Mountain Madness 2014: Wildflowers, Road Work & Bears…Oh My!

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I went to the mountains for Easter and just had the best time – except maybe the seven hour drive on my own both there and back…but I suppose that is one of life’s necessary evils. I don’t know what possessed me but I woke up at about 4:45 on Friday morning and after trying to go back to sleep for about fifteen minutes and not succeeding – I just got up, threw my stuff in the car and headed out – at 5:15!

Yes – I’m crazy. Thank you, I already know that but it’s just fine. I figured there was no point in laying there and staring at the ceiling for an hour (I was going to wake up at 5:45 but I was already almost to Alabama by then…go me!) when I could be driving.

Of course, it was raining…I mean – really?

Still raining past Fort Payne, AL – come on…make it stop.

A sure sign that I was getting closer to my destination – once you’re to Chattanooga; it’s only about an hour & a half to go!

I was trying to get a picture of the sign…it didn’t work…

I have to interject here to say that Tennessee has some disturbing road signs. As you see from the picture above, I tried to take a picture of it but it didn’t really turn out. The sign said: Tennessee road fatalities 2013 YTD – 247, Tennessee road fatalities 2014 YTD – 233. I mean, that is comforting. Why would you post that? I’m sure it’s for awareness and all that business but it just made me really uncomfortable. It also begs the question of why they had 247 fatalities in total in 2013 but it’s only mid-April of 2014 and they have already had 233 fatalities. I guess road rage is up in 2014….

A (very) late lunch at Huck Finn’s Catfish Cabin – one of my favorites.

Just being goofy.

The catfish of Huck Finn’s Catfish Cabin.

My sweet Momma & I at the Gatlinburg overlook.

And of course, my wonderful Daddy & I, also at the Gatlinburg overlook.

It’s selfie time Mom!

April 15-19 was the Wildflower Festival in the Smokies; I suppose that is because all the wildflowers are in the midst of their most abundant blooming. There were all kinds of flowers everywhere you looked, which made for some really pretty pictures – the dogwoods were everywhere! Another thing that was everywhere were bears! We saw them within mere hours of arriving in the mountains, which is remarkable considering that in my lifetime of 29 years, I’ve probably been to the Smokies at least 50 times (not even exaggerating a little bit…) and I’ve seen A bear..just one…on two occasions. We saw five bears within less than three hours of being there – it was amazing! The park rangers told us that the food supply was very plentiful this Spring and so the bears had been out in abundance and he was not kidding. We saw a Momma bear and two of her cubs and they were so small and sweet looking…from afar of course; I’m sure had we gotten closer they’d have gotten very not sweet very quickly.

Dogwoods everywhere – I love this tree!

The first of many bear sightings…this was apparently a yearling; a bear that is about one year old.

The cabins at Elkmont – hauntingly beautiful – at least in my eyes.

I think this one is just the right size – and it’s called “Adamless Eden” which is about right since I have no “Adam” of my own as of yet…

Okay – so perhaps I should explain Elkmont, or better yet you can just go to this link and read about Elkmont for yourself. If you’d rather not do any reading, I can tell you that it was a mountain settlement long ago and was then converted into a campground/resort area in the 1920’s and 1930’s; it has a long and storied history that the Wikipedia article I linked tells quite a lot about. The cabins that once held happy families on their vacations are now crumbling but happily the National Park is restoring a select few of them. My family always likes to drive through Elkmont each time we are there to see what kind of progress has been made and I myself am so enchanted by these old cabins and the bygone era they represent; the memories that they hold in their walls and the stories they could tell.

An Elkmont cabin selfie – when can I spruce this place up & move in?

A lazy daisy growing through the cracks of an old cabin’s steps…

The roaring river…

The steps up to what remains of the former Wonderland Lodge.

The bones of the Lodge; they’re falling apart fast! So sad….

The mountains snapped out the car window…

Okay – Friday night was new experience time! I will bet you all didn’t know that moonshine is legal in Tennessee now, but it is and it is extremely evident in downtown Gatlinburg because there are three moonshine distilleries/stores in downtown Gatlinburg alone! We saw a sign that said Ole Smoky Holler had free samples and we thought that out of the thirteen flavors, you could pick one to try…but you guys, they had you sidle up to the bar and try ALL 13! I mean, hold your horses and get ready – because it was one flavor after the other until you about couldn’t take anymore. The first flavor they had you try was not actually a flavor – it was White Lightning and was just plain old moonshine – it was 100 proof and can I tell you, it tasted like drinking rubbing alcohol – it burned and not in a good way. Granted, after drinking that all the other flavors tasted just fine and dandy to me. They had pineapple, lemon drop, cherry, grape, strawberry, peach, blackberry, apple pie…my favorite was hands down lemon drop but they were all really yummy. 

I got so tickled with my Momma because it was obvious she just hated all of it – she made the worst face after every sip and that just cracked me up. I guess Dad and I are made of a little stronger stuff because we sampled each one without hesitation and liked quite a few of them – I’ll say we’re made of stronger stuff, because we certainly aren’t alcoholics or anything… Oh, I did skip the double distilled White Lightning because honestly, the first round was bad and my Dad told me the second round was even worse. No thanks – the only lightning I need is what flashes in the sky, not down the back of my throat!

The moonshine sampling line…want a taste? Oh yeah, moonshine soaked cherries are a big ol NO.

I loved my samples – and I took a picture of my Mom’s reaction to the samples but she threatened me with bodily harm if I shared it with anyone…so you will have to imagine whatever you wish…

Even the bears in downtown G-burg were decked out for Easter!

My sweet parents taking a rest on the streets of Gatlinburg…

When bears attack…

You see – we stay quite busy when we go somewhere, so we ate at Huck Finns, explored some in the National Park and Elkmont (which is in the National Park) sampled moonshine and had supper at a new Mexican place called the Loco Burro…that translates to the Crazy Ass by the way…don’t blame me for the translation but know that it caused me to giggle more than once…and wandered all over downtown Gatlinburg. I assure you, for a chick that had been up since a wee bit before 5 AM, when I fell into the bed around 10:45, I slept like the dead….and that was a good thing because Saturday had plenty more in store…but I’ll save that for another day. 

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