Gatlinburg has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Just thinking back the other day about the time that we drove to the Smoky Mountain KOA and my dad was so tired, he laid in the floor of the van and slept for hours. When he woke up, we went up the mountain and it was so cold that my little brother had one of dad’s shirts wrapped around him like a blanket. That was a great day.
Over the years, we went up there many times together and many times with others, but the memories were just as special no matter who we were with. Whether we stayed in a chalet up in the mountains, a hotel in town, or down the hill in Pigeon Forge the magic was the same. The beauty of the fall was breathtaking. The snow falling as we looked at the Christmas lights just took us to a different place. The green of late spring into early summer could be overwhelming in an amazing way. There is just nothing like it anywhere.
My life with my wife and our family started there. Kas and I went there once before we were married and then for our honeymoon. We spent time at Ober Gatlinburg in the snow. It was so cool watching them make snow for the skiers. We had so much fun going up the lift and betting on witch person would end up sliding down on their butt(My sister did this when we were younger while in jeans…we witnessed her smurf blue streak all the way down.) Good times!
The special moments really just keep coming. Kas and I were there for one of our anniversary trips when we found out that we were expecting Isabella. We were at Chick-Fil-A and decided that we needed a pregnancy test and sure enough, it was positive. After that, Christmas shopping, anniversaries, and birthdays were events in themselves. One time, the night we came home, Bella stepped wrong on her ankle and broke it. I was devastated! That poor baby. It had nothing to do with our trip other than the ironic part. We had been on a mountain and nothing happened to any of the children. Then, as soon as we get home, she stepped off of a step and broke her ankle.
Still to this day, we go. We just returned a little over a month ago from another family trip during fall break. We stayed in Sevierville this time at Wilderness at the Smokies. We enjoyed time at The Lumberjack Dinner Show, The Hatfields and Mccoys Dinner Show, Dollywood, Ober Gatlinburg, and just walking around downtown. The time that we spend together means so much to us. We are a memory building family and hope to have many more there.
A couple of days ago,tragedy struck. So far, seven people have lost their lives in the place that we love so much. A wildfire started up near Chimney Top and as a storm blew through, it brought 80 mph wind gusts that took hot embers and spread them all over the mountain side. People ran for their lives. The fires were popping up everywhere. Over 200 plus structures have burned to the ground. Some of our favorite places are now gone. The trees destroyed,buildings destroyed, apartment complex destroyed, lives destroyed….but….the people of Tennessee have once again stepped up to help their neighbors in need. I got choked up when Fire fighters from all over the state headed that way. People are sending monetary donations, food, and clothes. Dolly Parton has set up a fund for the victims giving them $1000 per month for 6 months in order to get back on their feet. She doesn’t care how many their are. I am just in awe of the way people step up in the time of need for other people.
I know that eventually, things will back to normal up there. People will rebuild, businesses will rebuild, and people will most definitely come back. I know that we will. This is just another memory of one of the greatest places around. I can’t wait to get back up there.