Wednesday, May 27, 2009

First Day in the Smokies


{If you click on the pictures, a larger version will open.}

We arrived here in the beautiful Smoky Mountains on Monday afternoon. We were pretty tired from the trip but still went out into Pigeon Forge to get some food. The last time I was at Pigeon Forge was about 12 or 13 years ago when Terryl and I came with a church group from Alabama. It has grown quite a bit since then and become more "touristy." Terryl thought so too. It has all the usual stuff...t-shirt shops, putt-putt golf, arcades...looks a lot like Destin, FL. Still, the environment is beautiful. We have a cabin on the side of a mountain just outside of Pigeon Forge. It is pretty isolated...which is what I wanted. Each night the whiporwills are outside. I'm used to hearing them from a distance. These are close up. Those birds can call really loud!!

Tuesday was our first full day in the Smokies. We went into Gatlinburg, which is about seven miles from Pigeon Forge. [Photo at top] Gatlinburg has been a tourist town for many years. I remember going there when I was a little boy. It is situated in a beautiful area between the mountains. The highlight of the day from the boys' standpoint was eating at Pancake Pantry. They had been looking forward to it. The pancakes were truly wonderful there, probably the best I've ever eaten.

We took the tram (a cable car) up to Ober Gatlinburg. We were concerned that the boys would be scared but they enjoyed it. The view on the way up the mountain was breathtaking. You could see over the mountains all the way to the valley where Pigeon Forge is located. Terryl, of course, was there with her camera.

View from the Tram

The "high point" (literally) of our trip took place later when we drove
up to Clingman's Dome. It is the highest point in Tennessee and one of the highest mountains in the Eastern United States. It's peak is 6643 ft. above sea level. We took winding roads up the mountain and were the only car in sight for much of the trip. The mountain was shrouded with clouds so the last seven miles or so was driven in a fairly dense fog. It was a little on the creepy side. The temperature cooled dramatically as we neared the top. It was in the low 80s in Gatlinburg but in the high 50s up on the mountain. We had the windows rolled down and really enjoyed it.

You could not drive to the summit of the mountain. It was a half-mile hike up a trail that had a continuous upgrade of 20 to 30 percent. It was a steep climb. Add to that the high altitude and we got out of breath easily. I had been running 2 miles a day at Clifton but it was still very difficult. Jonathan, of course, just be-bopped up the mountain like he was walking on level ground.

Tony and Jonathan going up the mountain

Terryl and Matthew resting on the journey on one of the many rest benches

Going up to Clingman's Dome was a special treat for me because I remembered doing it as a little boy. We made a couple of trips as a family to the Smoky Mountains in the late 1960s. Living in North Alabama, the drive was not too bad to the Smokies. When Jonathan asked me why we were going to this place, I told him that I had done it as a little boy and that one day he would take his little boy up there too.

Observation Tower on Clingman's Dome in the Clouds

The Family on the Summit

Believe it or not, I actually had cell phone service on the top of the mountain. I walked up to the top of the observation tower and got a voice mail notice on my cell phone. The walk down the mountain was easier on the breath but harder on the legs. I walked with a family from Waynesboro, MS, on the way down. They were really nice folks.

On the drive down the mountain, Terryl took lots of pictures of the natural beauty. There was a stream running down the mountain by the road that went to the top. It was beautiful.

We were exhausted last night after the walk. I fell asleep on the couch. The boys got up early this morning, as usual. They were ready to go. We'll see what today holds.

Thank you all for all your support and prayers. We miss you all but are truly enjoying the Smoky Mountains.


1 comment:

lslindsey said...

Very nice. Enjoy the beauty and serenity of the mountains while there because it is full-blown summer down here now. Miss you guys, I had to walk alone this morning. Have a safe trip!