For the first time since I was a kid playing travel baseball, I’m in the Smokey Mountains and they’re just as beautiful as I remember. The various shades of dark and light green leaves that coat the trees blanketing the landscape of the mountains are breathtaking. Our cabin is high on a mountain with a steep view down where we can see outwards for miles with multiple other mountain peaks in the distance. Almost secluded, as our cabin is in a row with many others, gave me some time away from the busy city life I’d grow up with and became used to. Listening to the wind wisp through the trees, the chirps of birds, and the harmony of the plants and wildlife in the ecosystem around us is both calming and reminds me how important it is to slow things down.
I will admit that at first, we were hesitant to continue through with our trip as the pandemic had shut down restaurants and many attractions that we’d hoped to see but we decided to come to Tennessee because, well, we’re staying in a cabin in the woods and the only contact we’ve had with other people, just like at home, was at the grocery store. We knew we weren’t going to be eating out every night so we made sure to buy food for each meal we planned to cook and last us through the week. As the deadline approached, we decided to just go for it. What also helped our decision making was that Airbnb would only be able to refund half of our payment as we’d reschedule a few weeks before we left to a cabin with a better view.
We’re staying just outside Gatlinburg in Pigeon Forge which, if you’re from the midwest, is a lot like a mountain-filled Wisconsin Dells. It’s a big tourist, vacation with the family spot with cartoonish restaurants and attractions, most of which are closed anyway. We didn’t come here for those but came for the mountains so we spent two days in the sun and warm weather driving through the mountains, Gatlinburg along the river, and eventually going to Knoxville to see the University of Tennessee because I’m a nerd and love to see different academic institutions.
Driving through the one-lane roads in many instances, we got to see small cities and neighborhoods and then see the houses that were in the middle of a mountain or field with nothing but farmland around but they were magnificent. One house, in particular, was a massive cabin in the side of a mountain with a farm field in front of it which I thought was absolutely beautiful because it had such a gorgeous view, was on its own, but also was close enough to the nearby town that it wasn’t an inconvenience if you had to get groceries. It seemed like a happy medium but I’m sure mowing the lawn is terrible.
What made me so happy to come to Tennessee was playing Red Dead Redemption 2. Yes, it sounds odd that a video game made me want to experience nature but because most of RDR2 takes place on the plains of what is supposed to be the heartland midwest with the mountains to the east and the desert land to the west, the detail of that game made me long for time in the country where everything is slowed down and simpler. When the Smokey Mountains became a possible travel destination, I thought of how much the video game made me want to go camping, be out in nature, and get away from the rat race of city life and enjoy what was around me. If you look back in my posts, RDR2 pushed me to start reading some western novels by Louis L’Amour which, while they were good, didn’t give me exactly what I was looking for because I was really looking for RDR2 in novel form which I still have yet to find. After spending hours running around hunting, fishing, and exploring in RDR2, Tennessee was a no-brainer of a destination and it’s been a great trip so far with a few more days to go.