Let's just say I went into this vacation not the most excited in my life.
Now, it wasn't my all-time favorite vacation, but in the end, there were a lot of great aspects to the Smokies.
1. It was pretty. Tons and tons of rolling mountains and streams and lakes everywhere.
2. There was a lot of green. I guess I'm not really used to nature anymore. Maybe New York does that to you... But, on this vacation, I reconnected with childhood. I played in the woods and went hiking and my uncle fell in the creek. Totes felt like childhood. :)
3. White Water Rafting. Really sweet. See hilarious picture above. (Yes. "That guy" is my brother.)
As a bonus, our tobacco-chewing mountain man River Guide slapped my ass when he pulled me into the raft -- he got a good tip. haha
4. Lots of history. During a drive through the mountains we stopped at a really old church/graveyard combo with tombstones from the 1800's. Between the Southern drawls around us and all the stuff about "Rebels" and the Civil War, I felt a bit like I was in Bon Temps, True Blood-style.
Things I would do differently if I went again:
1. Rent a house with a private pool or not go during the summer. It was hot. Really hot. And I had no ocean or pool to dive into all week. And no sun deck to lay out on. Dreams of coming home with a golden tan = shattered.
2. Do not go into Pigeon Forge. I repeat, do not go into Pigeon Forge. Gatlinburg is also questionable. It's a cheesy tourist trap and I can't believe anyone chooses to vacation like that. We only drove through on the way to the God-forsaken Wal-Mart, but the traffic was intense and the entertainment on the side of the road looked awful. "Helicopter Rides!" "Fireworks!" "Ripley's Believe It or Not" "Dollywood" "Fish and Tackle Superstore!" No thanks on all accounts. In my uncle's words - Red Neck Disneyland.
3. Figure out exactly what you want to do there ahead of time, and stay somewhere close-by. The amount of time I spent in a car that week nauseates me even today thinking about it. The amazing lake with pontoon boats - 45 minutes away. White water rafting - 30 minutes away. Major scenic mountain drives - 1 hour away. Wal-Mart (grocery shopping for 20 people is quite the task) - 45 minutes away.
But, the important part was seeing the whole fam and eating and drinking as much as possible all week. And for that, this vacation totally succeeded.