It’s cold in the East Tennessee hills…real cold, and Helen (adorable wife) and I were suffering from cabin fever. The holidays were over, the grandkids were back at home, we had watched all the football we could stand, we certainly didn’t need anything else to eat, and our snowbird trip to Florida was two weeks off. It was time to get out and get moving.
I didn’t need much prodding because it was the day before Helen’s birthday. I’ve endured more guilt over this occasion than most husbands. Her birthday comes soon after Christmas when I’m overcome with shopping fatigue and finding something unique and original can be a real challenge. She really is a good sport about it, however, and this year I was determined to come up with something I knew she would enjoy.
“Let’s go to the mountains!” I said.
Her reply? “Give me five minutes to pack!” That’s the beauty of retirement. We can be spontaneous–about a few things.
I’ve shared with Easin’ Along readers our love for the mountains around Cherokee and Bryson City, North Carolina. There is plenty to do, both indoors and out. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park borders both towns, and mountain scenery is incredible even in cold weather. For indoor fun, there is the Casino at Harrah’s Resort, and Helen LOVES casinos. So, after a quick call for a reservation and getting a complimentary room (I love it when that happens) we were off.
We arrived around 4:30 in the afternoon with the temperatures hovering in the low 20’s and trending down. After checking into our Luxury King Suite and freshening up a bit, we made our way to Ruth’s Chris in the casino for a light dinner before a little low-roller action in the gaming room. After a couple of hours and with my luck being only a bit better than that of the birthday girl, we called it a night.
The next morning was even colder than the day before, but the sky was Carolina blue. The weather reports told us that there were snow and ice in the higher elevations. We tried to extend our stay for another day, but there was a slot tournament at the casino and no rooms available. We would have to take our chances and make it over the mountain to home. The thermometer read 16 degrees.
First, however, we were going to Bryson City for breakfast at the Everett Street Diner where the coffee is hot, the biscuits are big, and the grits are the creamiest ever made. We checked out. You can tell from this picture that Helen was having a large amount of fun and was looking forward to some French Toast. Breakfast was as good as always and the Diner staff always makes us feel welcome.
Our original plan was to drive back to Knoxville through the Great Smokies, but the highway over the mountain was closed due to ice and snow and we would have to return via the interstate. Therefore, we chose to get our National Park fix by another means and drive the short distance to Deep Creek Campground near the entrance of the National Park to walk off a few calories, and take some pictures. Good move.
We were met with some incredible scenery. Deep Creek was stunningly picturesque with ice on its edges and the water crystal clear. The mountains were framed by blue sky, and the trees were bare but beautiful nonetheless. The campground is closed for the winter, and we were the only ones around…except for one Park Ranger clearing away leaves.
Our walk was much shorter than intended. Temperatures in the teens have a way of changing plans. Even though I would have loved to stay out on this gorgeous morning, I made a quick retreat to the warmth of our car after only a few steps down the trail. I shall return soon, I promise.
Despite the cold, it was a wonderful way to spend a birthday. Feeling invigorated and cabin fever on the wane, it was time to be Easin’ Along.