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Gatlinburg, Tennessee

This past summer, my family and I took a trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. With a severe case of Covid blues, my wife and I decided the entire family desperately needed a vacation. We booked a little townhouse in Gatlinburg, packed up the car, and took a road trip. This being the longest road trip we’ve taken together, I was very worried about an 11 hour car ride with my children, who were 1 and a half and 7 at the time. This worry wasn’t going to stop the trip, but it did make me extremely anxious thinking of how many times my wife and I would hear “are we there yet???”. We spent a few weeks planning and saving for the trip to make sure we had all the necessary items for our outdoor adventure.

Finally, after weeks of planning, shopping and packing, it was time to hit the road! My nerves were getting the best of me thinking of the long drive. My son’s track record with car rides wasn’t that great. Some days he absolutely loved them, but most days he hated them and would cry to get out…so like I said, nervousness in overdrive! We decided to leave at 5am so we could get there at a decent time. I’m happy to say the drive was actually fantastic! The kids didn‘t ask a thousand questions or cry, we didn’t hit any traffic, and the weather was beautiful. God was definitely watching over us on that drive because it was perfect, and the sights along the way were breathtaking.

11 hours later we arrived in Gatlingburg, and instantly we were in love! Sun was shining and skies were clear, it was like a dream. Instantly, my family and I fell in love with the beauty of the mountains, the trees and the creeks. Being surrounded in nature makes everything better! My son, who at the time didn’t know many words, kept saying “daddy, look, tree…wowwwww”.

We spent 6 nights there and it was incredible! We spent most of our days in the great Smokey mountains. With so much to do in the mountains, we literally spent entire days exploring. As you’re driving up the mountain you have the option to pull over throughout designated areas. Those designated area were plentiful — a hike through the woods, horseback riding, a tour through old homes and churches of the early settlers. Most of the areas however, were right alongside the creeks and rivers that flowed through the mountains. The best part? You could simply pull over and fish or go for a swim. Everywhere you looked was natural beauty and it was so peaceful.

The biggest surprise of the trip was my daughter enjoying swimming in the creek! My daughter, is…timid…let’s go with that, she’s very timid and easily scared by little things. Things like mosquitoes, ants, spiders, bugs, etc. I immediately assumed she would not enjoy creek swimming especially when she saw the fish splashing around in the crystal clear water. There was no way my daughter was getting in the creeks. To my surprise, she immediately fell in love with it! I mean, what wasn’t to love? It was beautiful! We all enjoyed the creek swimming so much we did it a few times throughout the trips, some of the times we even took our fishing poles. Which was new for us as a whole, but all of us enjoyed doing it together.

I grew up fishing. My father and my uncle Ray both loved to fish, and I was fortunate enough to be on a few fishing trips with them. Fishing has definitely been something important to me and the fact that I was able to share this with my wife and children was meaningful to me. Passing on a tradition... a love for something, and to have my own family love it as much as I do? Pure happiness! We were really able to come together and enjoy the little things a lot more. It’s crazy when you take away the bright city lights, phones, TVs and the technology, and when you just stop to look around you, you enjoy things so much more. And that’s exactly what we did. As a family, we strengthened our bond, created memories and drew closer. It was special. Just us. For us. This was crucial for our family and desperately needed. In those mountains we learned to focus on the things we loved. We learned to focus on the little things. We learned to focus on the big things also, each other.

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