How has it been a month already since we came back from our Framily vacation to Sevierville, Tennessee? In between loads of laundry, homework supervising, dinner making, and working, I’ve been reminiscing about the awesome time we had!
Before I tell you about our trip, I have to say thank you to GMC for the amazing Yukon XL Denali they lent us. The road trip was as smooth as could be, thanks in great part to this fantastic car. I was honestly on the verge of tears when I had to return her (no offense to my actual car, which at almost 128K still gets us where we need to go with no trouble at all). The Yukon had room for all eight of us traveling together, as well as all our stuff, and boy was there stuff! We had fun playing “Tetris” whenever we needed to pack or re-pack the car.
The kids had plenty of entertainment while we traveled the 15 hours to our destination. Not only did the Yukon have a BluRay player with two screens, it also had a 110v outlet, which along with several USB ports on board made keeping their electronics fully charged quite easy. I fell in love with the GMC IntelliLink Infotainment and Color Touch Navigation systems, both standard in the Yukon XL Denali. Features include turn-by-turn navigation system, hands free access to your smartphone, with easy access to phone contacts and text messages via steering wheel controls or voice recognition. The sporadic cell service on and around the mountains made using the map features on our phones completely unreliable. We were so thankful for the navigation system during our entire trip, it was our best friend!
The MyMedia function connects media libraries from several devices. Our long drive was a breeze thanks to not only the navigation system, but also the other great safety features: blind zone alerts on both side mirrors, rear vision camera, and safety alert seat technology that makes the driver’s seat vibrate when a potential hazard is identified by the front, rear and/or side sensors.
We had such great adventures during our week in the Great Smoky Mountains! Our first morning there we went “hiking” in our pajamas (i.e. walked around the block, but the kids loved the idea of hiking in pajamas!) before getting dressed and heading out for breakfast. After visiting the supermarket to stock up on food for the week, we spent a little time hiking just outside our cabin (fully dressed this time) then freshened up to visit the Apple Barn Winery in Pigeon Forge. A few of us sampled the delicious wines, and Eric and I purchased a bottle of Applewood White to bring home.
The next day was our first outing to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, specifically a visit to Cades Cove. We hiked along a lovely trail that required crossing several small creeks. The kids had a blast crossing the creeks, balancing on rocks and using some branches they found as walking sticks. We then took an auto tour throughout the rest of Cade Cove, until we arrived at the Abrams Falls trailhead. We wanted to go all the way along the trail to the falls, but by the time we arrived at the trailhead it was late in the afternoon, and with moderate conditions we decided to play it safe and just go halfway up the trail and back. A very wise choice, as our friends were just headed back from the falls as night fell, and we were all anxiously waiting for them in the parking lot under a rainstorm. This trailhead is definitely on our to-do list next time we visit. On a sunny day. In the morning.
The following day we visited Gatlinburg and went ziplining, which was so much fun!!
I’ve always wanted to do that! Bucket list: √
After our ziplining adventure we had lunch and wandered around Gatlinburg, checking out some of the stores. We then headed to another first, a ride on an Alpine coaster. What is that, you ask? It’s a coaster built on a mountain. We visited Goats on the Roof (and yes, there are goats on the roof), which was just a couple of miles from our cabin. This Alpine coaster can go as fast as 27 miles per hour, and the cool thing is you can control your speed with the handbrakes. This was so much fun! We all loved it, and definitely want to do this again next time we visit the mountains. Oh, and we did this one with a Groupon we found online, hooray for saving money!
Our fourth full day was the wettest and ugliest weather-wise, it rained on and off all day. But, we didn’t want to waste it, so part of our group headed to Ober Gatlinburg while the rest stayed behind to relax. There’s is so much to do at Ober Gatlinburg, but unfortunately they closed some attractions because of the weather. We decided to visit the animal exhibit and ride the lift to the top of Mt. Harrison, and those views made this wet, cold adventure well worth it!
Our last adventure of 2015, day five of our trip, took us back to the national park to check a couple of more waterfalls off our list. Cataract Falls was the shortest trail we experienced, just 0.75 miles rountrip. The trailhead starts at the Sugarlands Visitor Center, with an easy and tranquil walk along Fighting Creek before reaching the falls. I think it took us about 30 minutes to leisurely walk the out-and-back trail.
Next was Laurel Falls, which posed a bit more of a challenge. The trail is just 2.3 miles long roundtrip, but even with a paved trail, it is a bit dangerous with steep drop-offs throughout, especially once you start approaching the falls. The heavy fog in the mountains that day didn’t allow us to see very far as we walked the trail, which was both eerie and beautiful.
After admiring Laurel Falls we headed back to Pigeon Forge and visited the Old Mill area, stopping at the Old Forge Distillery for Moonshine tastings and souvenirs (no worries, there were definitely designated drivers in our group!). Then back to the cabin we went to start our New Year’s Eve festivities. Homemade mac ‘n’ cheese and pulled pork were on the menu, and of course we couldn’t forget the champagne and the twelve grapes to welcome the new year!
We decided early on the next day that because it was our last full day in Tennessee we would explore other trails in the Great Smoky Mountains, but once we felt how cold it was, our plans quickly changed!
It was our coldest day there, with a high of 41 the entire day (but it felt a lot colder with the windchill), so we did just one trail, the other side of Fighting Creek Trail at the Sugarlands Visitor Center, and spent the rest of the day exploring in the very comfortable, very warm Yukon! After a quick photo stop at the Carlos C. Campbell Overlook, we drove along Newfound Gap Road for about an hour and enjoyed the majestic natural beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains through our car windows.
Once we got back to the cabin, it was time to pack up and get ready for the road trip home the next day. Sadly, our week in the Great Smoky Mountains had come to an end. But not before Mother Nature gave us a small gift before starting our journey back home.
With temperatures dipping to 25 degrees our last morning there, I was hopeful that if we got up early enough we might have a chance of seeing snow. When my alarm went off at 7am (what is wrong with me, setting this ridiculous alarm on our last day of vacation?!), I looked out the window and saw the faintest layer of white on the trees and on the ground.
I ran upstairs to wake the boys, and Matty was so excited he jumped out of bed! He threw his coat over his pajamas, slipped on his shoes and ran outside with me to see it up close. We inspected the grass just outside the cabin, some branches on the trees, and the handrail on the stairs to our cabin. It wasn’t enough to play with, roll around in, or have snowbal fights with, but it was definitely enough to bring a huge smile to Matty’s face.
Needless to say our journey home was just as comfortable coming as it was going. We had a wonderful time, made memories that will be forever cherished, and we’re already making plans for our next adventure!