Sunday, April 19, 2009

Tennessee Vacation

Oh my goodness! I didn't know I was so addicted to my new laptop! We were out of town for a week in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The resort we were staying at didn't offer free wi-fi, so I had Kevin drive around Pigeon Forge until we found a parking lot where I could log on and check my email! It was ridiculous but for some reason I had the need to tie into the worldwide web. Once I got my internet fix, we got back to our vacation.

Tennessee this time of year was so beautiful! We stayed at Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort. It's perfectly situated between Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Right at the edge of the Smoky Mountains. We went to the Ripley's Aquarium, the Dinosaur Museum, the Exotic Deer Park and Petting Zoo in Sevierville, Cade's Cove, the Roaring Forks Motor Nature Trail, several waterfalls along Little River Road on our way to Cade's Cove. There was a variety of wildflowers in bloom. Trillium in shades of white, cream and pink, wild Geranium, sweet violets in yellow, blue and white, foam flower, and one variety of flower I can't recall the name but took a picture of it. I'll have to ask Mark. He pretty much knows every kind of flower there is. Mom and I thought it was lungwort but I don't think that is what it is. Anyway, we also walked up Clingman's Dome. It happens to be the highest peak in Tennessee Smoky Mountains. It's the 3rd highest peak east of the Mississippi River. The view at the top of the observation tower was breaktaking. The day couldn't have been more beautiful. In fact, as we were descending, the clouds began to roll in and covered most of the scenic overlook. So I'm glad we went up when we did.

Cade's Cove was also spectacular. Like a hidden gem in the mountains. We drove through the mountains and around a bend when the mountains parted and an almost park-like meadow opened up. There were white-tailed deer literally 20 feet away. Because it is a National Park, hunting is prohibited and the animals feel very safe there. The pamphlet said it was common for black bears to around but we didn't see one. I had a feeling it was still a bit cool for them yet, and they might still be in hibernation. The community farmed the land in the 1850s-1890s. Some of their homes are still standing today and we were able to walk inside them. That was very surreal. I always take a minute and visualize what they might have looked like and what kinds of chores they might have been doing that time of year. I wondered where they might have their table and chairs in the house, and if the children slept up in the lofts or if they had a big bed they all slept in downstairs. Someone lived there at one time and it makes me a little sad that they aren't there anymore. I wondered what happened to their descendents. Kevin reminded me during this time, the Civil War began in 1860s and many of the men would have left to serve the cause. And sometimes an entire town or village would be grouped together in the same troop. So if that troop happened to come under great fire and many lost their lives, then there wouldn't have been many to return to the farm life. Very sad indeed. But I am glad someone had the initiative to mark this land as a reminder of the past and include it in the National Park.

We also had a chance to see how the other half lived during this time period. The Biltmore Estate is having their Festival of Flowers until May. This is a breathtaking home. We told Haylei it was a castle. It really looks like something out of a storybook. The tulips are beautiful! An array of yellows and purples and reds. And the baby animals are at the River Bend Farm. We didn't get to see the baby lambs, but mom and dad went today and she showed us pictures and they are absolutely precious! However, we did get to see baby chicks and baby goats. It was a rushed day compared to our week of relaxation but we wanted to visit the estate with mom and dad and Saturday was the only day we both could be there together. It was so crowded! One of the attendants told us they expected between 5000-6000 people! It took us an hour and fifteen minutes to get through the front gate, get our tickets, get parked and walk to the house for the tour. They have restored four new rooms and were able to recreate the wallcovering in one of the rooms to match the original. Very beautiful! If you've never been, make sure you go during the Festival of Flowers. It is worth it. But make sure you make it a long weekend so you can take your time and enjoy all the estate has to offer.

Now back to reality...


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