We spent our long holiday weekend in Gatlinburg. The very same Gatlinburg that was ravaged by wildfires just two days after we left. We went to bed Monday night wondering if the sights we had seen just days previously would still be there when we woke up Tuesday morning. Most places made it, but there were some that just... didn't. The landscape in Gatlinburg will definitely be different next time we visit, but while we were there, it was just like we remembered.
The last time we went to Gatlinburg, our nugget was just a tiny little baby in my belly and Cayden was about 18 months old. I think this trip left a bigger impression on them, ha! We drove up on Thanksgiving day and had an awesome feast at the Tennessee welcome center. When we got to our cabin later Thursday afternoon, we settled in while mom heated up the wonderful Thanksgiving dinner that she had prepared days in advance and watched some football. The time change messed us all up a little, but we tried to pretend that it hadn't changed... which equals to littles going to bed at 9, rather than the usual 8.
No worries though! They were still all up at 5 the next morning. Well, our kids were up. My sister's kids we most definitely awoken by ours (sorry, Rachel!). We have early risers. That somehow seem to be getting earlier. But I digress...
We hit up Ripley's Aquarium first thing before the crowds started rolling in. I've been several times, but this was definitely fun to experience through the kiddos eyes. A leisurely afternoon lunch surrounded by family was enjoyed. We headed back to the cabin afterwards and got in a few family photos before the daylight went away. And then, like crazy people, we decided to pack up and go to the local outlet mall. On Black Friday. In all honesty? It wasn't as bad as I was thinking. We lucked up and found a parking space almost immediately and were able to hit up all the stores we wanted to go in. My sister and her family definitely Black Friday shopped harder than we did – pretty sure they closed the place down (in all fairness, we only got there a couple of hours before they closed and the place is huge).
Saturday morning saw us heading up into the mountains. All of us were ready to trek to the top of Clingman's Dome... which was quickly put to bed when we got out of the car to realize it was way colder than any of us were dressed for and the wind could knock one of the smaller kiddos over. Fine! We'll just take a few photos of this view! Oh, the memory card is in the laptop back at the cabin from the day before. My sister was able to get in a few shots for everyone with her awesome phone though, so disaster saved.
On our way back down the mountain, we caught a glimpse of Chimney Tops burning – looking like true chimneys. We had no idea what was to come of that fire.
Another leisurely lunch in town, a quick walk to some of the shops and we found ourselves back at the cabin in time to watch most of the Iron Bowl. (Roll tide!) Slowly the kiddos put themselves to bed (no naps or rests will do that I suppose)!
We rounded out our trip with a breakfast stop at The Apple Barn in Pigeon Forge before heading home. What should have been a five hour trip ended up being close to eight hours for us. The traffic was terrible; we sat in Chattanooga for over an hour. Add in nursing stops and a potty-training toddler... and well, eight hours. But our kiddos were rockstars – absolutely amazing in the car. Only one child asked repeatedly when we'd be home, so out of four, I'll take it!