Every year in the fall my family takes a trip. Last year was Alaska, the year before that was Vermont, and this year was Tennessee. It’s an excuse to get together and do some exploring - we’re all generally mountain-loving people - and spend time together. My parents travel all the time, my older brother and sister-in-law have very busy jobs, my husband and I live on the east coast, my brother on the west, and my sister is in and out of the country. It’s a darn miracle if we all manage to end up in the same place at the same time, even with holidays and an annual family trip. The last time it happened was in 2013 in San Diego. But somehow, this year, it actually happened. Only for about 36 hours did we all overlap, but it happened!
My patient mom, queen of google, generally gets put in charge of finding a place for us to go. This year Wears Valley, Tennessee won out! The cabin we booked was at the top of a mountain (or large hill depending on your definition) with a gorgeous view of the valley below and the low-hanging clouds that would roll through every morning. It came equipped with a hot tub (definitely used after every hike), Pacman (I’m basically a pro by now), and practically zero cell reception, which was good for all of us. We got around via minivan, making us the coolest kids in town.
We were so close to Pigeon Forge that we had to drive through town to get groceries. Needless to say Dolly Parton’s influcence on the area was, uh, overwhelming to say the least and we mostly stuck to hiking. We did do a few touristy things like check out an apple farm (be looking for applesauce on the blog soon), rode a coaster down a hill, and got lost in a corn maze. We petted goats, explored Knoxville and the Manahattan Project Site, and tried local craft beers. We watched sunsets and sunrises and hiked till I thought my feet were going to fall off.
Every year we cook as much as possible and I generally use it as an excuse to make all the unhealthy things I shouldn’t eat but it’s vacation so whatever. That being said, we also try to find a local spot, preferably as un-touristy as possible, the type of place with killer pancakes and bottomless coffee and the waitress calls you “hun”. Elvira’s won out on this trip and after spending a whole week trying to find it (it ended up being 5 minutes from the cabin), we managed to eat there twice before we had to leave.
Family trips are an adventure. You put a bunch of people in a house together that haven’t lived in close proximity in years, and you’ll find a dynamic that both tests your patience and reminds you what family is and what family means. I’m so grateful for each of these people and the opportunity to explore Tennessee with them. Till next year folks…