Gatlinburg (and my bear encounter!)

As you may recall, we spent the majority of last week in Gatlinburg.  The whole family was there because my nephew was getting married on June 1st.  They all (and I mean ALL–nephew and his bride-to-be, his parents and two sisters, both sets of his grandparents, her parents, grandparents, and aunt and uncle) all rented one big cabin to stay in.  We got our own place.  We were invited to stay in the cabin, but that’s just a little bit too much togetherness for me.  Besides, if I want to get up and walk to the kitchen nekkid at 2:00 am, by George, I’m gonna do it.

We drove up on Tuesday, arriving in just enough time to get checked in and changed before the rehearsal dinner at Tony Romas.  After dinner, we joined everyone back at their cabin, which had a gameroom, for a lot of this:

D and his Dad

and this:

Father of the Bride and the youngest neice

While they were doing that, I preferred to sit on the balcony with a cold beverage enjoying this:

We left around 11:00 when everyone started turning in to get a good night’s rest before the big day.

It was SO AMAZINGLY WONDERFUL to be able to sleep in the next morning!  SO nice not to be awakened by a dog needing to be let out or a cat howling that her breakfast is late.  The drawback to sleeping in?  It got hot and I was planning to run.  It was a pathetic three miles.  (If I had known that’s all I was going to be able to do, I probably wouldn’t have even done it.  I HATE getting ready and getting all nasty for three measley miles.)

Then it was time to get ready for the wedding!  The ceremony was outdoors at the very tip top of a mountain, and it made for an absolutely stunning setting.  I don’t have any pictures because photography was prohibited while the professional photographer was there.  We were able to sneak in a few with my camera after the ceremony, though.  I couldn’t let the occasion pass without at least a couple of pictures.  It’s not too often we’re all dressed up.

Dang sun, making us squint

Neice, T

And then we all loaded up and went back to the cabin for the reception, which was lovely.

After the party was over, we went outside to discover this little fella in the trash.  He was licking cake icing off of a plate before I disturbed him.  If you look, you can see he still has some on his nose.

The next day was a very laid-back one, spent walking around the downtown area, window shopping, playing putt-putt golf, eating fro-yo, and we ended the night with The Hangover 2.  HILARIOUS.  Oh, and you know those old-time photo things?  We got those done too.  I’ll have to remember to scan the photo and post it later.  I’m not a big country girl or anything, but I’ve got to say that my husband makes one damn fine cowboy.

The day was relaxing, but by that evening, I was wondering what in the hell we were gonna do to keep ourselves occupied for the next two days.  Good thing the rest of the family was there, because they go to Gatlinburg all the time and know of lots of things to do.  The next day we all went to Cade’s Cove.  I had heard of it before, but I honestly had no idea what it was.  Basically it’s just this preserve that you drive through and supposedly see lots of wildlife.  Several people have told me about seeing bears there, but, as is my luck, we saw a grand total of three turkeys and two deer.  And lots of gorgeous scenery.

After that, we found this groovy little swimming hole just off the side of the road in one of the gazillions of streams that run around the area.  The water was FREEZING!!!
I couldn’t believe how clean and clear the water was.  Try just stopping off the side of the road and jumping in a creek here and you’ll become crawdad and cottonmouth food before you know it.
And on the agenda for Saturday?  HIKING!  I had been looking at trail maps all week long trying to decide on which one we were going to do.  I wanted something that would be challenging for me but that wouldn’t kill D.  We ultimately decided on Ramsay Cascades.  It was eight miles long (four-mile out-and-back) and was rated as “moderately strenuous.”  It was classified as a “backwoods trail” that featured waterfalls and breathtaking scenery.  Sounded like a winner.
We packed a lunch and headed to the trail head to get started about 9:30 Saturday morning.  The first mile and a half I was thinking, “Really?  This is a piece of cake!”  Yeah, there was some elevation gain, but it wasn’t bad at all and the trail was well maintained.
And then we got to the trail.  (I read later that the first mile and a half is an old logging road that just isn’t used anymore.)
When they said “backwoods trail” they meant it.  You KNOW you’re in some backwoods shit when your Garmin starts going backwards.  I’m not exaggerating at all.  I wore it just so we would have some idea as to where we were distance-wise on the trail.  When we got to the road/trail split, it read 1.4 something.  Several minutes later I looked at it again and it said 1.38 miles.  I just thought I had looked at it wrong the first time, but when I looked at it again a few minutes later and it read 1.35 I knew something wasn’t right.  I  turned it off and threw it in the backpack.  With the heavy tree canopy that we were under, there was no way it was going to keep a signal.
Oh, and all that elevation gain that we didn’t have the first mile and a half?  FOUND IT!  And it’s not like it was just elevation gain.  It was elevation gain with a natural obstacle course built in.  

