Monday, January 7, 2013

A New Year in the Smoky Mountains

For as long as I can remember, my family has always taken trips to Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge, Tennessee to visit the Great Smoky Mountains. Granted there were years when my parents decided not to take my brother and I, but more often than not, we spent our winter family vacations together in the Smokies. Over the years there were many friends, boyfriends/girlfriends that made these trips with us, and as we grew, the activities that we enjoyed changed as well. We all have so many memories from these trips and each year we enjoy reflecting and laughing at our many experiences - both good and bad. Last year was a special year in the Smokies because my brother got married as well as Andrew made the annual trip with us for the very first time.

This year was my first trip with a new last name and the first  year we have celebrated New Years in the Smokies. Usually we go earlier in December, but because we are big kids now and all have jobs, it was a little harder to find a time when everyone was able to go. So we rang in New Years in a different time zone this year (Eastern vs. Central) and had a blast kicking back and relaxing as the final days of 2012 came to a close.

Andrew & I had a longer drive than my family who live further north, so we got started late Friday afternoon and drove to Tuscaloosa, AL. Saturday we arrived in East Tennessee around 5 p.m. local time and were greeted with a light snowfall which continued throughout the evening.

Andrew is a big kid at heart and enjoyed the occasional snowball and leaving me messages in the snow. I am so thankful for his passion and enthusiasm for the little things in life - he definitely keeps me laughing.

Sunday we enjoyed a short hike walk on a side road trail where only chimneys remain from old settler homes.

You gotta love a good mountain stream -

I have multiple pictures in front of this sign from over the years and I think it's fun to look back and see the changes - so glad this year that this handsome man was in the picture with me :)

I have been so blessed with such sweet parents and because we now live several hours away - I cherish these times that we get to spend with them

View of the City of Gatlinburg during the day...

And at night from the Sky Lift... The Sky Lift is another one of those things that I have loved since I was a kid.. and it's still as much fun now as it was then!

And because we are all big kids - we still enjoy racing Go Karts.. even my dad got in on the fun! I hate we didn't get a picture of that!

Cade's Cove is a favorite of several members of my family - it's a plateau in the midst of the mountains where the original settlers made their home. It's now a National Reserve/Park and the wildlife is protected. You almost always see numerous deer, turkeys, and black bear. You can walk through the original homes where the settlers lived. I'm sorry I don't have that many pictures to share (except for the numerous pictures of deer Andrew took), because I take pictures every year and I end up having pictures of the same thing so I just stopped taking so many.

But we are definitely not lacking when it comes to pictures of deer, mainly bucks. My brother and Andrew get so excited and a little camera happy. But you can literally walk right up to the deer and they don't run away.

This view is my favorite part about visiting Cade's Cove and it never gets old to me - can you imagine having this for your backyard?

 And our favorite climbing tree outside one of the settler homes!

And you can't visit Pigeon Forge without eating at The Old Mill. If you've ever been there - you know what I'm talking about. The Dixie Stampede is another one of our favorite. Here we are outside of the Old Mill. 

I hope each of your New Years were wonderful. Next to Christmas, New Years is one of my favorite holidays. There is something about a fresh start, a new beginning - like a fresh blank canvas waiting to be filled with an artist's masterpiece. A new year holds so much promise, so many opportunities. I didn't make any resolutions this year - I am too easily discouraged by unmet goals. Instead, I have decided to live each day with intention - to be the best wife I can be, the best daughter, sister, co-worker, therapist, & friend. To be in tune with what God's will for me is on a daily basis. I have found that God cares less about how healthy I eat, how much I exercise, how organized I am and more about the condition of my heart. I would love to be able to look back at 2013 and honestly say it was the year that I grew closer and closer to Christ every single day. It was the year that I grew so much spiritually that it spilled over into every other area of my life. Oh, I pray it be so!

"And what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul." Deuteronomy 10:12


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