We are just getting back from a wonderful family trip to The Smoky Mountains. I love Tennessee, always have. There is something about the mountains, peaceful days exploring and a little southern hospitality to make you feel at home.
Gran and I loaded up the two littles and made our way to Kentucky for a sleepover with her best friends and cousins, Janneth and Fern. As usual, we met at Cracker Barrel for a early dinner and the customary exchanging of gifts. Not sure where the tradition came from, but it sure is fun! Next it was off to the hotel where the kids and I rented a room...right next door to the slumber party. And good thing....those wild ladies locked themselves out! I found them giggling in the hallway wearing their housecoats.
After breakfast at the same Cracker Barrel (yes, I am being serious) we hugged and kissed the ladies goodbye and made our way to The Smokies. It's just 2-3 hours from Gran's childhood home and made for an easy morning drive. Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg are bustling with action and a carnival like atmosphere, but just a few minutes into the mountains you can find peaceful little treasures like this!
Kate was quick to claim a bed...only too bad for Little Love. Her mama packed a playpen.
J-Man found his bedroom in Fort Jackson....a miniature cabin on the second floor. It had bunk beds, along with an additional twin bed, cable TV and a lantern. Notice the small window at the top? Jack spent a lot of time hunting out that window (thanks for the pop-gun, dad) and teasing the people below! This, my friends, is heaven for a kid!
One of our favorite days was touring Cades Cove. We stumbled on some amazing horses....
And Jack got out to say, Hi!
Granny looked like a kid in a candy shop, exploring old churches and cemeteries. I was equally thrilled just watching her. Jack and Kate loved peeking in and out of windows and doors and climbing the old wood steps.
Not surprising, this old Baptist Church (built in the 1800s) looks surprisingly similar to the Mennonite Church that Gran attends today. Just like Gran...beautifully simple.
And there is something to be said for things that are beautifully simple. They stand the test of time.
Dennis and Nola caught up with us a few days later and we enjoyed great family time with aunts, uncles and cousins. With 13 people in the house, the laughter could be heard through the mountains and valleys. Yes, Cassie and I needed rescuing from a vicious varmint (small field mouse) and we made good use of the home theatre. We checked the aquarium off our list along with the infamous Alpine Coaster. There was antiquing, go-karting and hot tubbing....even time in the sauna. Some of the men made it out for a moonshine tour and the ladies (along with Dennis: escort/kid wrangler) visited the Dixie Stampede...super fun.
It was a great trip and I am looking forward to another visit very soon. Until then, here's to my littlest travel buddies. I am so proud of both of you...your behavior, manners and kindness toward one another.