Monday, August 5, 2013

Family Vacation 2013: East Tennessee

When several families in our small group started kicking around the idea of camping for a long weekend in East Tennessee, we knew we'd be in if at all possible. I mean, that's home to us. They ended up settling on a weekend that worked perfectly in ways we couldn't have forseen when we started planning. (Don't you just love it when you catch just a glimpse of how the Lord works?)

We drove south a couple days before our friends so as to spend some time in Knoxville with Jim's mama, whom we hadn't seen since Easter. The children and I met Uncle Bernie and Aunt Renee for lunch one day and my brother's wife just after; she was returning to my brother in Baltimore and traded me her older son for her younger.

Our East Tennessee experience was unique in that we didn't visit my home county at all but, instead, camped in Pigeon Forge and tooled around its surrounding areas. I didn't use my camera as consistently as I usually do and failed to get a good photo of the cabins where we stayed. Thank goodness Rachel got one, because I really want you to marvel with me that we slept seven people in ours.

Photo by Rachel Huff. This is Ray, who opened his Indiana home to us earlier this summer. Can you believe we had seven people in one of those cabins? It was like a clown car, Man.

I discovered that East Tennessee as a "tourist" can be incredibly expensive. Holy cow. We'll be eating in for awhile. I don't have any regrets but don't think we'll return to Dollywood with little children...or big children, for that matter, unless they're up for roller coasters. The little kids had fun, but I could've taken them to ride kiddie rides elsewhere for a whole lot less money.

I did love spending time with my parents, who have season passes to Dollywood. I spent more time with Dad than Mom, who enjoys the coasters and wanted to ride them with Jim and the boys.

I think my favorite Dollywood moment was watching The Little Engine That Could with Rachel (and with the others, but especially with Rachel). It could've been better only if Ray's wife Daleen had been with us. It's a long story, but I chose a Little Engine theme for Rachel's and Daleen's (joint) baby shower almost four years ago. It was surreal to be far away from our home in Virginia, watching that play with Rachel and her tow-headed tractor man.

I loved the no-pressure vibe among our group of twenty-five. We broke up into smaller groups for most of the weekend, each family making its own decisions in terms of activities. Here's the only shot of everyone:

Ray and Daleen, who originally hosted our small group, live with their children near Indianapolis, now. The rest of us--and three other families, besides--gather in Jim's and my log cabin every week during the school year. Five of our seven families have been studying together for at least five years, but I've grown so attached even to those who've joined very recently. I hold in my heart the wild hope that our children will grow up together.

Here are some more photos from our trip:

That's my nephew CJ, holding Chip.

Little Pigeon River Near Cades Cove

Cades Cove

The Track, Pigeon Forge

The Man and Me (because I'm wilder than you think I am). :)


  1. We got to visit Pigeon Forge and Dollywood once. I got one of those photos where its my face on Dolly's body! LOL!

  2. Spending time like this with your small group is a blessing. I'm glad you were able to do this and you made the very best of it. I don't know if Dollywood would ever be my cup of tea, but your pics make it look fun.

  3. This is no 'small group', wow, that is a big group to be able to get to cooperate all at the same time. You guys have quite the little community doing life together. That is rare and super cool!

    I want to go to Dollywood!

    And, yes, for some reason I can see a little 'wild' in you....ha!

  4. haha yes you are a wild one...great shot...i love the one of the little girl in the foldable adorable...good fun...been years since i was at dollywood....

    yes and no on the kids...he was served, we are unsure how long he has to bring the kids back...its really weird actually...the kids have been sneaking to call their mom when the dad is distracted...i dont know why the cops dont just take kids back but...

  5. Looks like so much fun. That last one cracked me up!!

  6. love love love this one for many reasons I want to go to little pigeon lake, I've been to pigeon forge before and with LAURA when she was younger, my favorite thing in the whole place was krispy kreme! I love those little cabins.......... yes