Kelly and I just took a short vacation to Gatlinburg: Two days there, with two full days of driving to make it happen. We've been itching to get out of the house during this awful pandemic (and to use Kelly's PTO before it expires), but with options limited for places to go safely, we realized that we could rent a cabin with family and just go hiking and birdwatching and grilling, avoiding crowds in favor of natural spaces. Kelly's immediate family from Illinois drove over to join us.

I'll get the one negative out of the way first: I didn't get the trip that I agreed to take. We all discussed before booking the trip what our comfort levels were with going out in public, and I was emphatic that I wanted no public contact at all. Just seeing family was all of the risk that I was willing to take. Kelly and I even agreed to leave a day early so that her family could spend the last day shopping. What happened once we got there? Numerous trips to local shops and attractions each day, on top of grocery runs and other assorted exposures. I was livid. I would never have agreed to go on a trip with people who were going out to crowded indoor shops the whole time.

That said, I enjoyed most of the trip. The best activity for me (possibly because I didn't have to drive it) was Cade's Cove, a popular historical area with a driving tour. It's apparently super popular, so it was like sitting in a traffic jam in a forest; signs warned that the 7-mile trip can take up to four hours to complete because of congestion. But the Smoky Mountains are gorgeous up close, and I didn't realize how much I missed fall colors. We saw bears and other wildlife, crossed streams and drove through tunnels and skimmed the edges of ravines, and I found the whole thing very satisfying. I think the traffic-jam aspect of it got on everyone else's nerves, but I was there to relax and it worked.

As for the shopping, the highlights were the world's largest knife store (where Kelly bought a sword) and a fine pottery shop. But seeing family was undoubtedly the best part of the trip: Kicking back for hours just conversing and laughing. We broke open a new Cards Against Humanity expansion and got giggle fits; I badly needed a good, long laugh at this point in 2020. I made a deliberate effort to unplug from the Internet during the trip, especially regarding news, and it was so good for my mood that I plan to continue now that I'm home. I found myself being uncharacteristically short-tempered and emotional in the week before the trip, as this awful year continued taking its toll on me, so a relaxing vacation booked months earlier turned out to be what I needed just in time.

Three Replies to Pass Me the Green, I Need Some Trees with My Tennessee

Matthew Preston | October 18, 2020
Wow, great minds and all that. The family and I just arrived last night in Chattanooga, TN for an extended getaway. We are doing a trip just like you: a cabin in the woods to get out and enjoy nature. Not meeting anyone here though so we can maintain our social distancing level of comfort.

I am so glad to hear that you had a relaxing time! I know you have sacrificed a lot in the name of safety and I’m proud of you guys for being logical. It does take its toll though. Connecting with nature works wonders when you let it.

Scott Hardie | October 18, 2020
Yeah, I underestimate the relaxing qualities of nature, "the peace of wild things" and all. I might try again for such a trip at some point before this pandemic ends.

Have a great trip! Relax and enjoy it.

Steve West | October 18, 2020
The closest I come to camping is the odd occasion when I'm told to sleep on the couch. They're very similar. It's like sleeping in a tent with a very angry bear nearby.

Logical Operator

The creator of Funeratic, Scott Hardie, blogs about running this site, losing weight, and other passions including his wife Kelly, his friends, movies, gaming, and Florida. Read more »

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