Secret Treasures of the Great Smoky Mountains

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Summer isn’t over! Haven’t planned a vacation or gone anywhere yet? That’s good, because I’m going to share with you a place often overlooked for its true wonder: The Great Smoky Mountains of Eastern Tennessee. Leave your beach balls and umbrellas at home, my friends, and come take a gander at authentic Appalachia.

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I recently explored the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, and I can tell you that it’s more than what you expect from a typical weekend in the mountains. I certainly had a bunch of perceptions about the vacation being boring, but I was very wrong. And I’m glad I was wrong. So here I am, describing to you an experience of a lifetime. I’m going to invite you to live vicariously through my experience. Ready?

Where can I even begin?  The scenery is breathtaking and bucolic. We all need a break from reality, especially if we’re city dwellers. That’s why this rugged region, replete with emerald trees and sapphire rivers, is the perfect getaway.  You can rent a cabin from many of the lodging companies here, including Patriot Getaways, and enjoy the cozy apple wood fragrance of the area. I strongly suggest taking a dip in the hot tubs many of the cabins already have on a cool summer’s evening. Cool and summer? How do both of those words even go together? Well, the weather in the mountains is superb. It’s just the right amount of coolness mixed in with occasional warm zephyrs and acts as a therapeutic aid, allowing your mind to be calm and stress-free from the hullabaloo of city life.

After you’re done settling into your cabin, it’s time to explore the area. To really get a good picture of the place, go to Gatlinburg Skylift, Inc. You won’t regret it. Capture an amazing view from hundreds of feet above after you situate yourself comfortably on a lift seat. Enjoy yourself. Take pictures. Most importantly, just breathe!

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You must be tired and hungry from venturing all the way to the top and back to the bottom. How about some fudge as a snack? You can find fast food chains and eat-in restaurants here, but you should try what Gatlinburg is truly famous for: fudge. The Kilwins of Gatlinburg, a confectionary for any sweet tooth or fudge maven (the dark chocolate fudge is the best, I might add).

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After you’ve filled your belly with a few sweets, try some horseback riding through the mountains to burn off those calories. There are various locations that offer equestrian activities, one of them being the small town of Pigeon Forge. Big Rock Stables is an excellent equestrian activity center. Not only do they have horses, but there’s a small petting zoo with exotic birds such as emus and peacocks (you would never expect to see these in Tennessee, may I add) as well as goats and alpacas—a toddler’s dream come true. After you’re done gazing at the beauty of these petting zoo animals, move on to the big challenge: going on a three kilometer ride over a section of the mountains. Maintain your balance and remain focused, the horse will do the rest!

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You’ve gone over the mountains, now it’s time to go under them. Get ready for some unique cave scoping at Forbidden Caverns in Sevierville, which you’ll find after a scenic drive on several twisting roads through the mountain valley. Witness the creations formed by Mother Nature herself over millions of years. The cave is the same temperature year-round, around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, so make sure you bring a light jacket! It is said that Native Americans came here during the winters to stay warm. Be careful not to touch anything in the cave, though. The limestone formations are very fragile and can atrophy just by a simple brush of the arm.

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The Appalachian Mountain region, in general, is overlooked as a vacation destination. Nestled inside the result of old plate collisions are so many gems of nature. Have you ever been somewhere that’s often overlooked? So much wonder lies all around the world, but how much of it do we really know about? There’s a lot to see in this world, and I encourage you travel anywhere you can. Save up as much as you possibly can and travel during your youth. You won’t regret it!