As I’m sitting here listening to the morning news before I head out to work my mind drifts back to the news I was hearing one year ago. It was this time last year that my morning news was filled with images and updates as wildfires ripped through Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge and I watched as places I have been to and knew were burned to the ground. Or saw families not sure if they would have a home to go back to or worse yet not sure if their loved ones were in the path of the fire and if they were safe. I still can’t believe it has been a year.
Next week marks the one year anniversary of the wildfires that ripped through the Great Smoky Mountains. Lives were lost, homes destroyed, and the people of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge were determined to carry on. I have been back twice since the fires and they are moving forward from this hard time. They truly are Smokies Strong. I still can’t believe we were so close to the fires starting with the precious babies.
Being from Kentucky, Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge is the place to go for a long weekend. I cannot tell you how many times I have been there. So I am not going to lie when I say this last (almost) month has been very emotional for me. And it’s not just because I was watching helplessly as a place I enjoy so much was being hurt so badly, but also because we had just left there on that Sunday and the fires started on that Monday. We had just spent a lovely Thanksgiving in the Smokies. So when I heard about the fires to say it was eye opening is an understatement. What if those fires had started on Saturday? The place was packed, there could have been a lot more deaths then there already was. I hate that 14 people lost their lives and the amount of homes, land, and property that were also destroyed, and then to learn it was at the hands of two teenagers. My heart goes out to the whole Server county area. I may not be a resident but a piece of me lives in the smokies. One of the saddest things for me through this whole thing is we did not make it up into Gatlinburg when we were there for Thanksgiving because if we did I would have at least had one last vision of what it was like right before. I know though that they will rebuild and become stronger because of this, and as for me, I will go back. I already can’t wait. I want to show my support.
I think their is a trip to the Smoky Mountains in this Southern Belle’s near future. I am excited about that. Even though I have been to the Smoky Mountains a lot, and the place gets busier and busier each and every year, there is something about the place that soothes the soul. I know for me part of it is the food, that Smoky Mountain Food is good for the soul, it may not be too good for the waist line, but good for the soul. Another part is the natural beauty, even though it builds up each and every year, there still is a lot of natural beauty there and it’s beauty is good for the soul too. Looking forward to some soul soothing very soon. And some reading, shopping, and most importantly relaxing.
Over the past several years winery’s have become very popular in the Smoky Mountains. In fact my favorite wine is from one of the Gatlinburg winery’s. Sugarland Cellars sits right on the Gatlinburg Parkway almost at the end right before you head up into the park. It is also nicely located to The Puddler restaurant. That’s usually what I do, eat at The Peddler and then walk over and purchase some wine to take home with me. My favorite is their Baskins Creek Blanc, it is perfect for any Southern Belle. It is made with honeysuckle and its flavor is memorizing. I have tried a few of the wines from other winery’s down there too but there is something about the one in the blue bottle that keeps me coming back for more.
One of my favorite things about going to the Smoky Mountains is the food. The food in the Smokies is Amazing! One of my favorite places to eat while in the mountains is The Old Mill. I love their Chicken and Dumplings. Plus when you go to The Old Mill for Dinner you will not leave there hungry. Salad, soup, meat, all you can eat mashed potatoes and green beans, corn fritters, rolls, and a dessert. I always have to take my dessert to go, this time it was apple cobbler that I ate for breakfast the next day and it was Great. Another one of our favorite restaurants is owned by The Old Mill and is actually across the street, it is called the Pottery House Café and their cheese steak sandwich (like a Philly cheese steak) is mouth-watering. They also make the best cinnamon raisin pecan bread you can purchase and we use it to make French toast for breakfast while we are down there. A restaurant we like to go to in Gatlinburg, but it is a little pricy, is The Peddler. They have really good steak. We did not go their this past trip but it is usually a regular while we are down there. They have steaks and a salad bar, what more could you ask for? A lot of people like the Apple Barn while they are down there, while it is not one of my favorites it is good. Their Apple Julep is a nice refreshing drink. And these are just a few of the many restaurants in the Smoky Mountains.
Just being in the Smoky Mountains is fun but last weekend while we were there we went to the Island in Pigeon Forge. It is a new shopping/entertainment complex. The thing it is probably best known for is it’s wheel. The giant ferris wheel you can see from miles away. But there is also an arcade, 7D movie, mirror maze, many stores, Ole’ Smoky’s Moonshine, Bootlegger’s Wine, a Mellow Mushroom Select, and coming soon a Paula Deen restaurant. We did the mirror maze which was interesting but not really worth the price. We also had a cupcake from Sweet Shoppe of the South, which it’s owners were featured on an episode of Cupcake Wars. While the island is still a work in progress with more stuff going in and room for more. I was really impressed with it and can’t wait to go back when the Paula Deen restaurant is opened. j
This past weekend was my weekend in the mountains. It was nice to be back in the mountains again. The one year old and the six year old did not go. I did miss them but it was kind of nice without them. I had fun, read a little, eat great food, and spent time with family. My parents have a timeshare so we stayed at one of the timeshare places. We had a little hut, as I like to call them, as our home for the weekend. My cousin, his wife and the thirteen year old came down too and they had a condo on the same property. I really like the “huts”. We had a two bedroom with two full baths, a gas fireplace, a great reading chair, and a kitchen for cooking breakfast. What more could a Southern Belle ask for?