Cades Cove

Cades Cove is located in a valley in the Great Smoky Mountains.  Before the park was established, it was inhabited by settlers .  Now it is the most visited spot in the park with more than 2 million people visiting every year.  So why do people flock to this place?

History

Many of the original structures remain in Cades Cove, most of which the public can access.  Cabins, churches, barns and mills dot the landscape, and each one tells a unique story.  Cemeteries are also located on the land, and the first settlers of the valley are buried in the park.

Hiking

Hiking is the only reason I travel to Cades Cove.  As a local, I’ve been to dozens of field trips to the park.  Visiting during tourist season is equivalent to torture–unless I’m going hiking.  Jake and I have hiked Abrams Falls every year around the date of our anniversary. It is one of my favorite hikes in the Smokies.  Several gains in elevation give way to amazing views, and the trail ends at one of the most voluminous falls in the national park. Here is a list of all the trails in Cades Cove.

The Loop Tour

Cades Cove is 100% free to drive through.  Eleven miles of wildlife and adventure await, or you can see it all from the comfort of your car.  On several occasions, I’ve seen bears off the edge of the road, and I’ve never been to the cove without seeing dozens of deer.  Just remember to respect the wildlife!

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Stressed

So this past week and the upcoming week are the two most important weeks of my college career.  Deadlines and exams have taken their toll on me.  I also have what my doctor called the “worst ear infection” he’d ever seen.  OUCH.  On top of the stress from school, some big changes in my house have literally turned my life upside down.  But we won’t talk about that now…

So how do I decompress?

I spend time with my family.  Saturday I went to a little league softball game to watch Molly kick the other team’s rear. I had seen this video (warning, there is some foul language) on Facebook by Darren Knight the night before the game, and if you’ve ever been to a little league game, chances are you’ve seen this person. Luckily I didn’t see this person at the field.

I go for drives.  Spring is here and I love to drive the curvy backroads around South Knoxville and take in all of the greenery.  Driving around Brown mountain has become my favorite spot, and now that I can drive a five-speed, it’s even better.

I get caffeinated.  I have become slightly obsessed with the nitro coffee from SoKno Market.  I was there three times this week.  This has also helped me stay up late on Friday nights to write blog posts.

I binge watch.  I’ve seen every episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia at least seven times.

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An accurate portrayal of my life.

I rewatched The Office for the fourth time during the past couple of weeks.  I cringe at the Scott’s Tots episode every time, and I won’t torture you with the cringe-inducing scene.

Hopefully in the next few weeks my life will calm down.  I hope to be able to update everyone about my crazy life once my plans are solidified.

 

 

The 5 Best Things About Dollywood

When I was a child, I got a Dollywood season pass for Christmas almost every year, as did most of my cousins.  Some of the best memories of my childhood come from when my grandmother would turn us kids loose in the park, and we pretty much wreaked havoc for several hours.

When you’re 13 and let loose in a place like Dollywood, you get a sense of freedom.  Maybe that’s why I’m kind of obsessed with Dollywood now that I’m an adult.  I can’t help but associate it with the carefree days of my childhood.  If you have never been, I suggest getting a season pass you, because you will be going back!

1.) The Blazing Fury

The Blazing Fury is one of the oldest rides in the park; it operated back when the park was still Silver Dollar City.  It’s an indoor roller coaster that takes riders through a mining town that has caught on fire, hence the name.  Until a few years ago, the final drop of the coaster also sprayed water on riders.

2.) The Crafts

From hand-dipped candles to debutante dresses, Dollywood has something everyone would like.  The best hand-crafted gifts at Dollywood are the hand blown glass items.  Even when I was a rambunctious teenager, I would still be mesmerized by watching the glass blowers.   Take a look for yourself.

 3.) The River Rampage

This was always the ride we rode last.  Its like Russian roulette but with freezing cold water.  The reason this ride is so risky: You can get completely drenched from head to toe, or you can come off the ride bone dry.  Riders sit in a huge round inflated tube and are launched into the water.  The ride consists of waterfalls the riders pass underneath, drops, and white caps.  Oh, and spectators can stand on the sidelines and spray water on riders.