We definitely got the challenge I was looking for!  And the scenery along the way was as beautiful as was promised.

And four miles later we reached our destination.  It was worth it.
There were lots of big, flat rocks there that everyone was sunning and picnicking and resting on.  We picked out a spot and did the same.  It was very relaxing.  Laying there on that rock… eyes closed… sun beating down on my face… cool mist from the falls… sound of rushing water… ahhhhh, nature.
After we got our bellies fueled back up with PB sandwiches and pretzels, we started back down.  I learned something hiking in the Grand Canyon a few years ago, and I relearned it again on this hike.  I am an uphill-hiking rockstar.  I seriously could have done that all day long.  But going downhill is a WHOLE ‘NUTHER STORY for me.  I can’t keep my footing for crap.  I kept having to stop and tighten the laces on my shoes because it’s like my whole foot was sliding into them, cramming my toes into the tip.  And my quads were definitely feeling the burn on the way down.  But good ol’ out of shape D must be part mountain goat because he just bounds right down on the downhill.
We got maybe half a mile back into the trail when we caught up with a big group of about 10 or 12 hikers that had left quite a while before us.  They were stopped on the trail.  As we got closer we could see why.
A momma black bear and her two cubs.  Well, we didn’t see the two cubs.  They had already moved down off the trail too far for us to see, but the other hikers told us they were there.  But Momma Bear didn’t seem to be in any big hurry to leave.  There she was, less than 100 feet away from us, just doing her bear thing, not minding in the least that we were there.  But still we didn’t want to continue on, because if we had, the trail would have led us right between her and her cubs.  I don’t know a lot about bears, but I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t have been a very good idea.  So we just watched her poke around the ground, climb over the rocks and into the stream and splash around there for several minutes before she finally moseyed on her way.  Some of the people in the group were scared to be that close to her, but there were a few of us who were absolutely thrilled.  For some reason, I found it absolutely exhilarating.
As I mentioned, we were under a very thick canopy, which made the majority of the trail somewhat dim, so taking pictures was difficult.  We didn’t want to use a flash and scare Momma Bear, so we just did the best we could.  They still turned out too dim to really tell anything about them, but when I overexpose the heck out of them she shows up crystal clear!
That was definitely the highlight of my trip.
All in all, the trip was a win.  I wasn’t sure whether or not I would enjoy the area, but it had more to offer than I realized.  I wouldn’t mind going back for a couple of days here and there.  I don’t think it’s a place I’ll ever go back to for any more than a long weekend, but it could be a nice little three- or four-day getaway.  But for me a vacation just isn’t a vacation unless it involves a beach.
Hurry, September!!!!

10 thoughts on “Gatlinburg (and my bear encounter!)

  1. What a great trip…the raccoon…too funny ~ the bears…very cool – and also my worst nightmare if I'm by myself. I think I would love being that close if I was with a group of people, though. That beautiful waterfall in the sun -wow!!
    That is my kind of vacation!


  2. So glad you had a good trip!! I LOVE it there! My husband and I go every year for our anniversary. We're not usually that busy, though. We go in January, and we just usually use it as our post-holiday hibernation :). Might have to check out that hiking trail next time, though!


  3. What a great trip! That really was an obstacle course! But it looks like a lot of fun minus the bear! Yikes!
    And I totally would have stayed at a different place too. Too much togetherness!


  4. sweet!!!! I'm like you – I would have been thrilled… and did you see? Runners World just did a little write up about how really, after all this time, it has been studied and confirmed “don't run from bears”. Ha ha.

    Glad you had a nice trip – it looks like it was beautiful on many levels!


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