Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Smellin' of the Smoky's

Money's a little tight these days, not only because of the depressed economy (although I'd like to lay blame to that), but because I am only 24, and have been living on my own for a year or so now. In any case, when such events come around that require thought, creativity, and some cash, I'm in a little bit of a pinch. This year, however, I've combined my 2 year anniversary with the boy, and Valentine's Day (which so happens to be the boy's birthday). Instead of running around like a chicken with it's head cut off at the local mall looking for the perfect gift, the boy and I decided to save up our monies and rent a small, quaint cabin in the heart of the Smoky Mountains.

After moving to Columbus, Indiana, from a little town in the middle of West Central Pennsylvania which is covered with rolling hills and deep forests, it was both refreshing and welcoming to return to a similar place of my native home. To be among the Great Appalachian Mountains, walking her trails, drinking her water, and reliving her history, it was exhilarating to say none the least. Waking up for two mornings to witness the "smoke" of the mountain range, to here the song of the birds, and to breath freely the fresh air, seemed to give my spirit the lift it had been needing. I was able to put all anxieties and stresses away for a brief moment and enjoy life at it's simplest. I didn't have to worry about finances, or stress over my job, or fuss over what to cook for dinner, I was on a vacation, a reawakening.

The cuisine was delicious. We chose to eat at restaurants that were exclusive to the town of Gatlinburg, the 'Gateway to the Smoky's'. Wild trout, tender steak, seasoned potatoes and decorated pastas, adorned my plate. Both restaurants were set in a 'lodge' type theme, and the service was excellent. And the pancakes? Incredible. Hearty? Yes. Syrup drizzling over my apple wood smoked bacon. Pancakes with melted butter. Coffee, black at first, then with a splash of cream. What a great breakfast I was treated to.

We took a personal tour of Cade's Cove, the first settlement in the Smoky Mountains. It was astonishing to see the progression of the early settlers, at first, building a log cabin totally by hand. Sweat poured out over all 3000 handmade, wooden shingles. Blood was shed as men labored to cut, then notch, each log with a reverse dove tail. Muscles ached and backs broke over the heavy stones heaved from the Mountain. All this effort went into a house with one room equipped with a humble fireplace, and a loft, where the boys of the family slept. At the end of the tour, the houses were made with lumber, due to the lumber mills moving into the area. Bricks replaced rock as the chimney materials, and the houses had multiple rooms and a few outdoor buildings. But again, let's remember the time and labor these early settlers put forth. Absolutely astonishing.

The Smoky Mountains harbor this town, this cove, in her forests. To hike her trails was exhilarating. We started at Newfound Gap, where a section of the Appalachian Trail runs through. To walk on the actual Appalachian Trail was awesome enough, but to see what lies under your feet, and around you, was breath taking. And I did lose my breath (due to the hike). The higher up the mountain we hiked, the colder, and rockier the path became. There were a few points on the hike, that the trail was still snow covered, when down at the cabin, it was in the low 70s. The boy and I hiked the trail not wanting to stop, but realizing that we had a 7 hour drive back home. As soon as the trail started a decent, we turned around. We decided to leave our mark, and show our gratitude towards the mountain for giving us the opportunity and the memories of the Smoky's. At our turn around point, we built our own little inuksuk. An inuksuk is an old Alaskan Inuit term meaning 'to act in the capacity of a human.'

Our trip came to and end when we turned around to return to my jeep. We got in, and drove down the mountain road. It was so lovely to visit the Smoky Mountains, especially in the Spring. The boy and I have already started making plans of returning to the Mountains, at least 3 more times, one for the remaining seasons. We have even started to draw up a tentative itinerary of what we'd like to do, or what we weren't able to view this past trip. In any case, it was nice when we arrived home, and our little cat, Sonny Jim Scrambles was waiting for us, in need of much cuddling.

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