled so I guess it was worth it.
The day after Christmas we spent time around Pigeon Forge shopping, eating and seeing the sites. The next day I came up with what I thought was an awesome idea. We will go to Cades Cove. This is a 20-mile one-way drive through the mountains and valleys. As we approached the entrance traffic was backed up. My first thought was, there must be an accident ahead. Boy was I wrong, it seemed hundreds of people had the same idea.
Well, it was impossible to turn around so once again being herded like cattle, but this time in a car, we slowly but surely completed the trip. Even with all the people it was well worth it. The sights were breath taking.
Well, all vacations must come to an end, so we ended our vacation after spending a couple of days visiting my brothers who live north of Nashville, Tenn. After another 12-hour drive we arrived home.
Even with the long travel times and crowds of people I will never forget our vacation in the Smokies.