The Great Smoky Mountains

Ever since I was big enough to remember, I have always loved the mountains. Every summer my daddy would choose a day, wake us up before dawn, load us up in the car, and surprise us with a trip to the mountains. We always went to the same place … Helen, GA. We would explore the town a bit, have lunch, and then drive around. Usually, we would end up at Brasstown Bald and stroll up to the peak. Every trip, he would tell us how you could see seven states from there on a clear day. It was always special, and I grew to love those Smoky mountains. To this day, the very sight of those peaks coming in to view fills me with joy.

Well, last week my son and I got to explore a bit in the smokies. We had some timeshare points left to use, and my son had not been able to take a trip without his sister this year, so we headed up to the condo in Gatlinburg .

The best thing about taking a trip to Gatlinburg is that we get to drive along the pass through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park between Cherokee, NC and Gatlinburg, TN. This pass is beautiful no matter what time of the year you travel it, and this time we were able to travel through it in the winter and experience the pass adorned with ice and snow. But, I get ahead of myself…

As soon as we entered the pass, we saw signs for a historic grist mill. It seemed like a good place to stop, and Jonathan needed to stretch his legs, so stop we did. ┬áIt was quite cold up in the mountains…considerably colder than back home. I donned my jacket, grabbed my camera and headed for the trail. It was just a short walk to the grist mill, and I got several good photos.

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Of course, at some point I made a comment that the aqueduct (I assume that is the correct term) was made out of real life Lincoln Logs. My son responded that he was pretty sure that was the building style Lincoln Logs were created after. Why does that boy have to be so smart and ruin all my fun? Anyway, after our photo adventure, we headed back to the truck and hit the road.

We stopped in several places. I loved how the green lichen on the trees stood out against the stark bareness of the leafless landscape.

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As we reached the higher elevations, we began to see ice and snow.

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The landscape at the top of the ridge was absolutely beautiful.

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Eventually, we made it to the end of the pass and found our way to the grocery store and then Mountain Loft Resorts. The room was lovely and had a great view, and we settled in for the evening to watch television and eat popcorn. I got several photos from the balcony of the room at different times of the day.

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Dusk

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Dawn

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Nighttime

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Snowtime

The next day we dilly-dallied around until around noon when we headed out to see what we could see. We decided to drive the Motor Nature Trail through part of Gatlinburg. As we drove around this, we stumbled upon an old farm that I didn’t remember from my last trip. It looked like a good place to take some pictures, so we stopped.

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The rest of the day we spent in town shopping and eating. We took Peppermint the Sock Monkey with us. (You can check out his adventures on the facebook page Sock Monkey Road Trips or the Google+ Community Sock Monkey Madness!). I tried some moonshine while we were there. It is not my favorite drink. My son does not have a good winter coat, so as the temperature began to drop and the wind began to pick up, we headed back to our condo to watch How to Train Your Dragon 2 (very good movie, by the way).

The next day, it began to snow as we headed out. Jonathan got some experience driving in the snow…and the mountains. He did rather well and didn’t scare me too much. I got a couple of shots out of the window as we went, but he decided it was best to concentrate on getting through the snow rather than stop for pictures. I must admit, I agreed with him 100%.

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We had a great trip. If you get a chance to visit the Smokies in the not so dangerous snow, do so. It is beautiful.

Holiday Reflections: Christmas Memories

Ahh… back to my blog. I can’t believe it’s been a month since I have written anything. The holidays certainly kept me busy. For us, Christmas begins the day after Thanksgiving. On that wonderful day, our home is transformed from ordinary to extraordinary. The lights and trimmings come out and the transformation begins.

This year as we pulled out the outdoor decorations. it was discovered that our wonderful little grazing reindeer had reached the end of their days. Half of their lights refused to shine; therefore, it was necessary to retire them and head out in search of a new lawn ornament. After looking about a bit, we discovered a giant blow-up snowman that was perfect to go with our giant blow-up sock monkey. We placed them in the perfect position to wave at people coming down the street.

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The next adventure was putting up the tree. Well, we got out our old artificial tree, and it too had reached its last Christmas. The branches were thin and the half of its lights were burned out as well. At this point, we decided to get our first live tree, so off to Berry’s Tree Farm we went. We found a perfect Leland Cypress, cut it down, and brought it home.
Every year we each get a new Christmas ornament to put on the tree. We started this tradition many moons ago on our first Christmas together as a married couple. That was 20 years ago, so you can imagine how many ornaments we have considering we added two kids along the way. Every year my husband unpacks these treasures and distributes them to their respective owners. As we hang them on the tree, conversations begin about when we got a particular ornament and why it was so special then. We marvel over how our tastes have changed (or not changed as the case may be) over the years. It is such a special time, full of memories.

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Soon enough the tree was decorated, pictures were taken, and we could sit back and enjoy all of the festive decor. The situation changed all too soon however, as the cats began to eat the tree. Our smallest (and oldest) fur baby, Frodo, began to get very sick. Within a couple of weeks, the live tree had to come down, and the hunt for a new artificial tree began. Little did we know that artificial trees get harder to come by the closer it gets to Christmas. In time, however, we found a nice tree at Target. The fun part of it all was that we got to do tree decorating twice this Christmas.

Then came the family gatherings. This year everyone came to our house, so I had the pleasure of making three Christmas feasts. The first was on the 14th with my husband’s father and step-mother. We had a lovely visit and played an interesting guessing game that my daughter found an app for.

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Our second gathering was on Christmas eve. Every year we have a formal dinner on Christmas eve just for the four of us. This year, however, we invited my mother-in-law over. She had the pleasure of watching us try to get our annual family pictures done before dinner, and she had a few taken herself. After dinner, we read through the book we read every year, and then we opened our stockings. This has been a family tradition for us since the children were very little, and it was such a blessing to have my mother-in-law be a part of it this year.

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And the last gathering was Christmas day with all of my family. We ate lots of food and played with our Christmas presents. However, for this gathering, my thoughts often strayed to the one who wasn’t there to be with us. This was the fourth Christmas without my father… our own special Santa Clause. It still isn’t quite the same without him.

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And after this gathering, we were all quite tired. It was a nice Christmas, and it was nice to be able to avoid all of the traveling we have done for so many years. It was also nice to provide a feast for everyone to enjoy. And that is all for the 2014 Christmas memories, and the time has come to move on to making 2015 memories.