Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas in the Smokies!

This year my family gathered at a lodge in the Great Smokey Mountains to celebrate Christmas. It was a new experience for us since we normally gather at one of our homes but since we are scattered along the east coast from Alabama to Delaware, the mountains of Tennessee seemed the perfect meeting place.

My niece and I visited the lodge last year on the day after Thanksgiving to check it out. Rachel Ray had just named it "the best place in America to have Thanksgiving dinner." After spending five days there, we decided it was "the best place in America to celebrate Christmas with your family!"

Little did we know that an epic snow storm would fall just days before our arrival making the journey treacherous for some and delightful for others. My niece in South Carolina departed Sumter Air Force base with her two small children on the day the snow storm struck and hit a sheet of black ice and went over an embankment. Fortunately, no one was hurt but my twin sister and her husband drove from Tennessee to North Carolina to rescue them before leaving the next day to drive to Alabama to pick up my aging parents.

My sister in Delaware received 24 inches of snow and had to delay leaving home. Since I-40 west is closed between Asheville and Knoxville due to a rock slide, David and I had to alter our route and drive through the Smokies.

Santa brought David his Christmas present a few days early so he was anxious to try out his new GPS system for his motorcycle in the car. So, with two GPS systems on our dash, we negotiated the way, altering it when we found roads closed due to ice.

What we found was a Christmas wonderland! The higher we climbed, the more snow we found. The Smokies are beautiful any time of year but bathed in snow and ice, they are magical. Everyone was enjoying the snow, snowball fights and snowmen and women were visible at every pull off along the way.

(Click to enlarge.) Atop the Great Smokey Mountains!

(Click to enlarge.) Atop the Great Smokey Mountains!

(Click to enlarge.) Atop the Great Smokey Mountains!

(Click to enlarge.) Atop the Great Smokey Mountains!

(Click to enlarge.) Atop the Great Smokey Mountains!

(Click to enlarge.) Thank goodness for snow plows!

(Click to enlarge.) Trees covered with ice.

(Click to enlarge.) A magical sight.

(Click to enlarge.) Oh Christmas tree.

As we climbed down the other side of the mountain, we were disappointed to find that the snow had already come and gone.

(Click to enlarge). Entrance to Dancing Bear Lodge.

(Click to enlarge).Front entrance to Dancing Bear Lodge.

(Click to enlarge). The craftsmanship of the Appalachian artisans is apparent as you enter the front door.

(Click to enlarge). A view from the top.

(Click to enlarge). Welcome to Dancing Bear Lodge.

(Click to enlarge.) The best part of the trip was receiving hugs
from my family. My niece Kayla gives the best "bear hugs!"

(Click to enlarge). My six year old niece Chloe grins underneath
the Christmas tree with her elf hat atop her head.