It is 11:37 PM and Will and Lucas just hit the sack. It was a long, fun day in Gatlinburg. Lucas, who frequently declares that he is “stuck on sugar” (in contrast to Will who says that he is “half on Keto and half off Keto”) was so exhausted by the end of the night that he didn’t finish a late night strawberry ice cream. He didn’t even whisper the word “iPad” before crawling into his sleeping bag. Will fell asleep as soon as I got him to stop screwing with the release valve on his new inflatable pillow.
Gatlinburg is the Niagara Falls of the Great Smokies. In both the good and the bad ways. The natural beauty of the Smokies is everywhere. You look down any southbound or east-westbound street in downtown and the towering, emerald green peaks of the Smokies are staring down at you from the horizon. It is awe-inspiring.
The less heaven-bound sightline in Gatlinburg is decidedly more mundane. Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. The World of Illusions. Fudge Shoppe of the Smokies. The Fudgery. Ripley’s Believe It or Not. Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. Ripley’s Haunted Adventure. Ripley’s Mirror Maze. Ripley’s Mini Golf. Guinness Book of World Records Adventure. Gatlin’s Escape Room. Fannie Farkle’s Family Fun Parlor. Arcadia. Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen. China Bazaar. Christ in the Smokies Museum. Ben and Jerry’s. And it goes on and on.
And my boys loved it! From breakfast at the Log Cabin Pancake Restaurant. To playing Mario Cart at Arcadia. To a crawdad boil (Will) and corndog (Lucas) at Crawdaddy’s Restaurant & Oyster Bar for lunch. To the life-size likeness of the world’s tallest man at Guinness Book of World Records Adventure, where Will wanted to know “Is he taller than Abraham Lincoln?” He is! He is 8’11” tall!
American industriousness in Gatlinburg has simultaneously hidden much of its natural beauty under a haze of neon and fluorescent light, and made it possible to rise above it. For $66, the three of us took Gatlinburg Skylift up the northside slope that bounds the main drag and we walked across the Skybridge, the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the U.S. The views are spectacular.
After a late lunch at Crawdaddy’s Restaurant & Oyster Bar, we set up camp for the rest of the week at Camp Leconte Luxury Outdoor Resort before the inevitable late afternoon rain shower. It is the first test run of the Kingdom 6 tent and REI Co-op Camping Folding Cots we bought at the REI Anniversary sale. This definitely isn’t the tent and sleeping setup you want for a one-night camping trip. It took about an hour and half to unload all of our junk from the car and set up tent and cots. On the other hand, it has more creature comforts than the Comfort Inn in Abingdon.
Camp Leconte will forever have a place in my heart as the spot I discovered I had a little Jeff Bagwell on my hands. After the first few swings and misses, my little slugger Lucas connected at a Hugh Duffy-esque rate. Once Will finished enacting a battle between Mutagen Man and Batman foe Two-Face in the tent, he got into the slugging action too. Ripping several hits into the campground street. Never shy about noting his achievements, Will declared himself “a great hitter” before we headed to the camp pool. It doesn’t get better than this for this baseball-loving dad.
After swimming, we closed out the night with some late night Chinese food in downtown and a nighttime trip up the Skyline and across the SkyBridge again. We are definitely on boys-only road trip-time. Breakfast at 11. Dinner at 9. Ice Cream at 10:30. Bed at 11:30.
There are so many things that I love about being a parent. Today had so many of these. Listening to the boys giggle and laugh endlessly as they play and joke around with each other. Watching how naturally and effortlessly they introduce themselves to and play with new kids they meet. Seeing their independence grow. Being a part of helping them to learn something new. Witnessing their joy at a new accomplishment. Feeling their hugs and appreciation at the end of a fun day. Nothing is better.