On top of Old Smoky

Six years ago, my immediate family decided to embark on a series of annual family vacations. It was a spectacular plan. Each year, for one week, we would gather in a different location. A location that was relatively kinda central to where everyone was living. The first year, we rented a cabin in the Smoky Mountains near Gatlinburg, Tennessee. It was magical.

View from the cabin

View from the cabin.

The experience was, in fact, so magical, so wonderful, so, so, so something that we postponed the second of our annual family vacations until last week. That’s right. Six years after our initial annual family vacation, we took Annual Family Vacation #2. To a cabin in the Smoky Mountains near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, no less.

We arrived from all over. Ohio. Indiana. Texas. Ontario. Just when we thought we could drive no more, we drove more, winding our way—quite literally—up the side of a mountain. To a different cabin that was just as magical as the one we remembered.

View from inside the cabin,

View from inside the cabin.

But with more bears. We stayed in a cabin aptly named “Very Beary.” The stuffed and porcelain bears were so numerous we thought it would be fun to have a “Guess the Number of Bears” contest. You know, a little fun to get the festivities going. The prize? A Mason jar (on steroids) of peanut M&Ms courtesy of Dad. Unfortunately, by the time the grandkids had canvassed two bedrooms on the first floor, the jar of M&Ms was empty. Gone. Finished. Eaten.

Our best guess for the number of bears? 37, 859. Interestingly, I think that may also be the number of peanut M&Ms we devoured.

The week was filled with all sorts of good times. Hiking. Food. Lounging. Food. Billiards. Food. Shopping. Food. Billiards. Reading. Hiking. Food. Swimming. Food. More reading. Food. More shopping. And, food.

We spent time in downtown Gatlinburg, raising an eyebrow or two at the cheesiness of the touristy shops. We hiked our way up Chimney Top, wondering how we had ever made our way to the top with two 3-year-olds and a 5-year-old all those years before, and rejoicing that we left the kids behind this time (supervised, of course). We strolled about the outlet malls of Pigeon Forge, looking for great deals. We waited very, very patiently in traffic. We cooked family-style dinners. We marveled at the black bear that was brazen enough to amble up our front steps and check out the garbage bins on the balcony.

Mostly, we enjoyed gathering as a family. Because, quite frankly, it’s something we don’t get to do very often.

Near Laurel Falls.

Near Laurel Falls.

For one week, we were together. We laughed. We told stories. We reminisced about that one time on that one vacation when Dad carried me, the picnic basket, the cooler and the camera bag up a mountain both ways. And that other time when we seriously carried three small children up a mountainside and then back down. We laughed some more. And, we made more memories.

Memories we can reminisce about six years from now, in 2015, when we take Annual Family Vacation #3. Because Annual Family Vacation #2 is over. Here and gone. Sadly.

Looks like I can retard my enthusiasm for a few more years. And live off the memories of vacations prior.

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3 thoughts on “On top of Old Smoky

  1. Whitney says:

    I love your stories. I think you should eventually have a book of “Stories, by Jill.” What do you think? Until we see each other again….

  2. Joshua says:

    That story is amazing. Thank you for sharing. Heather and the boys and I had a magical time with everyone on Annual Family Vacation #2, and we’re looking forward to Annual Family Vacation #3.

    Your father recently regaled your mother and I with the story of that one vacation when he carried you, the picnic basket, the cooler and the camera bag up a mountain both ways. It turns out, in the most recent version of said story, that the picnic basket has been replaced by the picnic table.

    Which makes vacationing with your father all that more impressive.

    Thank you for sharing your and Andrew’s vacation time with us. I am glad we were able to successfully hike the Chimney Tops again this year. It was much more enjoyable than that one time when I was 5 and my parents forced me to hike the “Trail of Death”, wherein I tripped over 431,911 tree roots, lacerated my knees, and bled to death in the wilderness.

  3. Jill Stutsman says:

    Laughing Hard. I live every day surrounded by memories and my desire to plan for more…..even those that may realisticly be 5 or more years away. 🙂

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