I feel like all blog posts now begin with during COVID or before COVID, I had plans to or want to do x, y, and z (you fill in the blank). I wanted to spend my Birthday weekend with Aaron in the mountains. We looked into Airbnbs to rent and different places to visit months in advance, but with the uncertainty of whether things would be opened or not; we ultimately decided to play it by ear. This is not my preferred method of planning a weekend trip. I’m more of a make a list (check it twice), pack way in advance, create a schedule of places to visit or things to do, check the weather, and hope everything goes as planned. If the current travel climate has taught me anything, it’s to be a little less structured and to set flexible expectations. This is also something Aaron has been trying to teach me for years; It only took a pandemic to get it through my head.
The one thing I for sure wanted to do was go on a hike…and hike we did. Almost 11 miles!. It became clear this wasn’t going to be a leisurely hike when we woke up at 4:00 a.m. to be the first ones on the trail, the early bird gets the view. We weren’t up for long before the delicious smell of a super-strong cup of espresso filled the air and lured me from the comfort of the bed. I filled my brand new Camelback, and I was jazzed to hike up this Mountain. Miles 1 and 2, easy. The morning mist hanging in the air was cool on our skin as the sun started to make its first peaks over the horizon. I was like a kid easily scaling the incline of the mountain until mile 3, this is when I knew I had made a mistake. If we rewind just a bit to the espresso. As I was getting dressed for this hike I decided to wear no-show socks instead of hiking socks. I was wearing cropped leggings and all of my socks were tall socks. So in my mind, no show socks would look better, and probably be fine. No. It was not fine. Functionality trumps fashion, a lesson not soon forgotten.
Aside from the blister blunder of not wearing the proper socks, I was otherwise prepared with a rain jacket, thankfully, because it did rain, “and it didn’t quit for four months (read: hours). We been through every kind of rain there is. Little bitty stingin’ rain… and big ol’ fat rain. Rain that flew in sideways. And sometimes rain even seemed to come straight up from underneath.”. All was not lost though, the hike was breathtaking (and no, not because I was out of breath). The fog moving through the tree enchanted forest. Every turn was a sight littered with colorful blooms, as dozens of waterfalls whispered to us, flowing down the slopes as we pushed on. Every foot higher, the air became fresher, the smell of the rain and mountains was intoxicating.
After we got home and took a much-needed nap, we set off for dinner. We both ordered the pork chop and shared a bottle of wine. We agreed, Aaron’s pork chops he cooked in the skillet are way better. If he ever decides to open a restaurant, pork chops better be on the menu.
Do you ever see ads for a concert/event and all the stars align for you to be able to go? Well, I was at work and randomly heard Garth Brooks was having a “drive-in concert.” This was a pre-recorded concert that played across the country, exclusively at drive-in theaters. Add this to the list of things you wouldn’t believe in 2020: drive-in theaters reigning supreme over the traditional movie theaters.
We had no idea what to expect but thought at the very least we would be able to sing our favorite Garth songs, drink beer, and eat sour patch kids. In the end, it was a great time; in no small part, thanks to the large F-250 parked in the row behind us, complete with stadium speakers and roughly 42 enthusiastic fans who belted out the words to every song! Having been to a live Garth Brooks concert, belive me when I say it felt as if we were actually there, back at Nyland Stadium, crowds roaring as Garth took the stage.
Okay if you haven’t been keeping track up to this point, that was all one day. The next day we slept in before setting off to Pigeon Forge. Now before you jump to conclusions, we weren’t headed there because we love going to tours traps, (we sometimes do) but we were on a mission to buy me Birthday Birkenstocks, this is quickly becoming a tradition I never knew I needed. The expectations for this Birkenstock store were high, however, once we arrived we quickly realized they haven’t received new stock in several months and we promptly had to make new plans. Enter stage left: The outlet mall. We weaved in and out of stores skipping the ones with lines, welcome again to 2020. I found a deal on a new fuchsia Columbia rain jacket and a pair of Levis. Headed home we decided we wanted pizza for dinner. Sadly, our go-to place, with an amazing “Cuban” pizza (imagine a Cuban sandwich…on a pizza), was not open. A quick Google search for something close by landed us at another local pizza parlor. Pizza, garlic bread, and wine displayed on the coffee table we settled into watched Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, starring Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams. Like most movies starring Will Ferrell, it was hilarious! The perfect balance of love story mixed with the comedy of errors as two singers chasing their dream of hitting the big time.
We decided the next day we would head into Gatlinburg and check out Anakeesta. A bit of this attraction seems to still be under construction, both new and repair, but nonetheless, impressive. We spent most of the afternoon eating ice cream, walking around the newly renovated garden, and drinking beer in rocking chairs overlooking the mountain tops. Not for nothing, the views were pretty great for being just a short ski lift ride up. Aside from the oppressive heat, it was a leisurely day, the perfect speed for my sore muscles and blistered feet.
After a day of walking in the heat, we were caught by surprise when it started to rain. Of course, we brought our rain jackets, (I checked the weather after all) we just conveniently left them in the car. Since it was late in the evening and we’re planning on going home anyways, we decided to walk the half-mile in the rain, at least this time I had on the proper shoes. I was sporting my new Chacos that I’d been waiting all summer to take out of the box. Not only were they comfortable all day, like supportive gloves cradling my sore feet, but they were also perfect for splashing in the puddles. The best part, no socks required and no new blisters to report. The perfect way to end my birthday weekend.