When I found out that my fiancé, Brian’s family was having a reunion at a time and place where we could both attend, I was both excited and terrified. I am not the most social creature, and other than Brian’s immediate family, I would not know anyone there.
When I found out that the reunion would be held in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, my fears fell by the wayside. I grew up in a family that had taken many camping trips to The Great Smokey Mountains, and visited Gatlinburg each time. It had been years since I had visited, and the pleasure at seeing the place again far outweighed to worry of meeting so many people who were strangers to me.
Gatlinburg itself was much as I remembered it. Though it had been over a decade since I had visited, it was the same crowded, bustling tourist town that I remembered. Gatlinburg’s sole purpose seems to be to remove money from tourist wallets, and I have never cared. I adore Gatlinburg, with its pancake houses and taffy shops. I am a tourist ready and willing to part with some hard-earned money to eat homemade pancakes and buy taffy for my entire family back home.
The reunion itself was lovely. Even with my social anxiety, it’s hard to be nervous when so many folks you have never met make it a quest to greet me warmly and include me in everything. When I stepped on a giant hornet that got stuck in my sandal and stung the heck out of my foot, it was Brian’s aunt and uncle, people that I had only just met, that bought me the Neosporin with pain relief that saved my foot and my vacation. It was not only the family’s kindness, but their fun-loving spirit that made me feel a part of the clan. It’s hard not to have fun with a family that schedules nights for game playing and sing alongs.
And it’s doubly hard to be anxious when the view from the back porch of the huge cabin you are staying in looks like this. The Smokies are beautiful, and every moment seems to bring a twist of light, a hue of cloud, a creature or flower that makes your heart sing. The cabin itself, a giant of many bedrooms and bathrooms, hold its own charms. Nestled on the face of a mountain outside of Gatlinburg, with trees hiding it from view of your neighbors, it is as if you are alone with the mountains. The fact that there is a hot tub on the sprawling wooden back porch is icing on the cake.
A trip into the city brings pancakes, taffy, beautiful views, and a trip to Hillbilly Golf, the most picturesque miniature golf course I have ever had the pleasure to play. Built on the side of a hill, one has to take a mechanical car to the top to begin, and then wind one’s way down the hill as the game plays out. The only disapointment I had was that I didn’t win, but with Brian’s golf enthusiast family, I hadn’t been expecting to.
Even in the city itself, the views of nature and homes tucked into the hills is a constant pleasure.
And while the city itself has grown and changed, there are some iconic images that remain the same as when I was a little girl, with her mind on nothing more lofty than eating taffy and finding a coonskin cap.
Another afternoon finds Brian and I getting a little alone time as we explore a trail that my family always hiked on every camping trip. The trail to Alum Cave is beautiful, and the path near the trailhead was easy on my hornet-stung foot.
It took some time, but when we discovered the very place where my family always stopped to eat a picnic, my adventure felt complete. My only sadness was that my family could not be there to share the moment with me, but it was a new pleasure to share these old haunts with my sweetheart.
We only had a long weekend in this wonderland, but every moment was spent with family fun or nature’s wonder. This magnificent mixture of nature and city streets was everything I remembered it to be, and I do not intend to wait another decade before I visit again.