Check-in was easy as always and we proceeded to the cabin and unpacked. After we unpacked we went to Bennett's for lunch and then a quick trek through Elkmont to enjoy peace and nature. Now to the grocery store for all the snacks and staples. Back to the cabin to put up groceries and to relax. After it was dark we went out to see the Christmas lights. This evening we hung at the cabin and played pool and soaked in the hot tub under the moon and the stars. We had a family of racoons at our bedroom door looking in:)
Thursday morning up early. Light breakfast at the cabin and then off to the park. First stop, Metcalf Bottoms area and hike to the Schoolhouse and then the Walker Sister's Cabin. Great walk as always, never get tired of seeing it no matter how many times we do it. Saw a good size bear on this walk in the distance, he noticed us but quickly went back to eating. Next stop, Elkmont again to explore the remains of the old Wonderland Hotel. Loved this walk! Thanks Cherokeegurl and Bob for the great tips. I have been to Elkmont many times but I have never took the time to find the hotel. After Elkmont we hiked a few "quiet walk-ways" and they were very enjoyable. Our oldest son suffers from seizures so we are not able to do long hikes. He would love to keep going and keep going to explore and discover but we can't get very far out. Lunch at the Applebarn at our boys request. To me, The Applebarn is good but not great. I'm a southern girl who knows how to cook up some soul food so I am a bit of a harsh judge. Back to the cabin to wait for some more family to arrive (my sister, her husband and 2 of her children. Oldest son and girlfriend to arrive on Friday) in the evening. Built a roaring fire and enjoyed the popping and cracking and played cards until they arrived. Once they arrived and everyone was settled we took eveyone to The Smokey Mtn. Brewery in Gatlinburg for dinner. Dinner was great as always and we enjoyed the musician- Jordan Beach who was extremely talented. Don't know why but it's a tradition for everyone to sit in the BIG chair and get pictures outside the Brewery. We also like to go back to the bridge over the creek that has Christmas lights and get family pictures as well. Drove around looking at the Christmas lights and then back to the cabin. On the drive back, a bear was standing on the side of the road on the spur. Gosh, we could have hit him. Stayed up playing a great game of pool, charades and cards.
Friday morning up early. Breakfast at the Mountain Lodge which was wonderful. After breakfast we headed to the Roaring Fork Motor Trail. The newly paved trail was really nice and the weather was just beautiful. My sister had never done the Roaring Fork so it was nice to show her around. Next, Alewine's Pottery for a new purchase and to listen to Jerry and Joan sing, enjoy the fire, the rocking chairs and popcorn. Jerry and Joan were great as always and I love to look at the pottery and was happy that Robert was there throwing clay! What a great visit. Jerry and Joan also had our oldest son join the band as a third member on one song. They were nice enough to give our oldest their newest cd and wrote the nicest comments and autographed it just for him. His favorite song is "I'll fly away" and he sings every word with them. He is 15 and autistic, he loves the Lord like nothing else. Jerry and Joan's music has a true mountain feel and when they sing about Jesus it really speaks to Ben. Thanks for a great visit at Alewine's:) Dinner at the Old Mill which was great and never disappoints. I love the corn chowder! After browsing through the stores and making a few purchases we went back to the cabin to wait on our Nephew and girlfriend to arrive. Stayed up late playing pool and games.
Saturday, up early to sip coffee with family on the porch and then all the kids wanted to walk the strip in Gatlinburg. After the strip and all the downtown activities we went for a few short hikes in the park and spotted another bear. This one was just huge! Again, he continued to eat and we backed away even though our boys wanted to stay and watch him. As a mother, I just want to get the kids back to the car ASAP. I absolutely LOVE animals and if he were tranquilized, I would be the first one in line to spoon with him but it is just unnerving to walk up on one of these guys. Back to the cabin for family pictures. You all know the kids just loved this activity! Taking pictures is the hardest thing in the world to do with 11 year olds and teenagers! The pictures turned out great even though we had to wrestle them more than a few times... Dinner to celebrate our Nephews 18th Birthday at Calhoun's. Walked around at all the stores in Walden's Landing. This is where things get odd... Went to The 3 Bears store in Pigeon Forge to shop around. The kids wanted to look around for souviners and such. As I have mentioned, both of our sons are autistic. Our oldest son who also suffers from seizures is severly autistic and always has a camera around his neck. His greatest loves in life are JESUS, photography, music and travel. He photographs everything and then downloads the pictures or video and relives the experience over and over. He first took some pictures of the store outstide because it is decorated for Christmas. When we walked inside, we could see Santa on the upper level of the store and he waves to us and says hi. Ben immediatley tried to snap a picture of him and he yells for him to stop and not to take his picture. He covers his face and with a sharp voice he yells at Ben that he can't take his picture! Ben is crushed because even though he is 15 he believes in Santa and adores Christmas. I tell him that Santa is playing around and then I tell my husband to stay with Ben and the rest of the family while I set things straight with Santa. I can't really say on this site what I said to Santa but let's just say I might make the naught list this year. Needless to say, Santa appologized to Ben and our family and then brought him up for complementary pictures and hugs. The thing Santa did not understand but now understands with perfect clarity is that if he were nice to families and children and is engaging then parents like me will bring their kids over and pay for a picture on his lap. When you act like a jerk and are worried about a buck rather than a childs magical love of Santa then you might not have a job match as Santa. Santa actually said to me that after he yelled at my son he could tell by my sons reaction that something was "wrong with him" and then he felt bad. I explained to him that my son was actually more perfect than he or I could ever be. He asked if he was born "normal". Santa came close to getting his ___ kicked to say the least. I'm pretty sure his ears are still burning... As I look at this picture of my dear son hugging Santa's neck, it warms my heart. Maybe this little experience will change Santa for the better. Now, off to the Christmas Place for a few purchases and pictures. Games of pool, sitting around the fireplace and spending quality time together.
Up early Sunday for Breakfast at the cabin, packing up and then off to the AppleBarn for pies to bring home to friends and other family. What a blessing to have a great trip with family and to make so many memories for our boys. We said many prayers at our favorite spots in the park and high on the mountains (had to say a few extra after the Santa incident). What a wonderful feeling it is to see the beauty HE put on this earth. Our trips to the GSMNP restores my soul and makes me whole again. Looking forward to our next visit. The plan is to visit in January when they are calling for snow... Hope all of you who have upcoming trips have a wonderful trip as we did. Thanks, Rebecca