Halbachs Take the South, Part II – Smoky Mountains

I have had the same reoccurring nightmare since I was a child: I am riding in the car and we have to cross a bridge that is so high, that the road is practically vertical (Is this because I am afraid of heights, or the reason I am afraid of heights? Chicken and egg.) I am not exaggerating when I tell you that the road up to our cabin was exactly the same grade as that nightmare road. Except the road to the cabin was also full of switchbacks and blind corners. I honestly did not know if my car could physically made it up the hill.

However, it was so worth it. The cabin was absolutely perfect in every way. It is indescribable how perfect it was, so I will therefore try now to describe it. It was a real log cabin, with chinking in between the logs and everything. It was rustic and luxurious all at the same time. It was on the tippy-top of the mountain, with beautiful views of the valley below. The bottom floor had a bedroom, bathroom and foosball table, and a porch with a hot tub that looked out over the mountain. The middle floor had a kitchen, dining room, and living room with a fireplace, as well as a second-level porch with a swing, rocking chairs and a table to eat outside. The upstairs had a huge bedroom with another fireplace, as well as another bathroom.

The place was so big that we didn’t even use the bottom floor; we all slept upstairs in the one bedroom. The cabin could probably sleep 10 in a pinch, so the 4 of us were no problem. Even though there were other cabins dotting the hillside with us, it felt very isolated. It was so amazing being up on top of the mountain, with clouds snaking through the valley below us and no sounds of trains or traffic or anything except nature. The view from the porch was breathtaking.

In addition to the hot tub (which the kids absolutely loved and Evie said was her favorite part of the trip), there was also the biggest bathtub I have ever seen and/or imagined in my entire life. It had an entire room to itself off of the kitchen, and it was as good as any swimming pool as far as the kids were concerned. It was easily the size of a queen-sized bed. And it had jets too! I’m telling you, bath time has never been so fun.

Fortunately/unfortunately, this was a log cabin, and there was nature all around. An ant colony decided to take up residence inside the enormous tub. The first time we turned it on, ants came pouring out of one of the jet controls. I was trying to mop them up with a washcloth, but they just kept coming and coming. Luckily (or unluckily as it turns out) the tub was so big that the kids got in anyway and just avoided that section of the tub. We didn’t really think about where those ants were coming from, so when we turned on the jets…well, lets just say the kids had a couple of extra hands (legs) to help scrub their backs that night. After the explosive armageddon of their nest, they wisely did not return, so future baths were a little less creepy crawly.

In addition to eating all of our meals at the cabin (we even had pancakes on Sunday!), we spent our days hiking in Great Smoky Mountain National park. In other words, cheap vacation spot! We never even bothered with Gatlinburg, other than a trip or two to the grocery store. The hiking was pretty great.

One day, Evie hiked about 5 1/2 miles, and Oliver made it about 1 mile. Not a complaint from either of them! I was very proud of Evie, but she was having such a great time, I don’t think it occurred to her to complain.

Every hike ended at a waterfall. I didn’t really go into it expecting to see so many waterfalls, but I guess it makes sense; that water has to make it down the mountain somehow. Still, some really fantastic waterfalls, including one we got to go underneath, and a really tall one we saw later on the Cherokee reservation. After finally getting to the end of a long hike, we were never disappointed.

The Smokies are known for having a lot of bears, and consequently the cabin was appropriately garbed in bear decor. We had read to Evie the literature about what to do if you see a bear, just in case. All of this was a little too much for poor Evie, who became so afraid of bears that she couldn’t even handle the decorations in the cabin. We had to hang a sack over the bear toilet paper holder in the bathroom.

Therefore, it was somewhat ironic that we did actually see a mother bear and a cub later in the trip, and Evie was sort of excited about it. The bear was pretty far away, so we certainly weren’t in any danger from it. I guess it was easier to see when it was moving around, because in most of our pictures it’s just a black spot. Still, it was pretty cool to see some true wildlife (with a cub no less!) and certainly the biggest and most interesting animal not named Sasquatch running around those woods.

Alas, too soon it was time to say goodbye to the Smokies and move on to (less) greener pastures…