Anyone who has followed this blog (or even glanced at historical posts) knows I’m a big fan of Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (“GSMNP”). I find the mountains so incredibly peaceful, and hiking is my idea of an exhausting kind of relaxing. So when I had the opportunity to spend an entire week in the mountains at the end of September/beginning of October 2018 – half of the time as a guest at a conference with W- and half of the time on vacation with Mom – I jumped at both offers.
As a guest at the conference, I didn’t have to attend any of the actual classes, only some of the functions afterwards. Therefore I was free during the day to do whatever I pleased. I didn’t have access to a car for the majority of the time (long story), so I just took the Gatlinburg Trolley (only $0.50 to ride!) into town. The trolley actually has one of its stops at the entrance to the Gatlinburg Trail (which I’ve used before), so each day I rode the trolley to the trailhead and went for a run.
The Gatlinburg trail is 2-mi one-way trail and leads from the City of Gatlinburg to the Sugarlands Visitor Center in GSMNP. It’s probably one of the most traversed trails since it’s relatively easy, short, and conveniently located. I’m currently working through a running training plan, so I ran as far as I needed to go for the day (each day was slightly different) and then hiked the rest of the time. Most importantly, I was on vacation and not in any real hurry, so I stopped to take the occasional picture anytime something caught my fancy.
Aside from the Gatlinburg Trail, I also brought several books with me and I enjoyed curling up in a comfy chair at the hotel with the great views of the city below, catching up on some much-desired reading.
Nights during the conference were mostly spent having dinner and hanging out in groups in various people’s hotel rooms (there was football and baseball on TV every night we were there except for one, so it made for a natural thing to have on in the background while everyone hung out and talked). However, one afternoon W- got done early and on a whim to decided to splurge and go up to Anakeesta, a new “village” above Gatlinburg accessible via chair lift. I was concerned that it wouldn’t be worth the money – that we would get to the top and it would just be two or three small shops or restaurants – but it was actually really fun! While we didn’t indulge in the alpine coaster or the zip-lining, we did grab drinks at the Cliff Top bar, then walked through the gorgeous Firefly Village to the Forest Walk, and finally wrapped up our time by doing the Tree Canopy Walk, which reminded me a lot of the Ewok Village in Return of the Jedi. The Tree Canopy Walk is definitely more of a workout than it first appears with all of the bouncing and swaying, but it was so much fun that we actually went through it twice.