"Free at last, they took your life. They could not take your pride."
-U2

Our Tennessee Adventure

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It’s 631 miles from our doorstep to Heavenly Host, the adorable cabin that we rented during our Gatlinburg, TN visit.  Several of our friends have vacationed in Gatlinburg over the past couple of years & nearly all of them recommended that we add it to our list of places to visit.  When we discovered that I had a week-long break from school and work, we researched several vacation spots and this was the most affordable option by a fairly large margin. Gatlinburg is called the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains, which are home to at least a dozen cascading waterfalls, numerous hiking trails, and lots of wildlife.

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After a grueling drive, we arrived at Heavenly Host around 4:00AM Sunday (we got off to a really late start because I was finishing up a paper for my research class).  We slept in Sunday morning, went grocery shopping, and set out a short hike to Grotto Falls.

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It was dusk when we made our way back to the car, so we made dinner in the cabin, relaxed in the hot tub, and watched The Social Network before calling it a night.

The drive to Grotto Falls took us through the town of Gatlinburg, which reminded me very much of a beach town (many tourist-y shops piled on top of one another).  We (especially Anthony) are not really into shopping on vacation, so we didn’t spend any time exploring the town.

On Monday, we drove to Cades Cove, which is a one-way 10.5 mile driving / biking loop nestled in the Smoky Mountains.  We wanted to bike the loop, of course, & the owner of the cabin that we rented advised that bike rentals were available at the park office.  We were surprised to learn that rentals were only available until 2:30PM and had to be returned promptly by 5:00PM or a late fee of $5 per minute was applied.  In addition, the bikes were not in great repair, so we will definitely bring our own gear if we ever decide to visit Gatlinburg again.  Having said this, the ride itself was pretty amazing. The mountains surrounding the cove were breathtaking & we were delighted to see a bear and her four cubs foraging just off the path. 

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So cute.

On Tuesday, we ventured about 100 miles southwest of Gatlinburg to Reliance, TN, to kayak on the scenic Hiwassee River. We both agreed that this was, perhaps, one of the coolest experiences that we’ve ever had.  Although we’ve both been kayaking on multiple occasions, this was first time we’d ever tackled class II rapids.  It was incredibly fun & the crystal clear water and beautiful mountains that flank the river made it even more amazing. 

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We rented sit-on-top kayaks from Hiwassee Outfitters, who shuttled us (along with 20+ other rafters and ’yakers) up the river 5.5 miles to the start point.  We met a really nice local family & their two whitewater rafting dogs on the shuttle.  As we progressed down the river, we passed another K9 kayaking with his owner:

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This particular dog was really funny: excitedly leaning over the front of the boat through sections of rapids, and then whimpering and trying to crawl on his owner’s lap when the water became still.  Of course this made me think about how I really want a dog some day!

After a long day of kayaking and driving, we opted not to make dinner in the cabin.  As we passed through Gatlinburg earlier in the week, we admired the Park Grill, so we decided to check it out.  The restaurant was beautifully decorated & both the service and food were good, but we both thought it was considerably over-priced. 

Prior to leaving for our trip, Anthony found out that there was a free kayak rolling clinic on Wednesday evening at Rapid Expeditions, so we planned our day around getting there by 7:00PM.  We chose to hike to Mouse Creek Falls based on its proximity to the outfitter and left ourselves a three hour window to do a four mile hike. About a mile into the hike, we took a side path down to the creek, which spilled into many amazingly clear, deep pools surrounded by huge boulders.

We decided to hike along the creek bed rather than returning to the trail & enjoyed jumping from rock to rock and swimming in the crystal clear water.  We had the whole creek to ourselves and it was really amazing.  After a few hours of this, I’d fallen into the creek a couple of times (no big surprise there) and my shoes were completely saturated with water, so I had no traction.  We were talking about retracing our steps back to where we got off the trail, when Anthony decided to take a quick hike up the bank and found the trail was right there! At this point, we were too late for the kayaking clinic, so we continued on to the Midnight Hole:

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Anthony enjoyed jumping off of the surrounding boulders & I waded out into the water to take some photos and videos.  From here, we continued another 0.4 miles to Mouse Creek Falls, where we relaxed for a few minutes before high-tailing it back to the car, because it was getting dark.

We were really blessed, because Thursday was the only day that it rained (and we were both pretty worn out from all of our other adventures). We leisurely ate breakfast in the cabin, relaxed, and watched Unknown. Although he isn’t really into shopping, Anthony took me to a couple of stores in the craft loop & we visited The Applebarn, where we checked out a couple of shops and enjoyed some ice cream (I had apple cinnamon & it was delicious).

On the way home, we passed The Mellow Mushroom & Anthony noticed they had a sign for gluten free pizza.  I’ve really missed pizza since giving up gluten a few months ago (due to chronic illness), so we decided that we’d have to check it out later in the evening.  To kill some time, we stopped at a lovely little spot along the creek & soaked up the scenery, lazily dangling our feet in the water as the sun set.  It was so romantic just being there together -- a perfect last evening on an amazing trip. We returned to the Mellow Mushroom, where we ordered a gluten free Funky Q Chicken Pizza. I can summarize the experience in one word: yum. : )

In addition to everything I mentioned above, we slept in every morning & soaked in the hot tub every evening.  We ate two meals a day & all but two were prepared at the cabin. Anthony planned really well & prepared some taco meat the day before we left, which we used for several quick, delicious meals. We also took some ribs that I froze the week before, which were surprisingly good when reheated in the broiler with some fresh BBQ sauce (side note: Wegmans recently came out with a new line of gluten free BBQ sauces!)
All in all, it was an amazing break from the hustle and bustle of life &  a great chance to reconnect. 

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Thank you Lord for a safe, fun trip. : )

If you’re interested, you can check out the rest of my photos:
Hiking in the Smokies
Kayaking the Hiwassee
Cades Cove
Heavenly Host
Miscellaneous Tennessee Photos

Posted by Kim on at 01:04am

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