Each summer my family takes a vacation. It usually consists of going somewhere for a few days, either to a bog city or to an amusement park. This summer, my dad decided to do something a little different from what we usually do. We chose to head deep into the Smokey Mountains to stay in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
On our way down there, we stopped in Kentucky at a Holiday Inn Express (me and my brothers are BIG fans of the cinnamon rolls they have J).The next morning, we headed over to the Mammoth Caves for the Historical Tour. My dad thought that by getting there 2 and half-hours early that we maybe could get an earlier tour than the one we had for 1 pm. No luck, apparently the tours fill up very quickly. I was hesitant about going underground, picturing tight quarters and very low ceilings, but was pleasantly surprised. “Fat Man’s Misery” was not a floor to ceiling crevice that I had to shimmy through, but a calf-high trench that was about a foot wide. The highlight of this tour was when the guide turned off all the lights in the whole cave and the whole group was quiet. It was so dark that you could not see your hand in front of your face.
After the tour we headed to Gatlinburg, our main destination. Almost to our hotel, we drove through Pigeon Forge. Lots of lights and many dinner theaters is what I remember from that short drive through. All of the sudden, we plunged into a forest that separated Pigeon Forge from Gatlinburg. Much quainter, Gatlinburg has lots of shops with bluegrass trios on the sidewalks. We stayed at the Hilton Garden, which was very nice.
The main reason we went there was not to see the shops, but to white water raft down the Pigeon River. We chose to ride with the Smokey Mountain Outdoors rafting company, and we got stuck with a tour guide named Kyle. I was actually very happy to be sitting in a raft for a few hours with this Matthew McConaughey look-a-like. The rafting trip was a lot of fun and very wet. My youngest brother almost fell out a few times, but luckily he stayed in. Kyle was a great guide and knew a lot about the nature in the area. He recommended that we go up to Max Patch, a peak up in the Smokies. Trusting his word, we took the 45 minutes drive into North Carolina to Max Patch. The twisty ride was worth it when we ended up in a field high above. We hiked up to the top, and the view was breathtaking. You could see for miles, your view ending in the indigo mountains. It was a great end to a fun day.
With one day left in our travels, we decided to go see one of the many Ripley’s attractions in Gatlinburg. We ended up heading to the aquarium. The best for of this activity was the underwater tunnel with moving sidewalk. All you had to do was stand while you moved through this tunnel, which lots of different types of sharks and fish swimming over top of you. This brought an end to our Smokey Mountain adventure. I was glad that we tried a different kind of vacation this time around because our travels lead us to some very unique places.
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