4.) Food

There is an abundance of food to be found in Dollywood.  Too much for me to list here.  So I linked this list.  (My favorite is the first one on the list!)

5.) Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton has done wonderful things for Sevierville . Besides jump-starting the tourist industry in the area, she has brought hundreds of well-paying jobs to an area that would otherwise be impoverished.  Dolly also provides a free book to children every month until their fifth birthday through the Imagination Library.  Dollywood is also home to several bald eagles and other birds of prey that have been injured and can no longer live in the wild.  Of all the celebrities from East Tennessee, Dolly is by far the best in my opinion.

Spring Break: Part Two

So besides hanging out with my brother’s kids for three days, I also did some grown up stuff while I was on break.  While most of my friends from school were sending me Snaps of their awesome adventures, I was busy at work.  I work for The Home Depot where we are busy gearing up for spring.  It wasn’t the most exciting week at work, but that’s what I did on Spring Break.

I started about 12 different projects around my house, but two days into the week, I chucked my to-do list in the garbage in favor of having some fun.  A week later and I still have a few things to finish up.  Which reminds me–I have 2-dozen stepping stones in the trunk of the Civic that I’ve been hauling around for a week.

I did find time to head over to SoKno Market.  I had heard so much about it, and I had been wanting to swing by there.  I picked up Donna on the way and we easily found the market.  They offer a wide selection of coffee, custom sodas, ice cream, baked goods, and a different lunch item everyday. I don’t even like coffee, but the “Grumpy Grandpa” was amazing.  The owner recommended it to us and explained it was cold brewed with nitrogen then put in a keg.  The owner was really welcoming and told us that on Saturdays they stock Richie Cream Donuts.  SPOILER ALERT: I was there first thing Saturday to get coffee and donuts. SoKno Market will definitely be a staple for me; I can’t function without some caffeine.

 

Spring Break: Part One

So last week was spring break for UTK.  But what do you do to celebrate Spring Break when you’re 30?  Well, you work, and if you’re lucky you are able to squeeze in a couple of days of fun.

My two nieces were also on spring break from Blount County schools, so I planned two days just for them and my 2-year old nephew.  I also made a list of everything I wanted to do around my house, but two days into spring break I tossed it out.  I don’t get to see my nieces as much as I’d like, so I added a third day to our itinerary.

Day One

Macy is nine, and she loves to bake.  She is a girl after my own heart.  I had promised her that if she made good grades on her spelling tests, we would bake her favorite cupcakes. We spent time in the kitchen mixing batter and decorating cupcakes (when it was time for clean-up, Macy magically disappeared).  We also went to Ijams and had a picnic.  I know I’ve mentioned Ijams before, but if you’ve never been you have to check it out.  There really is something for everyone there.

Day Two

Molly is five, and she loves going to the movies.  Zootopia had just come out so we decided to go see it.  Macy and Molly were seemingly mesmerized by the film and they thought it was great.  Conway was the most excited to see the movie, and he promptly fell asleep.  He didn’t even make it past the previews, and he was snoozing.  After the movie, on the ride home, he woke up and asked about going to see the movie.  I couldn’t help but feel bad for the kid.  By the way, the movie was great!

Day Three

Day three was something I was really looking forward to doing with the kids.  The Knoxville Zoo recently went through a re-branding creating a new website, logo, and overall image.  Zoo Knoxville is known as the red panda capital of the world.  The endangered species didn’t disappoint as they romped and played in their enclosure.  Of course, I was most excited about the otters, which played and swam as if they were performing for an audience.  Conway wanted to see the animals, but most of all he wanted to see the “big bad wolf”, but guess what–the kid fell asleep.  Luckily for him, he has two thoughtful big sisters who woke him up when we go to the wolves.  By the time we finally got home, the kids were really tired-but not too tired to get ice cream!

So Spring Break wasn’t a total bust for me.  I got to hang out with my favorite kiddos and we had a really great few days.  Look for my next blog post when I talk about things I did over Spring Break that didn’t involve kids!