Sunday, November 9, 2008


We were not able to get down to the beach this summer after a hurricane ruined our plans.  With football season in full swing, it is hard to consider any vacation beyond our days spent in Auburn or other SEC cities.  We figured we could still do some sort of trip if we could fit it between our commitment to Auburn games (despite our tough season, we still continue to support the boys in orange & blue).  We looked at the possibility of Wyoming or Montana, but apparently most of the ranches are shutting down this time of year.  Through the magic of the internet, Emily found a chalet in Gatlinburg that had an opening between homecoming and the UGA game.  Despite my frugal feelings in this unsure economy, Emily decided we needed to help stimulate Tennessee's economy so she booked it.  While Emily had been there before, it was my first time, and it went something like this:

DAY ONE (Sunday)
We did not get away from Birmingham when we wanted to.  We procrastinated our packing and pretty much did it all Sunday morning.  We left Bham around 10:30 and got to Gatlinburg about 4.  We decided it was best to head straight to the chalet first to unload the truck before we ventured out and about.  As we headed up the mountain, we knew it was going to be a week filled with some cool sights as the leaves were on the trees for the most part and were amazing.  We unpacked the truck and read thru all of our nice recommendations from folks and the fliers we picked up to find somewhere to eat.  We decided on the Smokey Mountain Brewery.  It was a great choice and we enjoyed sampling their different beers.  We both enjoyed the Pumpkin Spice the best.  Emily had a Chicken Rueben and I had an Italian Sausage sandwich and we both had the pretzels with some great honey mustard.

DAY TWO (Monday)
We decided that we wanted this trip to be more about experiencing the beauty of the smokey mountains instead of partaking of every touristy offering in Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge.  We did some research and thought it would be cool to hike to Rainbow Falls on Mt. LeConte.  Unfortunately we did not realize that most of the trails in the Smokeys prohibit dogs (to prevent altercations with wildlife it says-- Do they realize Maggie is scared of our kitchen chairs??) so we were unable to take Maggie with us.  The trail was classified as moderate, and as we started off, we thought nothing of it.  Little did we realize it wouldn't be the distance that was difficult, but combined with the change in elevation, it provided us quite the workout!  It was certainly worth it though cause we saw some pretty cool things and it was neat to hear nothing but the wind in the trees and the occasional hiker that we ran into.  While we know the falls would have been more spectacular had they had more rain recently, it was still cool to see them towering over us.

After some lunch, we drove to Cades Cove.  We had originally planned to bike around the Cove, but due to the hike, decided to drive the 11 mile loop instead.  In hindsight, we should have gone earlier to have more time there, but the light at that time of the afternoon provided some amazing views.  There were lots of wildlife and we saw some cool old buildings from past settlers of the cove.  

For dinner, we ate at Bennett's BBQ, which was really good.  Their sauce was some of the best we've had.  After dinner we walked around downtown Gatlinburg to the various candy shops and other gift places.  We found a cool Christian woodworking place where Emily could have spent a small fortune.

We had talked about how we thought it would be cool to ride horses through the mountains.  We did some research the night before looking at different stables in the area and what they offered.  Nothing really stuck out to us since most of the rides were mountain views, meaning "you'll ride along and be able to see the mountain, but you won't actually be on the mountain."  Luckily we remembered passing a stable along the way to Cades Cove the day before that was smack dab in the middle of the mountains.  Sure enough we called them about 8:15am and they had rides starting out at 9am.  We threw on the clothes and headed over, only to find they accepted CASH ONLY (minor detail that a quick trip back to the local yocale ATM in Gatlinburg cured).  Unbelievably, it was only Emily and I and the guide that were going out.  They had a huge stable with 50 or so horses, and yet we were the only ones there that morning.  Let me say, it is an awesome experience to climb a mountain on the back of a horse, scary at times, but very cool all the same, particularly when it is just a you and your wife and the guide.  We had some up close views of a few does, which we we amazed that both the does and the horses didn't seem to mind each others presence.

We drove to Clingman's Dome, the highest point in Tennessee.  It even snowed a little on us.  We also got to see the Appalachian Trail and some hikers who had left Maine in June and were going to turn around and head back when they got to Georgia!  That is a lot of walking!

trees are dead from acid rain and some asian insect

We had been told to go to the Peddler Steakhouse.  We looked online and it seemed pretty pricey and got some so so reviews.  We were not sure that we wanted to pay top dollar for something that may or may not be worth it.  We had seen a neat looking restaurant near the Brewery Sunday night called "Cherokee Grill" and decided to head that way.  This was far and away the best place we ate.  They also happened to serve beers from the brewery nearby (except the pumpkin kind, which we had wanted, but there were other good ones that we were happy with too).  The steak was phenomenal, better than any we had tried before.  The seasoning was great and they placed a spoonful of worschetshire butter on top that was heavenly.  Even though we were absolutely stuffed, we had seen the apple cobbler and wanted to splurge.  It was some of the best cobbler we've had no doubt.  Needless to say there were no leftovers and we got away for under $75!  We highly recommend the Cherokee Grill to anyone.

We spent this day as a redneck tour of Gatlinburg.  Despite my protests, we PAID to walk through the world's only salt & pepper museum (as featured on Food Network).  Emily was thrilled.

We also made a stop by Cooters for some Dukes of Hazzard nostaglia.  We even saw Elvis touring it while we were in there.

We figured what better way to complete our day than to check out some western wear.

(Notice the no photography sign...HA HA)

For dinner we ventured into Pigeon Forge.  We thought it was too expensive to do the dinner shows, so we went to the Old Mill.  It was decent, but not our favorite.  After dinner we went to a huge Cowboy type store called Stage's West.  Emily convinced me she needed some authentic cowboy boots, so there went the savings from not going to Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede show!  I cant give her too much grief as I found a pair of Ariat boots on sale for under $100.

The best part of the day was that night when we got back from dinner.  As we were walking across the deck, Emily noticed some dark figures at the cabin below us.  BEARS!  We got the camera and our spotlight, but couldn't get a good picture from that far away.  I started calling them like dogs (much to Emily's nervousness) and sure enough they started up the mountain.  I figure they must make the rounds because some folks feed them.  We got a couple good photos as they ventured up close, but unfortunately we did not get the shots of them play fighting on their hind legs to show up.

moments before he reared up to look over the deck and made Emily scramble inside

FINAL DAY (Thursday)
It was raining as we packed the truck and drove home.  Kind of made us feel better about leaving since it was a yucky day anyway.  We had a great time though!

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