Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude is the only thing that gets expressed, which for today is for the recent birthday trip my partner Chris and I took to the Smokey Mountains for our 60th and 50th birthdays.

I’ve never been to or through the Smokey Mountains, unless of course you include flying over them a few times towards other destinations. But, after numerous times where friends came back from the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area raving about their vacations there, we opted to do a trip there for his big 6-0 and my big 5-0. So, I wanted to honor that trip on this Grateful Heart Monday, for even as much as I was in heightened pain during much of it, like I have been on most vacations in recent years, there was much to still be thankful for.

At the top of that list was having my eyesight to see all the wonders of the Smokey Mountains. I’ve visited a few other mountain ranges around our country, but the Smokies are unusual in themselves and quite breathtaking, especially when the clouds get stuck in the valleys below them, giving them their very name. Chris and I drove extensively through the Smokies while visiting the area and witnessed some incredible views, including many natural waterfalls and springs, and especially from the tallest peak, Clingmans Dome, which sits 6,643 feet above sea level! The day we visited there it was around 70 degrees when we left on the 1/2-mile paved walk from the parking lot to the top, and in the mid 40’s by the time we reached it. I was very grateful that Chris and I made it there with all the pain we were experiencing in our bodies, as sitting on a cement bench in the clouds was definitely a spectacle to behold. Just as breathtaking, but in another way, was Cades Cove Loop, an 11-mile one lane road that goes through some of the most amazing scenery and wildlife in a valley far below the Smokies. There, we saw plenty of turkey and deer, two black bears, and several two-hundred-year-old homes and churches.

Gratitude on this trip also greatly includes the place we stayed at for the five nights we were away, as it afforded us a beautiful view of Dollywood and Pigeon Forge and the mountains beyond. It was a log cabin home situated high atop a mountainside in a town named Sevierville and was adorned with an outdoor hot tub, rocking chairs on two different balconies, a billiards table, an indoor jacuzzi tub, and plenty of space to spread out and relax. Personally, I was most grateful for the nighttime views I had of Pigeon Forge’s tourist strip as I soaked in the hot tub, especially when several storms rolled in over the mountains.

And speaking of Pigeon’s Forge’s tourist strip, we opted to dabble a little in both its activities and some in Gatlinburg. While there are some rather extreme tourist things to do in this area, we opted for the less extreme side of things, which included playing three different mini-golf courses (Toy Box, Ripley’s Davy Crocket’s, and Hillbilly Golf), rode several mountain coasters (Smokey Mountain Alpine Coaster and Rocky Top Coaster), which if you haven’t ever done one, it’s essentially a self-controlled roller coaster down the side of a mountain, trips to three different Starbucks (yes, I know, my one addiction got satisfied!), and ate in town twice (The Park Grill on Chris’s birthday and Sunliner Diner on mine).

Something that others might not find gratitude in, but I did, was how friendly people in the Smokey Mountain area seemed to me. Compared to what I’ve become accustomed to in the Midwest, which at least for me hasn’t felt all too friendly mainly because people say I’m too transparent and personal for them, I was quite thankful to have struck up so many random conversations with total strangers who shared much of their own personal life stories with me!

And last, but definitely not least, I want to end this Grateful Heart Monday with gratitude for my partner for doing his best to make my 50th’ birthday special and unique, for finding the log cabin we called home for five days, for orchestrating the majority of this trip, and for doing his best to help me through my bouts of pain and suffering, including patiently drive on roads that at times, frankly terrified me, especially high up in those Smokey Mountains!

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson