Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Cades Cove - Smoky Mountain Vacation

It was a little trek from where our cabin was in Gatlinberg to Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountains, but we really wanted to see this beautiful area of the mountains. It took us 45 minutes to reach the Cove, and we were there for about two hours.

Early pioneers cleared the valley floor and built many farms. It was also a well known Cherokee Indian hunting ground. It's the largest, open-air museum in the Smoky Mountians, and has origional pioneer homesteads, barns, businesses and farmland.

This deer was actually the only animal we saw, besides the wild turkeys running in front of our house.

Along the side of the road, visitors to the area can see many original churches from the 1800's.

The open fields made it an awesome place for pictures - now if only I had a better camera!

We peeked inside a blacksmith's house...

....several barns and a house.. well as peeking inside a still-working windmill.

But the most fun we had was walking along the stream to the dam where Steve and the kids waded in the creek and threw stones. The mill area was pretty crowded with tourists, but no one walked all the way down the stream, so we had a very peaceful 45 minutes to ourselves.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Swimming at the Club House - Smoky Mountain Vacation

When renting a home on vacation, you might think you have to give up on a swimming pool. In many cases, the owners belong to a clubhouse as a way to provide their renters with swimming options. Just a short drive down the mountain brought us to a playground, pool and tennis courts.

We arrived in the early evening, and the water was COLD. I am a big, big baby about cold water, so I sat on the side, watched and took pictures.

At first Alexa and Steve went into the pool, and Jared and I played on the playground equipment. I love these two shots I took of Jared in the balls.

We all took turns on the teeter-tater before it began to rain, and we ran to the car and home to watch Enchanted.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ober Gaitlinburg Part 2

A few days before our trip was over, we went back to Ober Gatlinburg again to spend the day. It's very reasonably priced for an amusement park attraction. It cost us only $60 to get an all day, all access pass for me and Steve. The kids were free, otherwise it would have cost another $40.

The first thing we did was head straight for the Alpine Slide ride. It was at the very top of our list after researching what there was to do at the park, and after watching a video of the ride on YouTube.

I was SOOO nervous getting on that chairlift. I haven't been on one since I was 12 years old on a ski trip. It just kills me when they stop the lift and you're just swaying there. I tried to be brave for the kids since I don't want them to have my fear, too.

The Alpine Slide weaves down a 1800' track that glides down the mountain and woods. You ride in a bobsled-type thing and control your own speed, which, of course, was perfect for me and Alexa. We raced Steve and Jared on one of our many rides. They won, of course.

For the little ones, there's a nice place with playground equipment, and a train and car ride. It was so hot that we didn't stay there as long as we would have had it been cooler.

After taking a lunch break, we went ice skating at their indoor rink for a little while. The kids seemed excited about skating, but after just a few times around the rink, they were ready to quit. The only picture I have that turned out clear and not blurry is of me.

We went back outside for another few trips down the Alpine Slide, went through a maze...

...played a quick game of mini-golf (which turned into a game of mini-bowling after awhile)...

..and ended with Steve taking the kids down a water slide. Jared LOVED it! Alexa was ok with it, but said she didn't want to go again. I was just happy to get the funnel cake I had been drooling over and cotton candy. I don't think we would have gone to Ober Gaitlinburg if we didn't have little kids, but it was a great place for families with small kids.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Ober Gaitlinburg Part 1

The day after we arrived in Gaitlinburg, we decided a big breakfast was in order, so after filling up on pancakes, hash browns, and strawberry waffles, we drove over to the bottom of the mountain to catch an aerial tram ride to the top of an  mountain amusement park/ski resort called Ober Gaitlinburg.

It was our first glimpse high up over the Smoky Mountains. I'm pretty nervous with heights, so I think Steve and the kids enjoyed the ride more than I did, but I did manage to take a few pictures while we were up there. Kids under six ride free, so for $20 it was a nice intro to the area.

We were just going to look around for a few minutes, to see what we'd want to do when we came back in the car another day, but the lure of amusement park games called the kids, and we gave in to a quick $5 worth of games.

Jared was pretty upset that he didn't have enough tickets to buy the knight costume, and he still didn't like it even when we tried to explain that we'd probably have to shell out another $30 and three or four more hours to get it. Ah, well. It's hard even for an adult to accept, let alone a 4 year old.

We picked up some fudge and took the tram back down. On to grocery shopping and swimming at the club house in the early evening.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Smoky Mountain Vacation

It's been almost a month since I've last written a post, and I almost felt like giving up on this blog. It really is very important to me to record what we do, how we're living and learning, and how my kids have grown, changed, and continue to change.

It can be difficult to keep up with the writing when your  life is so very busy, but I've decided it would hurt more now to drop the project than the frustration it feel now to get caught up. I really want a detailed record of our lives starting from when the kids were two until they turn twenty-one.

So, here goes.

We had a wonderful traveling adventure to the Smoky Mountains in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. We left on Saturday, July 17th and came home on July 25th. It was a long car ride, about twelve hours, but I was really proud of the kids. There were a couple of short squabbles in the backseat, but for a huge majority of the time, the kids played well together. I brought several books on tape, and we read many books together. They drew, sang, looked out the window, and took a 45 minute nap. I brought a bag with a few toys, and I'm so glad I did because it kept them happy for a long time.

We stopped for lunch at a fast food place in Pigeon Forge. The map said ten more miles to our house, but the traffic was outrageous, and it took us an hour and a half to get there. I suppose the fact that we were a little lost didn't help, either.

The house we rented was absolutely perfect. It was in the mountains, and fairly secluded on one side. The neighbors on one side, a little further up the mountain, decided to have a party the night we arrived, so it sounded like a concert was going on, but besides that night it was very peaceful. There was one huge master bedroom where we all slept, with an en-suite bathroom. Outside the bedroom was a huge Jacuzzi tub. Downstairs we had a living room, kitchen, pool table room (which the kids LOVED playing on), another bathroom and laundry room. Each level also had a porch, and on the lower porch there was a hot tub, which the kids adored.

I'm going to post about seven more entries about all the fun with had with hiking, wading, swimming, sliding, skating, and other great things, but for now I have to say, one of the greatest things about this trip was just the simple things we did together at the house.

I'm a huge believer in renting homes when traveling instead of staying in hotels, if you will be gone for a week or more. This place was only $725 for the week, and it was much, much more room than staying at a hotel, quieter and more private, and an awesome way to build very special memories.

Just things like cooking breakfast for yourself (I should say Steve cooking the breakfast!), ordering food back to eat at night while watching a movie together, playing games and even just curling up together on the couch to read, seems more special in different surroundings. (I suppose for me part of the special feeling was not worrying about picking up any clutter or cleaning!)

I highly, highly, recommend renting a home the next time you travel. I have used Vacation Rentals By Owner (VRBO) several times now, and we will be using them again as I plan for our travels to Greece next year.

It was so peaceful to sit on the porch, high above the ground, on the side of the mountains. The picture at the beginning of the post was taken from the back porch. One evening we watched a flock of wild turkeys run through the trees.

Yes, it does take a little time to go grocery shopping. And it does take some time to cook. But we had a gas grill on the porch, and we did bring back food from an Italian restaurant one evening, and we had a dishwasher (something we don't have at home), so it wasn't bad at all.

The kids still talk about wanting to go back to their "Smoky Mountain home." It really feels, just like it did in the Cayman Islands, that the place has become a part of us now.